I was leaving my house today to go on my morning walk and noticed that the front gate was open. As I passed through the gate, I had a thought that if I closed it, I would not return safely to my home. If I left the gate open, I would return safely. Prior to taking an important exam, it occurred to me that if I left the test registration in the car and folded it a certain way, it would mean that I would pass the test I was about to take.
Do I Have OCD?
I’ve had intrusive thoughts, images, and impulses of being catapulted down a flight of stairs and stabbing myself in the eye when cutting up vegetables. I’ve had disturbing thoughts about dropping my newborn niece in a big pot of boiling water and dropping babies to the ground as I held them. When juicing fruit and vegetables, I had an image of my parakeet flying into the machine and coming out as juice.
Something else you should know is that I do not have OCD. While these thoughts were out of the ordinary and unsolicited, they did not bother me. While everybody has bizarre, unwanted thoughts, people with OCD attribute meaning to these thoughts and the anxiety related to them. They frequently feel the need to investigate or make sense of these intrusive thoughts, and may desperately try to prove to themselves that these thoughts are not premonitions of events to come or of a subconscious desire. People with OCD often need to know with 100% certainty that these events will not occur and that they are not a bad person for thinking them.
How to Respond to OCD Thoughts
If you have OCD, you too can take the meaning away from your bizarre, unwanted thoughts, the same way as people who do not have OCD. Using simple techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, you can learn to respond differently to these unwanted thoughts. Whenever you get an intrusive thought, even if it gives you anxiety, do not judge it or try to make sense of it. Remind yourself that everybody gets bizarre thoughts, that they do not mean anything, and that they are an expected part of having OCD. You are the one who decides if your thoughts are problematic. Your reaction is the problem, not the thought itself. After all, OCD thoughts can be viewed as funny, interesting, creative, and quirky. Embrace and welcome your OCD thoughts and they will lose power over you.
•The OCD Center of Los Angeles is a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related anxiety based conditions. In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment. To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.
Good points. Bizarre and horrendous thoughts are very common. Their serious distress and their consequent compulsions or avoidance are what make them so important to OCD sufferers. I still think Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are the gold standard for the treatment of OCD. As clients get exposed to their thoughts over and over again without opportunities for avoidance or compulsions, the horror decreases and they can get their lives back.
Thank you for your reply to our post on obsessional OCD. I completely agree with you that Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most effective treatment for OCD. At our center, we augment ERP with mindfulness-based techniques similar to that discussed in the article. This approach is particularly valuable with clients struggling with unwanted thoughts. And it meshes well with ERP, as the client learns to have their unwanted thoughts rather than fruitlessly trying to not have them.
i have bizarre thoughts centered around a fear of becoming schozphrenic. i look up stories and symptoms and then obsess that i have the symptoms. i dont know how i can let this go.
Your fear of becoming Schizophrenia is actually quite common in OCD. I encourage you to listen to this podcast interview I did on this very topic.
The goal is not to “let this go” but rather to accept the presence of these unwanted thoughts without trying to control or eliminate them. Thoughts come and go without much control by humans, and trying to force an unwanted thought to go away is a recipe for frustration.
I have a question. I live in the backwash community of Joplin, Mo. My 19 year old son has OCD – complicated, complex fears of his dreams being reality. We have no treatment around here at all. Lately, my son’s obsessions have grown much more severe.
We have a few psychiatrists but you can’t get in to see them. I wish to God we lived in England where treatment is available. Or even in L.A. Imagine if you had cancer or heart disease and there was no place to go. Advice, anyone?
Unfortunately, there are very few therapists who truly understand OCD and how to treat it, and most are located in larger cities. I encourage you to contact the International OCD Foundation at http://www.iocdf.org/. They are the largest OCD organization in the world, and they maintain a searchable database of therapists who specialize in the treatment of OCD. I there is an OCD specialist near you, the IOCDF will likely have them on their list.
I’m not from la but Pakistan and I have recently been diagnosed with ocd . It focuses around the fear of mental illness and recently while talkig I’ll question if I did something or not . It’s the most excruciating feeling to be saying soemthig and not be sure whether it happened or not . So I’ll be seeing soemthig in front of me eg a black car and I’ll be questioning if it’s actually there or not . Another eg is talkig on the phone but when telling someone else the conversation, not being sure if it happened . Why can’t I trust my senses ? Any tips on how to overcome this ? I also have the fear that I’ll just blurt out nonsense ( I guess Thts not ocd ) but centres around insanity .
A few thoughts…
1) You ask: “Why can’t I trust my senses?”, and the answer is simple…
Because you have OCD.
This condition has historically been called “the doubting disease”. Now you know why.
2) The fear of going insane or becoming severely mentally isa common OCD obsession.
3) The fear of blurting out inappropriate or nonsensical things is also a common OCD obsession.
By chance , i was reading something pasted in my notes mentioned by you about ocd which were helpful for me and I clicked on a few hyper linked words and was so happy and grateful to see that you had replied to my questions .
Tom , it’s now almost 9 months since I last wrote this and my OCD has exacerbated in terms of me hearing myself while talking and questioning how i’m making sense , talkig or reading to my toddler and being extremely self aware and questioning if i am reading correctly or making sense to her , feelings of unreality , losing faith ( something i really am holding on to to help me ) and strange things like that. I have been doing ERP myself and i try and do ten things a day as exposures .
Unfortunately as i mentioned , Im from a country where you don’t really have ocd specialists and a regular shrink also charges a lot .
Anyway i’m continuing with the exposures despite the heightened self awareness etc . Could you share some useful links or anything regarding the kind of ocd i have ?
God bless you !
1) Analyzing what you are thinking and how you are speaking is a compulsive attempt to get certainty, and it will only make things worse.
2) Don’t waste time trying to figure our what “type’ of OCD you have. All of the “types” are just slang terms that have developed over time as people have tried to better understand their symptoms. They are all just OCD.
3) Doing exposure by one’s self is not advised. Instead, I suggest you seek treatment with a therapist who is trained in ERP. If you are interested in online treatment with any of our staff therapists, you can reach out to us via the contact page of our website at https://ocdla.com/contactus.
Hello , I think I have ROCD but I am also developing HOCD . But above all, I am very scared about my mental health , I think I will loose my mind and not be myself anymore , I am also on denial because often I think that I dont really have OCD and I dont really love my girlfriend, and it scares me a lot . I want to have ocd in one side and dont want my thoughts to be real but on the other side this situation is making my feel really bad . I dont have any therapist near me and I would really appreciate if you give me a few tips to make ERP on my home , because I tried it and read all of that according to imaginal exposure but I didn’t have any disturbance because I dont believe it when I write them down…any advice please?
It is quite common for people with OCD to experience multiple themes, especially a combination of ROCD and HOCD. And the fear of losing one’s mind is also quite common in OCD.
As for “denial” in OCD, I encourage you to read our article on this very topic at https://ocdla.com/doubt-denial-ocd-5342/.
Finally, please note that treatment for OCD is not as simple as giving someone “a few tips”. If you don’t have a therapist near you who specializes in treating OCD, then I encourage you to look into online therapy.
I’ve had HOCD’s classic symptoms at first. For the past two years it’s been mild. But recently I started having it again. This time I’ve been obsessing over possibly being “in love” with a friend. I know I’m not but every time I try to reassure myself the doubts scare me. A few days ago I watched a show and a character talked about love. Suddenly my friend’s name popped into my head and I freaked out and felt distressed. I know I shouldn’t put much meaning to intrusive/unwanted thoughts but I’m so afraid. I’m happy when I fantasize over meeting a man in the future and falling in love with him but HOCD makes me think I’m lying to myself. Just seeing my friend’s name gives me intense anxiety. I worry maybe it’s not HOCD.
A few thoughts…
1) The symptoms you describe here ARE classic symptoms of HOCD.
2) Trying to reassure yourself that you are not in love with your friend is a compulsion that is not helping – it’s actually making your HOCD worse.
3) You are correct – you shouldn’t put much meaning to intrusive/unwanted thoughts.
I have recently been dealing with intrusive thoughts. I had them as a teenager and the nature of these thoughts were always disturbing acts of violence that frightened and imprisoned me as a kid. One day after about two years of having these thoughts daily, they vanished and never bothered me for over ten years. Now as an adult they have returned and have been constant for about a week. They feel so disruptive and like my life, relationship, and work is suffering immensely due to these thoughts. They are once again violent, unspeakable things that I would never do to people that I love, the same as when I was a teenager. But I cannot get them out of my head and fear that I have locked myself into a vicious cycle.
There is nothing particularly odd about your symptoms disappearing for an extended period of time, only to return. It is quite common for OCD symptoms to wax and wane over time.
The reason you can’t get these thoughts out of your head is because you have OCD. That is what OCD is – thoughts getting stuck in your head.
Your best response is: a) to accept the presence of thoughts without assuming they are important or meaningful; and b) to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
I’ll watch a video of schizophrenia or psychosis. If someone says they are paranoid about this or that I feel like I take on the symptoms and obsess over them. I take countless online tests to make sure I am sane. I have a horrible fear of becoming psychotic. I need help.
This all sounds like OCD to me. You say you want help. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
My intrusive thoughts generally target the people i love by giving me thoughts like “i hate them.” I try to no longer believe them or give them meaning, although this doesn’t stop debilitating anxiety or sadness that comes with the thought or a follow on thought, the classic one being you wouldn’t have the thought it if it wasn’t true.
In times of extreme anxiety i try and let the thoughts go at their own pace but they come with such force that it feels like they take over your entire mind so i still end up trying to block them out.
How can i reduce the strength of the thought when feeling incredibly anxious or fearful of it? I keep telling myself its not true but that seems to make it stronger and more believable.
Trying to reduce the strength of a thought is a compulsion that will make it worse. Instead, I suggest that you accept the presence of the unwanted thought, without assuming that it is important, meaningful, and in need of reduction. The problem is not the thought, but rather the over-response to it. Just let it exist without reacting to it. After all, it is just a thought.
The thoughts feel all too real but I don’t want them to be because I have a great loving family. I will take your advice and ride the storm. I worry the thoughts/feelings will never go away which scares me a lot although if I had the choice between leaving my family and the thoughts finally stopping, or to stay and suffer the negative thoughts and feelings forever, then I would choose my family everyday.
My compulsions in response to my hateful thoughts are to be loving towards my family. Do I need to stop this despite it being very much how I want to be and in accordance with my values?
The goal is to allow yourself to experience unwanted thoughts and feelings, without responding with behaviors that are meant to reduce or eliminate your discomfort. Being loving towards your family is wonderful, unless you are compulsively acting loving in an attempt to relieve yourself of anxiety related to your unwanted thoughts and feelings. If your behaviors are an attempt to reduce or eliminate your anxiety, then you are really just faking it to avoid discomfort. Act with love towards those you love, but if your agenda is anxiety reduction, then you are not really acting out of love, but rather out of fear..
My common “sticky” thoughts are harm, real event or the usual OCD thoughts and at other times, I think about things that are “bizarre” at the very least.
If I know any these thought are nonsense – why do I entertain certain nonsensical (unusual for OCD) thoughts and others are easily discarded?
I encourage you not to waste your time trying to figure out why your brain gets stuck on some unwanted thoughts, while easily ignoring others. OCD can attach itself to any thought.
Thanks for your reply.
I think a huge problem for me (and probably others) is just the internet itself.
Heck, I’m not even sure it’s OCD sometimes.
As I comb the web for answers as to why I have thoughts, I read some very painful and terrifying stories of others and then ruminate on them as my own ad nauseam.
It’s scary to say the least.
A few thoughts…
1) Combing the web for answers about why you have certain unwanted thoughts is a compulsion that will only make your OCD worse.
2) Likewise, analyzing your thoughts in comparison to others’ thoughts is a compulsion.
3) The reason you have unwanted thoughts is simple – everyone has unwanted thoughts.