Harm OCD is a manifestation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in which an individual experiences intrusive, unwanted, distressing thoughts of causing harm. These harming thoughts are perceived as being ego-dystonic, which simply means that the thoughts are inconsistent with the individual’s values, beliefs and sense of self. Harming obsessions typically center around the belief that one must be absolutely certain that they are in control at all times in order to ensure that they are not responsible for a violent or otherwise fatal act.
It is not fair to say that one form of OCD causes more pain than another. In our experience of treating individuals with OCD, those with compulsive hand washing appear to be in no less pain than those who live in fear of being sexual deviants or psychopaths. What sets Harm OCD apart is the way in which it attacks the things we love the most, and does so with such brutality and lack of mercy as to astound even the most creative minds. The moments that we most want to be highlighted by memories of peace and contentment suddenly become contaminated by mental imagery of horrific violence and feelings of relentless guilt.
Common Harm OCD Obsessions
The mind is a landscape. Being conscious means wandering (mostly aimlessly) around this landscape and encountering the wonderful, the terrible, and the mostly irrelevant. As owners of the mind, we are entitled to go anywhere we wish. In the case of Harm OCD, we find ourselves visiting places in the mind that we would rather do without. However, like any landscape, places we avoid become overrun with weeds, their growth intruding into the well-groomed, peaceful areas of the mental garden, and becoming a relentless burden. In Harm OCD, as in all forms of OCD, individuals experience obsessions, and in response, perform various compulsive behaviors designed to relieve the discomfort associated with those obsessions. Here are some common intrusive thoughts experienced by those with Harm OCD:
- I will suddenly snap and violently attack:
- My significant other or ex
- My child (especially common in Perinatal and Postpartum OCD)
- My parent or other family member
- My nephew/niece/godchild
- A disabled or ill person
- A baby
- A friend
- A stranger
- I will fail to respond to disgusting violent or sexual thoughts appropriately and will reveal myself to be a monster.
- I will suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to push someone into traffic, jump out a window, or experience some other impulse that will result in me being responsible for my death or someone else’s death.
- I will be overwhelmed by harming obsessions and have to act on them to relieve the pressure.
- I will lose consciousness somehow and commit violent acts that I do not remember.
- I will fail to wash or turn off something appropriately and I will be responsible for someone being horrible hurt or killed.
- I will accidentally poison someone.
- I will hit someone with my car and not know it until the police track me down.
- I will lose my sanity and commit suicide.
Common Harm OCD Compulsions
Because the compulsions in Harm OCD often go unnoticed by others, it is generally considered to be a type of what is colloquially referred to as “Pure Obsessional OCD”, or “Pure O”. But individuals with Harm OCD almost always exhibit various compulsions that fall into four categories – checking, avoidance, reassurance seeking, and mental rituals. Here are some common compulsions typically seen in Harm OCD:
- Excessively looking in the rear-view mirror to make sure you did not strike someone with your car.
- Looking back at people you walk past or examining them for signs that they have may have been harmed by you.
- Checking your body for signs of a struggle or any indication that you have harmed yourself or someone else.
- Checking to make certain that no items which could be used for harm are visible. For example, locking up tools or placing knives out of reach.
- Avoidance of people that trigger the unwanted thoughts. For example, avoiding being left alone with your young relative for fear that you will hurt them, or avoiding taking a hike alone with your girlfriend.
- Avoidance of places that trigger the unwanted thoughts. For example, avoiding crowded bus stops where you fear you might push someone into traffic.
- Avoidance of items that trigger the unwanted thoughts. For example, staying away from sharp objects such as knives for fear that you might use them to harm someone.
- Avoidance of information that triggers unwanted thoughts. For example, avoiding watching or reading the news where you think you might possibly hear about murder, or avoiding movies or TV programs that you believe might have violent scenes in them.
- Asking others to confirm to you that they believe you would not do a horrible thing.
- Asking others to confirm that you did not hurt someone and somehow fail to remember it.
- Confessing unwanted thoughts in the hopes that their response will indicate they do not believe you are a dangerous or bad person.
- Repeatedly researching the difference between OCD and sociopathy.
- Mental review/mental checking. This is a form of self-reassurance seeking that involves reviewing thoughts and memories of events in an attempt to gain certainty that you have not harmed anyone. This also involves mentally reviewing various reasons why you would or would not commit a violent act.
- Compulsive flooding – Trying to force yourself to imagine violent acts in an attempt to prove that you are disgusted by them and would not do them.
- Thought neutralization – Purposefully forcing yourself to think a positive or otherwise contradictory thought in response to a harm thought.
- Compulsive prayer/magical rituals – Repeating prayers or mantras by rote in response to unwanted thoughts.
- Repeating behaviors – A combination of physical and mental compulsivity, this would typically involve repeatedly starting tasks over or extending them in an attempt to complete the task without having an unwanted “bad” thought.
Harm OCD might be experienced as an extension of a lifelong battle with the disorder, or it may develop spontaneously later in life. It is not uncommon for children with OCD to struggle with intrusive thoughts of causing harm to their parents, siblings, or peers, either through thoughts of literally attacking them or through the distorted belief that “bad” thoughts may cause bad health or bad luck to someone they care about.
Late onset Harm OCD can be particularly unsettling because without the context of understanding OCD and the various ways it can interfere in one’s life, it may appear that you have simply gone insane. It is not uncommon for someone who previously displayed little or no signs of OCD to suddenly become aware of a harm thought in the middle of some stressful experience, and to then find themselves engaging in compulsions all day trying to suppress thoughts of hurting someone they would never dream of hurting.
Those suffering with OCD may also discover that unwanted violent obsessions appear only after extended battles with other forms of OCD have run their course. Untreated, all forms of OCD naturally gravitate toward whatever is most likely to produce compulsive behavior. So when one obsession stops producing, another one often takes its place until treated. In fact, it is the intensity with which we experience love for our children, partners, relatives, etc. that makes them targets for OCD – they are the most likely to stir in us the greatest motivation to protect.
Self-Harm Obsessions in OCD
Some individuals may also experience intrusive thoughts of self-harm, often brought about by imagining ways to escape anxiety, and then being terrified of what their brain came up with. It is important to note that fear of self-harm is an entirely different phenomenon from actual self-harm behaviors such as cutting. Similarly, the fear of committing suicide is a different issue than genuine suicidal ideation. Some with Harm OCD experience an obsessive fear of self-harm, often related to unwanted intrusive thoughts of losing control, while actual suicidal thinking has to do with the fantasy of ending one’s life. It is important to note that individuals with Harm OCD are at no higher risk of acting violently than the general population, and that having Harm OCD does not indicate that one is a danger to themselves or others. That said, treatment providers should discuss these types of thoughts with their clients to clarify and determine issues of intent.
Harm OCD Treatment
As with other forms of OCD, it is important that the sufferer seek treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) specifically for the treatment of OCD. The primary CBT technique used in treating Harm OCD is the same as that used in treating other types of OCD, and is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Unfortunately, many individuals with harming obsessions seek out traditional talk therapy or psychodynamic therapy, both of which can swiftly worsen a Harm OCD sufferer’s condition by encouraging them to further examine these meaningless thoughts, which only serves to unnecessarily inflate their importance.
In our other installments of this series, we discuss in-depth the treatment of Harm OCD using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy integrated with mindfulness. For now, if you are experiencing Harm OCD, remember that you are not alone, that your condition is very treatable, and above all, that you are not crazy.
To take our free confidential online test for Harm OCD, click here.
To read part two in our series on Harm OCD, click here.
To read part three in our series on Harm OCD, click here.
To read part four in our series on Harm OCD, click here.
•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.
This is such a great article! I feel so more reassured about my OCD and can relate to nearly everything written here. I look forward to the next installment.
Thanks for the feedback, Andrew. We’re happy the article resonated with you! You may also want to check out our other articles about Harm OCD treatment.
Wonderful article! My son suffered from severe OCD, specifically harm obsessions, when he started college. You are so right about talk therapy exacerbating the problem, as this is exactly what happened to him. I also love your analogy of the mind to a landscape, with the avoided areas becoming overgrown with weeds.
We are so thankful our son got the right treatment (ERP Therapy) and is now doing great. He is currently a senior in college, living life to the fullest. Thanks again for this informative post!
Thank you for the comment, Janet! It’s unfortunate that so many people suffer needlessly when they reach out for help from those who do not know how to appropriately treat OCD. That’s fantastic that your son was able to get the right treatment and win his freedom back from OCD!
What an informative article! Much of it resonated with me. I’ve suffered from OCD on and off throughout my life, but only recently being diagnosed and treated (I’m 31 years old and recently had a baby, which triggered an awful episode of harm OCD).
I’m going to read your article re Perinatal/Postpartum OCD.
Keep ’em coming!
Thanks or the comment, Tania, very happy the article rang true for you. It’s extremely common for harm ocd to kick in around pregnancy as it is a perfect storm of hormonal changes, life-stage changes, stressors, and of course the arrival of something of such great value that ocd cannot resist targeting it. But like any other form of OCD, Postpartum OCD is treatable with CBT, and the hard work pays off.
Thanks. Great article. I’ve been diagnosed with OCD for 15 years and BPD in the last 7 but i read some things here that really made me think and i’m gonna try to talk about this with my therapist. Thanks.
Thank god! I thought I was insane! I keep going into trances where I think about killing people that I love.(I know its not real but it feels so real) I have had OCD symptons since 3rd grade, but this was over the top. My thoughts are mainly me putting people through torture, killing them, and then eating them or piling up bodies. Its making my life hell.
I don’t know if this ties in with it but ever since 5th grade I have believed that whenever I miss anything on a test I hurt someone and this grew to thoughts of killing in 7th grade. But, its gotten so much worse this 8th grade year, its so horrid. This is a great article thank you for writing it! But,do you know how I could get rid of these thoughts!
Christina, thanks for your comment.
The fear that a minor mistake (such as missing an answer on a test) will result in someone being hurt or your harm thoughts coming true is a common experience in this kind of OCD. When you’re uncomfortable, your OCD starts promoting what we call “magical thinking” and you end up feeling compelled to address the thoughts instead of whatever else is going on (like the test!).
You ask how to get rid of the thoughts and the answer is to stop trying to get rid of them and start working on viewing them as thoughts, not threats. You can learn more about this on our webpage about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
You could ask your parents about doing online therapy with one of our staff therapists at OCDLA, or perhaps they could find you a local OCD specialist who does CBT. Getting a handle on the OCD before high school would be very wise if you can access appropriate treatment.
Thank you for this informative article. I’ve suffered with OCD and differing themes since the 8th grade. After accidentally causing a minor injury to my first child, the harm OCD reared it’s ugly head. Two weeks after my son was born the theme switched to self harm. He is almost 3 and it’s a daily battle. I know these thought make no sense because of my strong religious values and how much I love my family. I am hoping that others who fight this battle might find this page and find a little bit of peace.
Thanks for the comment! You mention that part of what helps you understand that the unwanted thoughts are senseless is that they don’t coincide with your morals and religious beliefs. This is what the term “ego-dystonic” means. I would take it even further to point out that the reason why your ocd focuses on these types of thoughts is specifically because they represent the opposite of what you hold so dear.
One way of understanding unwanted thoughts in OCD is to note that our understanding of a thought requires an understanding of its opposite. I know something is dark because I know what “light” means. For most, this understanding of the opposite is not paid attention to and goes unnoticed. For ocd sufferers, this awareness of the opposite is intensified, which leads to compulsive attempts to analyze or suppress it. Therefore treatment necessarily involves acceptance of the awareness of the thoughts without doing compulsions.
Thanks for your comment and I’m happy to hear you picked up some new ideas for treatment by reading this article. If your therapist is knowledgeable about treating ocd, the two of you could work together on establishing a treatment plan that can help you overcome these harm fears.
Have been struggling with postpartum OCD The guilt I feel is overwhelming . OCD has made doubt who I am as a person , wife and mom. I had OCD thoughts in the past but never like this until the birth of my child . I think it’s so hard because the trigger for harm thoughts is the stress of being a mom . I ruminate 24/7 How do others cope with this after having a baby
Postpartum OCD is very common, particularly with Harm OCD. It’s a combination of hormonal changes exacerbating the OCD and the sudden presence of the most important thing to you in the world (and thus the biggest target for OCD). Plus the sleep deprivation doesn’t help.
Guilt is a common response to these types of ocd symptoms, but I would encourage you to consider that “guilt” is a word you are using to describe a kind of discomfort. OCD’s objective is to get you to do compulsions and it does this manipulation by presenting you not only with uncomfortable thoughts, but also uncomfortable feelings. Instead of responding to this feeling of “guilt” by trying to absolve yourself, try responding to it as something just as meaningless as the harm thoughts themselves.
As with other avenues for Harm OCD, Postpartum OCD is best treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an OCD specialist.
I have recently started having these thoughts after a couple traumatic events happened to me. I find myself thinking about them all day 24/7. I’m currently unemployed which doesn’t help. I feel like a monster. I think up scenarios in my head where I go crazy and act on these thoughts. It is making me extremely depressed. I also had fears that I was developing schizophrenia, and after I didnt hear voices or see things it moved onto this. I have urges when I am driving to drive through red lights and stuff, I would never do it but the feelings are disturbing.
I can relate to the feeling that “I will suddenly lose control and do these things” and now the new one that “I will feel relief if i just do it” I feel like that constantly and have not gotten out of bed in 3 days because of it. I was never like this in my whole life until i had a nervous breakdown a few months ago.
This article was great at reafirming what i hadnt heard for a long time, and giving me peace of mind. your the best!!!!!
Amanda, sorry for the delayed response, just getting caught up here. Sounds like you have many clear symptoms of Harm OCD. The “urges” to do things like run lights or other impulsive acts often comes from over-attending to thoughts about what would happen if you lost control of yourself. Also, thoughts of being or becoming schizophrenic are common in this form of ocd. They both have to do with over-attending to the issue of control and compulsively trying to prove that you would never lose it.
You’re absolutely right that being unemployed, or having unstructured time, does not help the matter. Without things that keep you engaged, it can be even more difficult to resist the mental review and analysis that fuels this obsession. I would look for ways to make your time more structured, scheduling activities in your day, perhaps volunteering. It can then be easier to talk back to the ocd, saying, “I don’t have time to address this thought right now.”
You did not mention if you are getting treatment or what kind, so I would strongly recommend seeking out an ocd specialist who does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) if you haven’t already.
Thanks for the feedback, Michelle! Keep standing up to your ocd!
this is a excellent and informative article.thank you for this information. I would also like to know with this type of ocd do people tend to develop false memories? Like when mentally reviewing a situation after it has occurred?
Hi Alexis, thanks for your comment and great question! I think the term “false memories” is tossed around a lot in the psychodynamic community, but has a somewhat different meaning when applied to the treatment of ocd. The more you review something, the more distorted it becomes. This is not only true of obsessions, but of anything. If I review the word “purple” over and over enough, it will eventually start appearing unclear to me what “purple” even means and whether my understanding of the color is accurate or whether I was really thinking of blue the whole time.
So in the case of Harm OCD, it is very common for someone to have an intrusive thought about harm, and then review it to such an extent that they start feeling as if the images in their head are really memories. This is especially common in hit-and-run types of harm ocd, where the sufferer has mentally checked their memory so much, they start finding thoughts that feel like memories of car accidents, etc.
Short answer: yes. But I think a better way of describing “false memories” is as over-valued ideas distorted by compulsive mental review.
Hi I have had pure o for about 8 years now, it comes and goes and changes forms from harm to relationship OCD, it gets me really down at times and the article on self harm had given me tremendous relief as I was thinking I was cracking up and going do something to my self, how do you no it is OCD and is it common to change from one form to another like it has with Rocd to hocd, I love my wife and kids more than anything and I never want to leave them but can’t stop the thoughts
Hi Brett, I think the most important thing to understand about ocd is that attempts to control what thoughts you have function as fuel for your disorder. You cannot control your thoughts. Thoughts are just what your brain presents to you. Your job is to choose behavioral responses to those thoughts that reflect your personal values.
If you want to feel like you are not a danger to others, then you need to behave as if thoughts and feelings about this danger are not important. If you avoid things that trigger harm thoughts, you are only telling your brain that you believe you are at high risk of causing harm. If instead you accept that harm thoughts may happen and don’t make efforts to shut them down, this is the behavior of a person who believes themselves to be at low risk of causing harm.
Yes, it is very common for ocd to switch themes, generally in the direction of wherever you are doing the most compulsions. It’s important to recognize that the term “Pure O” is a label meant only to identify that you are doing more covert or mental rituals than physical ones.
I’m glad I found this, during my second pregnancy I was dreaming that I was abusing my first child, I have had OCD since I can remember, but never been told about hurt OCD, I was so disgusted with myself but now I know it’s part of the OCD. thank you 🙂
Lisa, thanks for your comment. It’s great that our article touched home for you. It’s really unfortunate that so many women struggle with Perinatal and Postpartum OCD, and even more unfortunate that they so rarely are informed that it’s ocd and that there is treatment for it. Recognizing that it’s not a personality flaw or some moral issue, but a treatable disorder is so important.
This has helped me so much but just when I think I’m feeling better my mind will start going to the what ifs. I made the mistake of reading up on andrea yates and the more i read the more terrified i was. While she had severe post partum psychosis the site said she suffered from intrusive.thoughts. One of my biggest fears with this pure o is what if that happened to me. I dont have kids or anything but I’m so scared of these thoughts and i get even more afraid of stories in the news etc about the people who commit violence. I know i never would but my mind keeps circulating to all these what ifs and that seems to be bothering me more. I dont want the thoughts to get worse and i just keep fearing what if i snapped and did it or am i going crazy. The only relief i get is from doing research on this type of ocd it helps a lot but then like i said something will trigger bad thoughts again. I am seeing a therapist but I kind of want to see an ocd specialist.
When I first started having these thoughts I was immediately terrified. I was physically sick I would throw up almost every day because the thoughts made me so sick. I have thoughs about harming my mom first then it was my brother. My mom and my brother are the most important people in my life so to have these thoughts really confused me and made me start to think I really wanted to harm them. I thought wow do i really have a desire deep down to harm them and one day i will? Thinking this scares me. I would never harm them and I know i wouldn’t i couldn’t imagine living without them in my life. But the thoughts started making me think over and over why I got them because I’ve never had these thoughts enter my mind and stay and start obsessing. I’d honestly like to think i first got these thoughts from withdrawal from loreazapam. That is when I first had the thought i was taking this medicine for anxiety. I immediately stopped because it scared the crap out of me to think those thoughts. THen i went on a website which explained withdrawal symptoms may include ocd/morbid obsessive thoughts. Researching more I am aware that these thoughts do not only come from pills but can come from depression and or stress/anxiety. But i just thought it was bizarre that i first had the thoughts while taking that medicine. anyway, sorry this is so long but i really want to address my concerns. I did tell my mom right away about the thoughts because I could not and would not keep them in. I felt disgusting thinking these thoughts and knowing she didn’t know what i was thinking. I’m still scared to tell my brother because the last thing i want is for him to be afraid of me. nothing would hurt me more. I’ve been suffering with these thoughts for about a month and i just feel so lost, so scared i’m scared that the thoughts will either never go away or they will get worse or that i will develop a mental disorder like shizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. i’m afraid of going to sleep at night because i fear of doing something in my sleep. i’m wondering if these are all rational fears that come from these thoughts. i just want the thoughts to go away so bad because they are torturing me. i don’t feel like myself! i read a quote and totally identified with it…it said the person you are when the ocd is taking a break is the person you really are. I started crying when i read that because i really felt like i wasn’t going crazy. there have been things that trigger the thoughts liek violent or scary movies. I used to be able to watch horror films and not get these thoughts… what also scared me was watching the e true hollywood story on andrea yates. it made me even more afraid of what if that happened to me. i read that she had intrusive thoughts about stabbing people etc i know her case was severe though she had post partum and suffered from delusions but just seeing it made me afraid what if i started to have these things happen to me. Anyway I apologize for such a long post but i really am looking for some relief. I am currently seeing a therapist but I don’t think she is specialized in OCD treatment. I want to handle this now and get my life back. Also… I have found that when I’m keeping myself busy and my mind occupied the thoughts do lessen I like to get out of the house as much as i can and hang out with family and friends and it helps wonders. but its just that when i get alone my thoughts just start to wander and they get me worried. My therapist said that will happen, anxiety creates the thoughts and I need to find a way to not be anxious about the thoughts. EASIER SAID THAN DONE!! Thanks for reading.
Alicia, thanks for your comments. Many women with Harm OCD tell us about their fear of being like Andrea Yates, who DIDN’T have OCD, who WAS diagnosed as schizophrenic, who DIDN’T take her antipsychotic medication, and whose husband insisted on continuing to impregnate her after doctors explained to him that another pregnancy would cause another psychotic break (she had them after each pregnancy). So this comparison, between a Harm OCD sufferer and a person like Yates really highlights the informational bias that occurs in ocd. The ocd sufferer becomes aware of unwanted “violent” thoughts and uses this as evidence of imminent danger despite having no actual evidence that the presence of the thought and the potential of violent acts have anything to do with one another. The ocd says, “Hey, you could turn out like Andrea Yates” and the sufferer simply assumes this is a valid comparison because they’re afraid to challenge it. OCD is much like a used car salesman in this regard, discouraging you from looking at the high mileage (how distorted the assumptions are) and encouraging you to look at the low price (how scary your thoughts are).
You mentioned that your intrusive thoughts seemed to spike after coming off of anti-anxiety meds. This is not uncommon, but I think it’s important to make a distinction between where the thoughts come from and how you experience them. The thoughts do not come from meds or med withdrawal, but are actually normal events. The anxiety (which may have come from med withdrawal) distorts the way you perceive these thoughts. Because their significance is magnified in your mind, you end up treating these thoughts as if they are very important (researching online to prove you are not like Andrea Yates is an example). The thoughts then continue to be presented to you with an inflated importance they would not otherwise have earned.
You also mentioned wanting to see an ocd specialist and I can’t stress enough how important that is. I have seen far too many people prolong or worsen their suffering by engaging in psychoanalytic and other talk-oriented treatments for ocd. That being said, your therapist’s suggestion about learning not to be anxious ABOUT the thoughts is good advice. Or more to the point, you need to stop trying to change your thoughts and feelings, but instead learn to BEHAVE non-anxiously in response to them.
I have doubts as to whether I have done horrible things, of course only to people I love. For instance, I will think “What if I poisoned some food in the fridge?” Then, it will force me to try and eat the food I think is poisoned.
I know I have never done these things, but they persist, every morning until night. It makes me want to vomit. I ask for reassurance and that doesn’t help. I will think I put a household chemical in some type of food. I have also had harming thoughts towards children, elderly, girlfriends, anyone really. I think I have cheated on a girlfriend, which makes me feel like the relationship is doomed, and then it is.
Nothing has been able to help me. I’ve tried about 6 different antidepressants, some benzodiazepines, but those don’t work. The only thing that works is marijuana, but I hate being tied down to a substance.
Why do I feel like I have poisoned food? How come it won’t go away? Why doesn’t any medication work? I tried exposure therapy as well, and I can certainly say talk therapy has made my life much much worse.
I don’t know what else to do, this has been going on for over 20 years and it’s killing me. I can never go back into the past to be sure I didn’t commit a horrible act, and that is what scares me. I know in my heart I haven’t, yet the anxiety and nausea doesn’t. It makes my life a lonely, living hell.
John, this is a VERY common presentation of Harm OCD. You mentioned that you did exposure therapy, but not for how long or what specific work you did in that area. Your treatment would need to include having contact with the things you think are going to trigger you and practice resisting the urge to do mental review of whether or not you poisoned someone. An example might be cooking breakfast for a loved one with a canister of bug spray next to the stove and no attempts made to avoid the canister or review whether you put the bug spray in the food. In short, your brain needs to witness you behaving like a person who does not feel threatened by thoughts of poisoning so it knows to stop submitting those thoughts to your mind as threatening.
You mentioned self-medicating with marijuana. While it may temporarily reduce your anxiety, you are basically telling your brain you can’t handle uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, so you escape reality by smoking. As soon as you sober up, your brain goes back to work on its theory that the thoughts are intolerable and the feelings are signs of danger. It’s a delaying strategy that ultimately backfires for you, so I don’t advise it.
I had a thought of not wanting to live one day while running down the road. From there it went into slitting my wrists to killing myself. I don’t always think the what if. Sometimes it is just the action. Blow your head off, kill yourself. They evoke such a strong reaction in me. I was on an ssri and it made them worse and my anxiety ten fold. I finally have realized I was having pain. Attacks which make you feel your going to lose it and having the thoughts of blowing my head off. Now the thoughts come and sometimes nothing but when I have a panic attack I feel like I will lose it and do it. My dr said I was in a mixed state which means I am bipolar. He put me on 7 different drugs in seven different weeks some that made it worse. I am going to counseling. Now the thoughts when they come are just thoughts but sometimes my head feels heavy and my heart and I am afraid that I will act on them. But I do not want to. Although sometimes I just wanna die. Sorry for the typos . I am trying to hurry and post this before dinner. Do you always think the what ifs? Cause I don’t always think them sometimes it is just a tought telling me blow my head off or out of no where kill yourself just comes in. They are so scary. Going into three months of this . I am now avoiding scary movies made my hubby take the guns out of the house. And when I don’t react to them I feel like that is not right either. Lol help please
Hi Amber, it sounds like you are dealing with ocd, panic disorder, and possibly bipolar disorder all at once and that can be frustrating to treat when the symptoms of one agitate the symptoms of another. If you are bipolar, that may explain why you had such a negative reaction to ssri’s, as they have been known to trigger manic episodes in people predisposed to this. Same with panic. Seven drugs in seven weeks sounds like poorly manages psychiatry though and I would look for someone who understands these disorders well enough to prescribe a more tolerable combination of meds that could reduce some of your symptoms.
To your question, the presence of “what-if” may not always be experienced. Very often an intrusive thought presents itself in the affirmative, like “Do this horrible thing!” The “what-if” comes into play when you try to figure out whether that thought could correlate to you actually doing some horrible thing.
In working with an ocd specialist, you might be encouraged to look at these statements that pop up in your head as just a form of spam email that wasn’t properly filtered. Sometimes I get spam in my inbox, but just because it’s in my inbox doesn’t mean I have to give my bank account number to some conservator for the prince of Nigeria. I say, “Oh, that’s one of those emails” and just mark it as spam.
I would strongly advise against avoidant strategies, like scary movies and such. By avoiding these things, you are sending a message to your brain that you are at high risk of the thoughts meaning something important. That’s the opposite message you want to send, that they are indeed just unpleasant, intrusive thoughts. If you can work with an ocd specialist, you would want to do some imaginal exposure work as well.
You pretty much summed it up when you said, “I am afraid I will act on them but I do not want to.” That’s Harm OCD and it should be treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Thank you soooooooooooo much for this article ! I have only recently, within the year, starting having these HORRIBLE thought and its making me sick 🙁 my stomach twists. I relate alot to your article. Like you have been writing about me. I wanted to ask, do you know where I can go for a good treatment? I live in shoreditch in London, just hoping you know someplace good around here you could recommend to me? Due to all the research I´ve done on people getting the wrong sort of treatment that has only made this worse I want to be very sure the place I go to is right?
Many thanks and looking forward to your reply,
I have HarmOCD. I am particularly fearful of overly ‘checking’ to see if I’ll harm a loved one. It gets to the point where I feel that I get into position to do it, or move towards the targeted family member.
Have others felt that they have ‘acted on’ their impulsions?
Sorry my English is bad. I hope you understand and can help me.
I have OCD. I do not think I will do anything to harm every body. But I have terrible thoughts no control.That I was afraid that I wish bad things to harm others.When I do I think of his wish if doing so will harm their loved ones and I did not dare to do next.Even that is very normal, everyday activities.I am very sad, it seriously affected my life.I want to believe the bad thoughts these words may never come true and I’m so sick but did not want to pray..But I was afraid, and seems to have a bit of superstition.And fear, so I do not get out.My thoughts still torment, affect what I do.I’m not afraid for myself, but was afraid of bad people, afraid of my wish may cause evil to others.Please give me advice to get rid of this disease, so that no thoughts pray, to believe in myself.
Hi Tina, thanks for the comment. It’s great to hear that our article was helpful for you! Since you are not in the U.S. you might consider doing online therapy with one of our staff therapists here at the OCD Center of Los Angeles. There are some CBT-for-OCD therapists in London, and you can probably find them through http://www.ocduk.org.
PM, this is a common concern for Harm OCD sufferers. The first thing you need to remember is that “impulses” or “urges” are also internal data and fall under the same category as thoughts and feelings. Internal data picked up by your mind does not need to define your identity. We have a lot going on in there and most of it means nothing. The trick is to identify the review of your experience as a compulsive behavior that is voluntary and take the risk that you may have missed something.
So if, for example, you think you might have impulsively pointed a knife in someone’s direction, acknowledge that you had that thought and that maybe you felt that impulse. But then stop trying to figure out what it means. Once it’s been acknowledged, invite yourself back to the present, in which you are simply experiencing some discomfort and no one is getting hurt.
In terms of purposeful checking, sometimes people with Harm OCD will pose themselves in scary positions to see if it feels natural, as if this would prove their inherent benevolence or malevolence. What you’re really doing is putting on a piece of theater for the brain, demonstrating that your intrusive thoughts are very important and should be taken seriously at all times.
If you feel an urge to do this form of checking, I recommend acknowledging the urge and identifying the checking as compulsive, and something to resist. This is not because the checking could necessarily lead to danger. It’s because the checking fuels more obsessive thinking. That means more ocd. That’s the danger we want to address.
Alex, from what I understand, you are experiencing thoughts that have content which disturbs you. Harm OCD is not always about a fear of doing something. It can also just be an over-response to the experience of unwanted thoughts of a harmful nature.
The thing you will want to work on in treatment for your ocd is acceptance that these are the thoughts going through your head, that one cannot control what thoughts we experience, and that it is up to you whether you are going to allow the presence or absence of these thoughts to determine your behavior.
It sounds like you are also engaging in a lot of magical thinking, meaning you are attributing the presence of the thoughts to some potential that bad things will happen. It’s important to remember that whatever happens inside does not affect the outside world. It is our actions that affect the outside world, not our thoughts.
Overall I would recommend working on mindfulness skills so you can learn to observe the thoughts rather than automatically judge and internally resist them. You might find the second part of this series of articles to be helpful, as it deals specifically with mindfulness for Harm OCD. You can find that article at https://ocdla.com/harm-ocd-treatment-mindfulness-1984/.
Thanks for your reply. It comforted me a lot. I also take the time to learn about the disease OCD. I have spent time self-blame, fear is a bad person. And to hear bad news in the media I always feared they were thinking. I really believe I am a very good never wish bad things. But I’m stuck when I think I have thought to pray. When I think that I prayed bad , I must pray that I did not like that. I have to pray good. And because of anxious, I can not adjust the disorder of thought, I do not distinguish that it is pray or only thoughts. And I do not stop thoughts in my head including wanted or unwanted thoughts, affecting my work.
A lot of people have prayed in hopes their good prayers come true. But I not adjustable thought so I was afraid of accidentally bad prayer unwanted damage. I know it’s too superstitious and for many people it’s not fear. But for me it has made me feel miserable, hated myself so much. Because only a small show me a bad person that would make me not want to live. In my country not many experts who understand the disease. Behavioral therapy little is done. I know drugs do not work for me. Just I believe I are a good person, my thoughts can not bring harm, I will feel happy and will pass all diseases. I know, if not fear, thinking it does not affect me anymore. But I still have not passed, the emotional swings make it difficult for me to recommend myself. I still have to try a lot.
I want to share some of my horrible time and ask for some tips,because as I am from underdeveloped south asian small country nepal I think I cannot find so helping mental health professional.I am a electrical engineer,i am quite a imaginative and visualised thinker from my childhood,every thing I do ,I do it with deep vision( at least for me that is) ,and I came to know just know when I did research I came to know I have anxious and obsessive type ofi personality but that anxiety used to be in real and productive thing,study,tests,exam,presenatation. On one bad day under influence of marijuana (i had smoked fery few times before),may be it was heavy dose I read news of that batman shooter,i was alone and read every bit of webpage I could. Then the journey of hell started,before , whenever i used to see news about mass murderer I used to have feelings.like “insane ,evil,ruthless psycho”, this time I found everything normal with that shooter(may be due to superficial covering of media),except some months of disturbance and the thought came if I get disturbed will I be that,will I be this,in 10 days I became 100 type of insane ,panic attack 4,5 times a day. After 10 uncontrollable days I went to psychiatrist which I thought was very passionate with his profession due to his activeness in media,gave me prescription in 5 mins saying that schizotypal personality disorder and referrred to psychologist,and that psychologist did not gave me a smile and comfort when I mostly needed for three hours,she was as if I am in final day of my life she was more sad thaan me.,now she was teaching me how to talk to people,eye contact and that was enough,:) as I am a very social person,and engineer talking ,travelling,presentations,handshake, are now new for me at the age of 26,it did not bothered me being diagnosed schizotypal,at that time the problem was anxiety,fear that was killing me,not schizotypie 🙂 . And I decided that I should do some research,its been 1 and half month as i react thoz thoughts of being psychopath,killing people loved once,with very weak emotions as I can and thoz panic attacks,heartbits,fatigueness,sweating,racing of mind has vanished but thoz images and and ” what ifs ” are there ,in low frequency,sometime they dont affect but sometime they disturb and make me feel low.
Also I have convinced myself these are just as the data of computer memory, and every brain have that. i am not my data,i am the person who gives output processing these data,i am the “consious me”,not that subconcious memory inside me. But the thing is that some time I feel I am not confident and have same self esteem ,i had great aimbitions with life . I used to think I am capable of doing some meaningful things with my career and for my society,sometime I fear life will end in same company,in which I have recently been selected.
Will I be the same before ? is there some way I can be previous as before…I miss myself. Are there some tips for me?
This is a good article and I’m grateful to find it. I’ve been dealing with SOOOO MANY TYPES OF OCD it’s literally like living in a hell.
An the article hits right on the spot when it notes that once your mind gets bored another problem will strike in its place. My anxiety started when I was in Afghanistan serving in the Army almost 2 years ago. I’ve started out with> H(OCD) [ocd which basically makes you think your gay]> R(OCD) [ocd which basically makes you believe you don’t love your significant other- I’m married)> P(OCD) [Which basically makes you believe in everything in-which you cant see_ ghost, demons, myself/others I love being controlled by the underworld or w/e & ext. An now I’ve been dealing w/ this one….
My mind literally is running 24/7. An the saddest part is. No one can tell I’m hurting, because in my mind I’ve come to a part in-which its neutral thoughts meaning I don’t react and people can tell that my minds running about these ridiculous irrational thoughts- I’m blank and sometimes lose sight of feelings. But I always remember tomorrow is another day & their is a chance that it might all change around. Because one day it will.
But most of all> OCD does target the ones you love most. Which is the worst part of it all. All my OCD thoughts have been around my Wife, Son, Mother, ext. I’m still in contemplation to seek therapy once again. Because the first time I went. All I got was drugs that didn’t help. Only made it worsen and useless information I already found on the internet… If anyone has any good help tips email me> thank you.
Alex, it sounds like you have some issues with compulsive prayer as a strategy for proving that your harm thoughts are not true or that you are a good person. This way of praying is actually making you feel less connected to your faith because you are motivated by fear.
I encourage you to read our series of articles on Scrupulosity, which is OCD related religious, moral, and ethical concerns. There is also an excellent book on religious obsessions called “The Doubting Disease”. You might find it helpful for getting you back to a place where prayer is something that brings you closer to faith and isn’t a part of your ocd.
Hi Deepak, sorry you’ve been having a rough time with your Harm OCD. A lot of ocd sufferers were triggered by the “Batman” shooter. In the same way a lot of Harm OCD sufferers find the story of Andrea Yates triggering, there is this tendency to view these people as somehow going from totally healthy to totally insane overnight for no reason or due to some mystical mental illness that no one’s ever heard of. It’s just not reality. I don’t know what the Batman shooter’s life was like, but I do know he spent several months of rigging his apartment with booby traps before opening fire on an audience of innocent people. He didn’t wake up one day and lose control. The fear that you are like him is an ocd fear.
I’m not sure why you were diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder if all you were reporting were Harm OCD thoughts. In any case, if you do have schizotypal personality disorder, it’s not an indicator of the meaning behind your thoughts. I’m not sure what sort of tips you are looking for regarding lack of confidence in your career. This fear of failing may be looked at as an obsession and viewed as catastrophic thinking that’s being over-attended to.
What I am understanding from your post is that you are not in treatment for your ocd. It sounds like you have been working hard to be more mindful of the thoughts, but I suggest doing some form of OCD treatment in a more structured way. If there are no treatment providers locally and you cannot afford online treatment with a specialist here, you might try using a self-treatment book. We recommend Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer as a good start.
Thanks so much for your response. A quick follow-up:
I sometimes feel like these urges are so intense that I will ‘snap’ and perform them. Indeed, I have physically acted, although nothing more than a hand gesturemovement or something, but that’s enough to scare the heck out of me. To me, this means that I am different, as harm OCD sufferers ‘never act on these intrusive thoughts’.
When I get these urges, they tend to be very quick. I fear that they overwhelm my senses, and possibly can happen before I can stop myself. The last 4 months of my life have been full of these intrusions, stress, fear, and frustration. Nothing I have done has yet convinced me that I am harmless.
Have you ever heard of other Harm OCD sufferers describe this? Could I have something else?
TB, thanks for your comment and I’m glad you found the article helpful. You said that you were considering trying therapy “again” but the first time all you got was meds. To me this means you have not yet tried therapy. The right medication can play an important role in treatment, but it does not replace therapy. I recommend you seek treatment from an ocd specialist trained in doing cognitive behavioral therapy. There’s a good list of treatment providers by area at https://iocdf.org
PM, you wrote – “I sometimes feel like these urges are so intense that I will ‘snap’ and perform them. Indeed, I have physically acted, although nothing more than a hand gesturemovement or something, but that’s enough to scare the heck out of me.”
—The question you need to ask yourself here is whether the problem is a hand gesture or the fact that you experienced a fear response to it. Did the gesture kill anyone? If not, then it is irrelevant. Did your fear of the gesture cause you to respond with a bunch of avoidance and mental rituals? Then it is your response to fear that is the problem and you need to treat the ocd.
You wrote “…this means that I am different, as harm OCD sufferers ‘never act on these intrusive thoughts’.”
—I don’t know who said that or how they would know. I have no idea if a harm ocd sufferer has ever engaged in a particular type of behavior. All I know is that having certain kinds of thoughts is not a predictor of certain kinds of actions. I don’t know why someone would do something they think is horrible at the time. Self-reassuring that no one with harm thoughts would ever do any harmful thing only validates the obsession more. The point is that the presence of harm thoughts is not evidence of the likelihood of harming behaviors, nor is the presence of hand gestures. I gave a hand gesture to someone in traffic the other day. I have no idea what it means about me.
You wrote, “When I get these urges, they tend to be very quick. I fear that they overwhelm my senses, and possibly can happen before I can stop myself. The last 4 months of my life have been full of these intrusions, stress, fear, and frustration. Nothing I have done has yet convinced me that I am harmless.”
—You need to remember that what you call “convincing” is just another word for doing compulsions.
You wrote, “Have you ever heard of other Harm OCD sufferers describe this? Could I have something else?”
—We hear these questions every day. They are reassurance-seeking questions designed to avoid discomfort, and they fuel the obsessions and make the ocd worse. Our recommendation is that you engage in CBT for your OCD and that it should include Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) for your fear of snapping.
hi, my name is Erika and I’m 20 yrs old. It all started when I had a panic attack around August and I did not know I had a panic attack I just knew I wad going to die or faint. This is when I decided to look up my symptoms online and I was 100% what I just had was a panic attack. Well while reading people’s stories most of them had the fear they will come back at any moment. This stood in my head and I was also scare. I was experiencing derelization for most of the time , ifelt like I was floating like I was in a dream , like my body didn’t weigh anything. Then one day suddenly I wad laying down on my bed ,both my boyfriend and daughter were sleeping and out of nowhere I was imagining me putting a pillow over my boyfriend face, I was terrified that I quickly got up and left to the bathroom and cried. Later I had thoughts of hurting my daughter, everything I saw suddenly became a weapon . I made sure I didn’t say with my daughter alone in fear of hyrting her. For a while these thoughts stop and then the thoughts of me jumping in front of the train came, it’s like my thoughts were telling me to do it and I was afraid my body was going to act on them. This is when I had enough and went to seek help at the psych. E.R. I told the psychiatrist all my symptoms and they thought I was a harm to myself and others so they admitted me . They diagnose me with depression and a brief psychotic break. They gave me 1mg of risperidone and 10mg of celexa. In the psychiatric unit I saw every mental illness I could come up with, it was traumatizing. After a week I got sent home but I still felt allot of derelazation and I still had the intrusive thoughts. I felt emotionally flat. After 2 weeks of taking risperidone I quit cold turkey and after 3 weeks I quit celexa cold turkey. And now that I’m off the medication I feel better with my anxiety but how my fear of becoming schizophrenic can’t get out of my head. I think about it 24/7 its interfering with my life. Idk if it wad the medicine of what but I’m not likbefore I don’t enjoy things like I did before I’m always crying because I think what if I do developed or have schizophrenia. What’s going to be of me and my daughter,how is my future going to look etc. Andis allbecause I’m constantly looking up symptoms of schizophrenia and stories. I examine my thoughts to make she they are mine . I’m afraid I might have it and not know it. And now sometimes before I go to sleep I get scaredI’m going to heat voices in my head before I got to sleep, and I do end up hearing voices. And that scares me to my parentssay is because I’m always thinking about having schizophrenia that my mind is playing tricks on me. Idk why to do I want my old life back and I want this obsession to stop. Is or possible that the psychiatrist misdiagnosed me? I’m I going to develop schizophrenia?the voices are only when I’m falling asleep and sometimes is from people I know and sometimes from people I don’t know, this only happens sometimes. Sometimes I’m able to sleep well. But lately I haven’t had enough sleep due to obsessing over having schizophrenia.I only sleep max 6 hours. I’m hopeless help!
Hi Erika, sounds like you’ve been through some pretty traumatic experiences trying to get help. The intrusive thoughts of harming people (including one’s boyfriend or daughter) are normal events that occur in the brain. Taking them seriously and engaging in avoidant or reassurance-seeking compulsions just makes the ocd more persistent.
De-realization symptoms are pretty common in panic attacks, so unless they’re happening in the absence of panic, I think calling it “psychotic” may be an over-reaction. That being said, a “brief psychotic episode” is not as terrible as it may sound and is not necessarily an indicator of some larger underlying illness.
The fear of schizophrenia (and of all other forms of losing control) is a common obsession in ocd. Trying to determine for certain if you have it should be looked at as a compulsion. If you don’t have it, then all the mental review is just fueling more doubt. If you do have it, then the mental review is unreliable anyway. Definitely stop all the online research. If you want a diagnosis, talk to a professional and get an evaluation.
My broader recommendation is that you seek treatment from an ocd specialist who can use Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a focus on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) to confront your fear of having something other than ocd. Medication may play a role in your treatment, but you need to consult with a psychiatrist to get the appropriate prescriptions and you’ll have to commit to a course of treatment at a therapeutic dose. 3 weeks on Celexa is about 3-9 weeks too little to determine if it will benefit you. Quitting any of these meds cold turkey is ill-advised and can result in some very unpleasant side effects.
I don’t think it’s unusual to hear random voices right before falling asleep. It’s certainly happened to me. It is likely your response to the experience that is problematic. Get an assessment from an ocd specialist. If there is anything besides ocd to worry about, they will help you get the right treatment. I don’t want to fuel your obsessive thinking by making any other suggestions at this point. Thinking really hard about it is not going to produce the results you are looking for.
Hi my name is Gabby, reading this article has helped me a lot, I believe I have OCD. Since I was like 8 I have experience OCD but didn’t know what it was and never said anything.I was sexually molested for 8 years by my mother’s ex husband, I mentioned it to my mother but she was ignorant and didn’t know what to do about it, when I told my brother he helped me and my mother got divorced, I don’t know if this had anything to do with triggering my OCD, at around the same age I was afraid that something would happen to my mom and she would never come back safe from work so when I would start with this feeling I would pray and pray for her. I am very overprotective with my children and feel like Ihave to be a perfect mom, if i miss one of their events or i am late i feel like i have done something wrong. I am very organized and when things are not put back how I want thm two it bothers me and I get anxious, I also experienced that when I’m driving i fear I harmed someone and I drive back to make sure I didn’t when I deep know it’s impossible but I have to check back to feel better. I get scared when I have bad thoughts and feel quilty for having this thoughts because I know I would never do so but I can’t stop having them. I feel like I have to be perfect, at work I fear that I won’t do something right like paper work and I have to check over and over to make sure I did things right. Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy and I get sad but then I think about my family and feel that I have to be strong and block those thoughts but thm I’m left with something in my chest, I never talk about this feeling because I feel like nO one will understand and will look at me like I am crazy, i do ask my husband all the time for reassurance. Thank you hope to see a respond from you soon.
Hi Gabby, I’m glad the article was helpful for you. I am sorry to hear of the trauma you suffered as a child. There is no reason to think that childhood trauma is a cause for ocd since we have other more likely explanations such as genetics. You describe several different common ocd symptoms and I suggest you seek treatment for your disorder via Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with an ocd specialist. You can also work with your husband to reduce the reassurance seeking compulsions. The feeling you describe is exactly that, a feeling. Your goal should be to acknowledge and accept the thoughts and feelings you have as thoughts and feelings, not threats or facts.
After severe depression I recieved treatment for HOCD last year in the UK over 2 months and it helped to some degree. I have been suffering, off an on, for about 25 years with intrusive thoughts, compulsions, mental rituals like special phrases analysing, etc . This year has been me and my wifes happiest due to birth of our beautiful baby son who i adore. I love being with him and look after him most of the day, however i have often awful persistent sexual thoughts(mainly oral sex) which cause me distress, stress, analyising , guilt , compulsions (phrase repeating such as ¨”try and accept any thoughts as horrible as they are” or will repeat actions where the thoughts appear to try and make them go away or checking if i really like these thoughts. These thoughts are mainly in the back of my head, and not graphic , (unless i am checking if i feel any arousal or pleasure)there is no sexual arousal at all but i feel a kind of energy or anxiety that comes over me, similar to arousal but maybe it is a wave of anxiety? The sensation is similar to that felt after i do physical repetitive compulsions, Changing nappies is very stressful as the thoughts are more intense,i try to avoid seeing his genitals as the horrible thought automatically appears. This makes me stressed even more, increasing the intensity of the thoughts such that i give in and do a ritual ( repeating phrase or rubbing my hands over my face),or stop changing the nappy. This helps momentarily to get thoughts and anxiety out of my head, (even though i know this is will make things worse)I guess such thoughts about my own son are just too dreadful to bear. It seems my OCD has found the perfect way to distress me! Often i have urges (thoughts themselves) to think these thoughts, Its as if the thoughts are compulsions and my mind says, “go on think the thoughts” like the urge to look over a very high canyon edge or something prohibited or bad.This makes me feel terrible because it must mean that i liek the thought to some degree. Can your mind trick you so much that you feel you like to some degree the thoughts, turning them into feelings? The worst is if these thoughts are accompanied by even weak physical sensations, such as groinal tingling but fortunately this is rare. I am currentkly taking sertraline, fish oils, and drinking lots of coffee (probably not a good idea) I cope with the thoughts and love being with my baby son. Its just sometimes they get too bad, or feel so real and even as if i am “liking” them, although i dont think i know what “like” actually is anymore (i dont get any sexual pleasure or arousal ). Can other pleasurable experiences in my mind be superimposed or transfered to these undesirable thoughts? which results in distress and guilt and anger and , I just want to stop having these distracting thoughts. When i seem to overcome or accept one thought, another different one , will materialize! wow, the mind is so complex!
Any tips or advice on how to reduce these thoughts would be extremely welcome! Sorry for long message and thanks for your time!
Julian, trying to “reduce thoughts” sends a message to the brain that there is something particularly important about these thoughts. this results in them being more intrusive and more disturbing. If the goal is peace of mind, then the strategy has to be acceptance of what the mind is picking up, not attempts to reduce the presence of specific types of thoughts. Trying to avoid seeing things that trigger unwanted thoughts is a compulsion that, again, only empowers the ocd.
You wrote: “Can your mind trick you so much that you feel you like to some degree the thoughts, turning them into feelings? The worst is if these thoughts are accompanied by even weak physical sensations, such as groinal tingling but fortunately this is rare.”
—-Having feelings and physical sensations coincide with thoughts is how the mind/body works. Analyzing their significance instead of accepting them as they are (thoughts, feelings, and sensations) is the problem.
You wrote: “I am currentkly taking sertraline, fish oils, and drinking lots of coffee (probably not a good idea).”
—-Fish oil is not a treatment for ocd, but sertraline is. It is still important to engage in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) though. Taking in excessive amounts of caffeine when you have an anxiety disorder is probably ill-advised.
Your wrote: “I cope with the thoughts and love being with my baby son. Its just sometimes they get too bad, or feel so real and even as if i am “liking” them, although i dont think i know what “like” actually is anymore (i dont get any sexual pleasure or arousal ). Can other pleasurable experiences in my mind be superimposed or transfered to these undesirable thoughts? which results in distress and guilt and anger and , I just want to stop having these distracting thoughts.”
—While the emphasis remains on trying to control what thoughts and feelings you have, the obsessions will persist. If the thought or feeling you are having is that you are uncertain at times if you like or hate the thoughts, then you need to accept that in that moment you are experiencing discomfort tolerating uncertainty.
You may want to read our series of articles on HOCD. While those articles are specifically about unwanted thoughts related to sexual orientation, the principles of treatment are quite similar to the principles of treatment for obsessions of pedophilia.
Thanks so much for this article. It has laid my mental burden to rest. So tired of beating myself up for something I would NEVER do.
It also helps to know there are others like me.
Hi Karl, thanks for commenting! Very happy to hear the article was helpful for you.
Thank you so much for your helpful comments! When i begin to accept the thoughts for what they are, just thoughts, once i get over a kind of threshold of a few minutes they do fade in strength and bother me less, or they just very vague , not graphic, thoughts in the back of my head, and i feel much more relaxed, Im sure this is the path to go, any “new” thoughts quickly fade if i dont pay too much attantion to them or do ridiculous compulsuions. I feel i am on my way to getting better,
Thanks and have a great christmas (a bit early!) y saludos desde Mexico!
Thank you for writing this. I’ve had Harm OCD since I was around eight, but it didn’t really get out of control until I was 12. I’ve briefly had therapy, though I avoided mentioning that I was having fears of harming others as I thought it was a separate problem and that they would surely send me away for such thoughts, even though I would never consciously act on them. It’s very comforting to know that I’m not alone on this and treatment is possible.
Again, thank you for this; It was very informative and helpful. Have a great day.
Thanks for your comments Nick.
You most certainly are not alone, and there is very effective treatment available. As for not telling your therapist about your thoughts for fear of their response, that is a very common fear of those with Harm OCD. I encourage you to seek out a good therapist who specializes in CBT for OCD.
This website is very informative. Thank you for posting it. I had a baby premature and went through some very traumatic times. My dr put me on antidepressants for anxiety and i have days where i have thoughts that i have done something that I know i didnt but they seem to last and linger. I also have done the whole checking foods and double checking medications and sometimes checking items more than that. i get worried that i have harmed my child or my fiance when they are perfectly fine. and looking symptoms up online seems to make those days worse.
Thank you for your comments.
The harm thoughts you are experiencing, and the compulsive checking behaviors you are doing, are all very common in Harm OCD. Also, you should know that many women have spikes in their OCD related to childbirth. You may want to read our web page about Perinatal and Postpartum OCD.
Your best approach to managing these thoughts would be to resist the urge the check, including the the checking of symptoms online. I know this can seem extraordinarily difficult, but when you cease the compulsions, the obsessions will almost certainly decrease.
This article was also very helpful for me for it describes everything that happens in my mind to a T. Generally, it is very hard for me to verbal state how I am feeling, exactly, to a therapist or even my family or husband. I’m a 21 year old college student and these OCD thoughts have only started coming back. I got diagnosed with it when I was 13 because I would hear of a physical illness and I would fear that I have it and check for lumps. My ritual was seeking reassurance from family members. Recently, my fear turned to going crazy or becoming psychotic; I’d been having a lot of spiritual warfare going on and for a while, I didn’t feel like I was part of the church or that I wasn’t good enough. Even now, at times, I feel very lonely and isolated because no one really knows what goes on in my head and when I try to explain, I don’t think they really understand. The idea that I’m on my own frightens me so badly I’ll even get panic attacks (I am no stranger to them).
When I started having impulses or fears of hurting someone, that is when I started to seek counseling again. I only had my first session and I did most of the talking but I’m hoping this will actually work. I am also hoping that this too will pass.
Is it normal for OCD to just go dormant for years at a time???
Yes, it is fairly common for OCD symptoms lie dormant. It is also quite common for the focus of obsessions to change. So the fact that your earlier obsessions about health have morphed into obsessions about being psychotic is not unusual. It is also worth noting that your health fears and your obsessions about being psychotic are fairly similar – in the past you were obsessing about your physical health, and currently you are obsessing about your mental health.
You mention that you have recently gotten back into therapy, and I want to strongly encourage you to make sure that your treatment provider specializes in CBT for OCD. Unfortunately, many (most) therapists are absolutely clueless about how to appropriately treat OCD, and pursuing traditional talk therapy will only prolong your suffering.
i also have to admit that just accepting that they are nothing more than thoughts does help. i do still have days of always double and triple checking medication and sometimes having to make sure the food is okay, but that is what im dealing with when it comes to thoughts that i may have harmed someone like my fiance or son. im glad that my thoughts havent gone any further than that but i do sometimes make myself worry about my thoughts alone. decided to add more information from my above post.
Hello again Sabrina,
I’m glad to hear that you are experiencing how helpful it is to accept the existence of these unwanted thoughts. On a cognitive level, this is the most important part of treatment for OCD. The goal is to accept the existence of the thoughts without over-valuing them. After all, a thought is just a thought – it is not the same as an action. You may want to read our article on Thought-Action Fusion.
I have this but I have never hurt anyone. I was abused as a child mentally, physically, verbally, and emotionally. I am afraid to go get help for this because I am afraid they will put me in inpatient. That is my worst fear. But I would never hurt anyone- the thoughts disgust me.
Your fear of being hospitalized is one of the most common concerns experienced by people with Harm OCD, and one of the most common reasons for avoiding treatment. But any therapist specializing in treatment for OCD will quickly discern that your thoughts of causing harm are not a legitimate reflection of who you are. In other words, they will quite easily see that you have Harm OCD, and that you are not a risk to anyone.
On that note, I want to strongly encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in CBT for OCD. There is no reason to avoid treatment for this very treatable condition.
I’m glad I found this site. It all started for me on the 26th of Dec. I got very depressed that night and just felt very hopeless and not myself. I would cry and talk to my very supportive husband about it. I didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything. Nothing excited me. I however, powered through it because it was the holidays and we have two kids. We took the kids to visit my husbands Aunt in ATL. On the drive home the thought of “what if I opened this car door while moving” popped in my head. I don’t know if it was the depression that caused this thought to really get to me but it did and it escalated from there. I started thinking other things like what if I harm myself or my family. I felt detached from my kids like what if don’t really love them and I know that is crazy because they mean everything to me. I started getting better as far as depression goes but then I started getting bad anxiety. When the slightest thought came to mind I would get an upset stomach my face would feel hot and flush and my mind would go crazy and make me think I would act on these thoughts. I knew this was not me. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I felt off and not myself and this is not my way of thinking. I just wanted my life back. I couldn’t think of why it came on suddenly. At first I thought it was because our christmas plans didn’t go as planned. We all got sick on Christmas and didn’t get to go through with our plans and I thought the stress of that might have brought it on but when I couldn’t shake the feelings and thoughts I saw my general practitioner who I really trust. We are both Christians and that is very important to me. My husband came along with me. My husband and I prayed everyday together that this would go away as quickly as it came on. Anyway I told my practitioner everything. The intrusive thoughts the depression and anxiety. He didn’t seem to think I have OCD but he put me on a temp. medicine to take as needed when I feel down or anxious. He said think of it as my “emotional tylenol” and I have taken it a few times and it has helped. He said if I don’t feel better to come back and I am beginning to think I might have to. It has been a little over 3 weeks and I just want to get excited about the little things again and think the way I used to and just block all of these bad/negative thoughts from me. I dread bedtime because that’s when I had the worst anxiety and the morning because I fear I am still going to be having these thoughts. I just want it to go away. I don’t want to have a mental illness or have to see a therapist or take meds the rest of my life. I just pray that I get back to my normal self and soon. I started taking vitamins and fish oil supplements, eating healthier and trying to relax by taking a lavender bath at night and drinking chamomile or green tea. My husband also massages me with the lavender oil and I seem to get to sleep quick but if I wake in the middle of the night my mind starts going at full force and it is hard to get back to sleep. I have been very blessed and just don’t know why this has happened to me.
Thanks for your comments.
While I cannot provide a diagnosis via email, the thoughts you describe are consistent with Harm OCD. And while I appreciate that you trust your general practitioner, I am concerned that he doesn’t really understand OCD. The unfortunate reality is that most physicians are pretty clueless about OCD, and think the condition is only about compulsive hand washing or checking of locks, etc.
Likewise, while prayer, vitamins, supplements, and lavender oil baths may provide some comfort, they are not substitutes for evidence-based treatment. It sounds like the idea of seeing a therapist may seem to you like some sort of personal failure, but having a condition you didn’t ask for (even a mental illness) is not about your character. If you had diabetes or a heart condition, you most likely wouldn’t think twice about seeking help, and I encourage you to think about OCD the same way. Treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will more than likely help you in a relatively short period of time.
I have always had a fear with heights, but as of late i have thoughts of jumping out of a window or into the train tracks. When these thoughts come on, my knees begin to hurt. I dont want to kill myself, but the thought always comes to mind as of late, it has become so bad that i can no longer stand by the window. I been constantly in tears and been missing work due to it.
It sounds like your initial phobia (heights) has morphed into OCD (fear of self harm). This is not unusual, as phobias and OCD are very similar.
Obsessions about self-harm and suicide are quite common in Harm OCD, and can cause immeasurable suffering. The best way to approach these obsessions is three-fold: a) accepting that these are just thoughts, and that we all have strange thoughts that aren’t worthy of being taken seriously; b) not avoiding things that you would otherwise be doing, such as standing by windows and going to work. These avoidant strategies actually make your OCD worse. And c) finding a qualified therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) to help guide you through a structured, graduated course of effective treatment.
Remember, just because you have a particular thought doesn’t mean that the thought is accurate or in any way an indicator of your true intent. Finally, let me note that if at any time you feel genuinely suicidal, it is imperative that you take yourself to a local emergency room.
Hello, I am performing some research tonight and came to this post, that I participated in a few months ago. I am having a particularly bad time right now, and am now obsessively researching others like me!
My main fear is of my ‘checking’ compulsions. I hear many people avoiding a situation due their Harm OCD fears. However, I tend to go towards the situation, usually having to do with my baby.
So, if I fear shaking my baby, I’ll have a compulsion to pick up my baby, presumably to prove to myself that I won’t do it. My muscles tense, and I feel like I am about to do it. It causes a lot of distress to me. I am not sure what to do. Putting yourself into this situation seems to be consistent with exposure therapy, but it could also be considered a compulsion, as you are constantly trying to ‘check’ to see if you are dangerous.
So my main question to an expert – could the complusions ever become dangerous? My main concern is that my baby remains safe. I am unsure of Harm OCD, taken to my extreme, could twist into something unsafe. If not, what should be my strategy to reduce this hell? I am so frustrated.
Thank you for your comments. You bring an important issue. For some people with OCD, exposures can become a compulsion. Your initial inclination to not avoid your child is right on target. The problem is that you are now compulsively checking to ensure that you are not going to shake your baby.
The answer is that you should neither avoid your child, nor should you compulsively check to see if you are a threat to your child. Ask yourself “What would someone without OCD do in this situation”. The answer to that question is that they would not avoid their baby, and they wouldn’t compulsively test themselves either.
As for the best strategy, I encourage you to seek out a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD. They will be able to guide you through the treatment process so that your exposures are effective, rather than letting them become compulsive in their own right.
Hello, Its been a month searching for an article about my condition right now. and this article is really helpful, but still can i ask – what should i do because im having a homosexual ocd. I dont know how to cure it. I am really afraid to be somebody i dont want to be. I just dont really wanna be an homosexual. I only want not to think about it.
I never get attracted to a same sex with me. But now that Im thinking that I am going to be a somebody my mind keep on telling to me that you have to get attract to your same sex. Whenever that happens I got pannic attack and hyperventalation. And getting afraid of losing my partner. Can you help me learn what to do? Can you help me to forget the thought of being homosexual?
Thanks for your comments and questions.
You note that you “only want to not think about it”, and from my perspective, that is the source of your discomfort.
Humans don’t get get to control what thoughts pop into their heads. We all have weird, strange, unexpected, and unwanted thoughts, and any attempt to control those thoughts is doomed to failure. As an alternative, I encourage you to accept whatever thought pops into your head. That doesn’t mean you need to accept that these thoughts are “accurate” or “meaningful” – it only means accepting that the the thoughts exist, and that you are experiencing them.
You also mention that you have been spending time searching for articles on this topic, and I would posit that this is likely a compulsion. There is no reason to spend another minute of your life looking for articles about sexual orientation. Your article searching will not provide you with the sense of certainty you are seeking. In fact, it will only reinforce your OCD.
Finally, I suggest you seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). This is the treatment that has been shown to be the most effective this condition.
OCD Center, thanks so much for your reply. It helps me.
I am working with my Psychologist, and discussed this newsgroup post with him. I’m having an OK day today, so hopefully I am going to be successful in reducing compulsions.
My big question is (and I am aware that this could be reassurance seeking, but I must know for sure). Are people with my types of ‘checking’ compulsions truly harmless? My psychologist insists that I have build in, foolproof mechanisms that prevent me from doing harm, even in the event of a strong compulsion. Do you agree? My compulsions are strong, and sudden. I fear losing control, even though I know for a fact that I have OCD. If you could answer this question, it will put my mind at ease.
You note that you are aware that your questions are possibly reassurance seeking, so I’ll do my best to answer you in the most therapeutically appropriate manner.
Yes, your questions are reassurance seeking…
To answer your questions with any more detail would be to provide the very reassurance you are seeking, and would thus reinforce your OCD. Your goal should be to sit with the uncertainty of the unanswered questions that your mind generates, without doing any avoidant or compulsive behaviors (including reassurance seeking).
I know that heeding my suggestion is likely to be difficult and uncomfortable, but I am confident it is the best approach.
Hi OCDLA, thanks so much for your advice. I have learned a lot from this website. I am trying my best to follow your direction and NOT seek reassurance. However, first and foremost, I must determine if I am safe to my loved ones. This is far more critical to me than taking ANY step towards curing my OCD. I simply need to know if people with Harm OCD, and with strong, strong checking compulsions and urges, are at all harmful to loved ones. If the answer is ‘YES’, I will need to leave my house, and then figure out what the heck I am going to do.
Thanks for your comments.
I can see that you are struggling with one of the more difficult aspects of managing Harm OCD – namely, how does one elect to not seek reassurance when the stakes seem so high? But in reality the stakes aren’t high at all, because there is no evidence whatsoever that you are a danger to your loved ones. What you are perceiving as a threat is nothing more than a thought that you are over-valuing. It sounds like you have had this thought many times, yet you have never acted on it. THAT is the real evidence.
When you say you must determine if you are safe to your loved ones, you are asking for reassurance that cannot ever be achieved. For example, right now, I will purposely think of killing my neighbor – bludgeoning him to death with a hammer to his head. But that is just a thought. In years of knowing my neighbor, I have never acted violently towards him, and there is no evidence that I will today. But if I try to get 100% certainty that I won’t kill him, I will never be satisfied, because I cannot find 100% certainty. It doesn’t exist. For all I know, tomorrow will be the day I snap and kill him.
Your goal should be to become more aware of, and accepting of, the fact that your brain likes to make up stories that scare the hell out of you. That doesn’t mean those stories are true or real or accurate. It just means those stories exist. Behaviorally, your goal is to not do any avoidant or compulsive behaviors that reinforce the story your brain has produced. I encourage you to read our article on Mindfulness for Harm OCD.
I know this is difficult, but this is the only way to effectively respond to these kinds of thoughts.
I sincerely appreciate your help. I wouldn’t wish this problem on anyone in the world. It is true suffering.
I will follow your advice, and continue my psychologistpsychiatrist visits and hope that I make a breakthrough.
The checking compulsions are the worst. They seem so ridiculously close to actual harm. I have not figured out how to reduce their severity, but I have no choice but to continue working on it. For everyone out there suffering, I hope you find the strength to get through this.
I have really bad OCD and I always have thoughts of hurting people. It gets really bad and once I “choked” my friend but we were rough-housing and I stopped but it really upset me. I’m afraid next time I won’t stop. I’m really scared cause I have to babysit a 1 year old this weekend and I have done it before but my dad was right next door. This time my dad won’t be next door and I’m afraid I’ll hurt the baby. I’m afraid I won’t stop and I feel really bad and get really anxious. I don’t know if I should babysit because I need the money and I can’t keep having these thoughts get in the way of my life.
Thank you for commenting on our article.
There is nothing unusual about pretending to choke your friend – when people play, they often pretend to do things that are violent (shooting, stabbing, hitting, choking, etc). If you avoid babysitting because of your fear, you will get short term relief, but you will ultimately reinforce the idea in your head that you are a dangerous threat, despite the fact that there is no actual evidence to support this idea. In fact, the evidence shows that you are not a killer (you didn’t choke your friend, you just pretend-choked him/her when you were playing, and when you babysat in the past, you didn’t kill the baby).
Your goal should be to accept that you have many thoughts (some of which are unwanted thoughts of violence), and to live your life as you would live it if you didn’t have OCD.
Finally, ask yourself this question: If you didn’t have OCD, would you babysit this weekend? If the answer is yes, then you should babysit.
Hallo, I suffer from OCD many years now. I get treatment, therapy and medication, many years now. My real problem is that I thing I caused harm in the past. And I can’t go back and check if something bad has happened. In addition, I remember many years ago, I was with someone in a distanced place, dark place in the car, and we heard voices, like a fight, big fight from a car beside us. I thing what if the man killed that woman in the car? I was young and I don’t remember details, only that I was scared. I feel guilt for this too. Usually I feel guilt that I caused harm to someone. About this fact, I feel guilt what if that man killed the woman in the car beside us?? I feel horrible. Please give me some advice. Is it normal That I feel guilt about this fact? What should have I done? How will I know after so many years that nothing bad has happened??
Yes, all of the thoughts you mention are “normal” for those suffering with Harm OCD. Whenever you find yourself asking “What if…” related to anything about harm, you are almost certainly experiencing a Harm OCD spike.
As for what you can do about these thoughts, the first step is to realize that you do not need to blindly accept that these thoughts are “true” or “accurate”. They are just typical thoughts for anyone with Harm OCD, and you need to remind yourself of that fact. Never forget that OCD loves to lie to you about all sorts of things, especially regarding responsibility for bad things that may or may not have happened.
Asking yourself what you should have done is a compulsion aimed at trying to relieve yourself of guilt for something for which you have no evidence even occurred. Just because two people were arguing doesn’t mean that something bad happened. And it certainly doesn’t make you responsible if it did. Likewise, trying to figure out if anything bad actually happened is an attempt to reduce your anxiety, and will only make you more anxious. Simply put, there is no way whatsoever for you to determine if anything bad occurred.
Your goal should be to accept that your brain will continue to push out thoughts of guilt and responsibility, to recognize that these thoughts are a part of your OCD, and to get on with your day, knowing that these thoughts will sometimes rise up to pester you. They are just thoughts, and you gain nothing by taking them seriously or trying to resolve them.
Nicky, I am going through the same thing as you. The feelings are unbelievable. With you, do you actually feel these intrusive thoughts as URGES? It sounds like you do. Please let me know. And, hang in there. How did the babysitting go?
Thanks for the great article! I admit to giving into a compulsion by reading this as I wanted reassurance that I have OCD and I’m not just a horrible person. I can identify so well with many of these obsessions and compulsions and now I really feel motivated to keep doing exposure therapy. Thanks!
Thank you for your comment. I am glad to hear our article struck a chord for you, and that it is motivating you to stick with your exposure therapy. That is great news.
Reading articles, websites, and books about OCD can be very helpful, but as you have acknowledged, it can become a compulsion for you. This is not uncommon, especially for those with the more “pure obsessional” types of OCD such as Harm OCD. I encourage to respond to that urge by NOT reading this article again. It is clear that you have gotten benefit from it, and any further reading will just be a compulsion, and thus is counterproductive.
Take care, and keep up the good work.
Can harm ocd make you feel like you want to act out bad thought even though you don’t want to and think its horrible
Hi Jeff. Thanks for commenting.
Not only can Harm OCD lead to a person feeling like they actually want to act on a bad thought, that is one of the core characteristics of the condition. But everyone has these kinds of thoughts (and yes, I mean everyone). What distinguishes the individual with from someone without OCD is that the person with Harm OCD takes these types of thoughts seriously. And part of taking those thoughts seriously is over-analyzing your thoughts and trying to figure out what they mean about your intentions and morals. If someone does that, it is almost inevitable that they will get to the point where they are questioning and over-attending to how they “feel”. All of this is an expected part of Harm OCD.
I feel very much the same. I feel like I get intrusive thoughts when something annoys me or angers me. And then I feel like because I was angry and the intrusive thought cane after, then it must mean something more than just a random intrusive thought with no cause. I can’t figure out if I enjoy these thoughts or not. I’m distressed by them indeed, but I feel like I’m distressed because I enjoyed them in a way. Just like when someone gets angry and punches them, they feel a little relief from the anger but then maybe feel guilty. This is how I feel with some of my intrusive thoughts and I feel very bad about it. Does this even count as an actual intrusive thought, or is it just an anger problem?
“I feel like because I was angry and the intrusive thought cane after, then it must mean something more than just a random intrusive thought with no cause.”
Nope. Just another thought.
You wrote: “I can’t figure out if I enjoy these thoughts or not.”
You don’t need to figure out if you enjoy the thoughts. In fact, any analysis of the thoughts is a mental compulsion that worsens your OCD.
You wrote: “I feel like I’m distressed because I enjoyed them in a way.”
The fear that one enjoys their harm thoughts is quite common in Harm OCD.
You wrote: “Just like when someone gets angry and punches them, they feel a little relief from the anger but then maybe feel guilty. This is how I feel with some of my intrusive thoughts and I feel very bad about it.”
But you haven’t punched anyone. You only had an unwanted thought. That is not the same as punching someone.
You wrote: “Does this even count as an actual intrusive thought, or is it just an anger problem?”
Anger is not in and of itself a “problem”. It only becomes a problem if someone responds to their anger by acting out. Everybody gets angry. You have not acted on your unwanted thoughts, and their is no evidence that you have an anger “problem”. There is however a lot of evidence that you have Harm OCD (not the least of which is the fact that you are greatly distressed by your unwanted thoughts).
That feelingurge is the worst part for me, and reason that I cannot get over my OCD. I have not been able to get an answer to this question: If the urge is ‘real’ or ‘not real’, it still feels the same, and is very distressing. What keeps people for mistaking their urges for ‘real’ ones, and acting out the violence? My psychologist says that people have a built-in aversion to violence, and that I can trust it. I would like to know if this is true, and if so, would like to know more about this anti-violence mechanism that is built into us.
Hi PM – welcome back.
I would posit that your “urges” and “feelings” are not the problem, but rather that your pursuit of certainty is the problem. It sounds like you are compulsively seeking reassurance from others as to whether the urge/feeling is “real” or “not real”. And while your psychologist was likely well-meaning, he was inadvertently providing you with reassurance about your potential for acting violently.
But there are two problems with trying to solve OCD by seeking certainty and reassurance. First, it doesn’t work. If it had worked for you, you would not still be seeking reassurance. And the reason it didn’t work is because it never works – compulsions always lead to more obsessions. And second, nobody can accurately provide you with certainty that you won’t act violently. You may kill someone today. And so might I! But, based on the evidence (i.e., past experience), neither you nor I are likely to commit violence. What evidence is it that I am speaking of? How about this – you have had these unwanted thoughts hundred or thousands of times, and yet you have never once acted on them. That is a pretty good track record of non-violence.
You do not need to know if we have a “built-in aversion to violence” (a spurious concept at best), nor do you need to “trust” that you won’t act violently. You need to allow your brain to come up with whatever fanciful thoughts it chooses to create, and then do nothing about them. You will never find the certainty you are seeking for one simple reason – it doesn’t exist.
Although I have had Harm OCD before, it is only lately after much reading that I have come to recognize it for what it is. Its onset round about mid-April was very sudden and alarming, along with an overwhelming sense of anxiety and depression, making it hard to tell whether OCD is the symptom or the cause. They are horrific thoughts of harming the most important thing in the world to me, my teenage son, who despite his age is more vulnerable than other young people the same age as he has ASD.
I am perimenopausal and think maybe that a hormonal imbalance may be causing these recurring thoughts and resulting feelings of revulsion, guilt and immense sorrow. I hope that some kind of medication – HRT and anti-depressants might help – though failing that I may have to bite the bullet and put my trust in a therapist who has experience of dealing with all kinds of OCD. I feel it’s such a horrible and ignoble condition to have, although I realise I’m being irrational even as I write this, and that I am not my thoughts etc, though it’s really spoiling my quality of life, especially as I love my son so very much and am always so protective of him.
Your website is the most informative and useful one I have come across in my quest for knowledge about this debilitating and too-secretive condition, including confirming what I had already guessed – that my constant looking up of symptoms, seeking reassurance etc is actually a compulsion in itself, so I am going to log-off now! I already feel better after sharing some of my burden. Keep up the good work!
Thank you for your comments and for your kind words.
Obsessions in Harm OCD frequently focus on those closest to the sufferer. That said, you may be correct that being perimenopausal could be a factor in your OCD. There have been some studies in the past few years that have found a correlation between hormonal variations and an increase in OCD symptoms in some women.
I applaud you for being cognizant that compulsively researching symptoms is part of the problem, not the solution. While medication may help you, I encourage you to seek a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Take care.
Dose harm ocd make you worry about becoming a serial killer?
Also, I am worried that if I don’t have the bad thoughts or worries anymore That I’m becoming one.
I think these things are horrible and don’t understand why I think these things I’m so distressed!
It is extremely common for those with Harm OCD to obsess about the possibility of being a serial killer.
Your concern that you are becoming a serial killer because you no longer worry about these thoughts is what is known as a “back door spike”. When one worries that they are no longer as concerned about their obsession, they sometimes then worry that this lack of concern is evidence that they have in fact become that which they fear. It’s just one more way that OCD tries to weasel its way into your head.
Brains like to come up with ideas. That’s what brains do. The reason you have these thoughts is because you have a brain that is doing its job. The reason you obsess about these thoughts is because you have OCD.
These articles are helpful thank you.
I’ve had previous OCD themes like ROCD and HOCD. Before this new onset I was suffering from a bad backdoor spike for HOCD for months but I felt like I was getting better at controlling it. Suddenly it vanished when these new fears entered my mind.
I always been a caring person to the point that my friends have jokingly called me mother because I was always the one looking out for them. I was sensitive and cry at everything. I’ve also been a really big animal lover all my life.
Suddenly I started getting hounded by thoughts after considering my ex a sociopath as an insult to him. For he always lied and never felt true remorse for the things he did to hurt me. Then I questioned myself because over years of emotional and mental abuse from peers and sometimes family I stopped caring about a lot of people and things that happened to them. But still held empathy because I could tell when one was upset and would do my best to seek what was wrong and comfort them. And I said it couldn’t be because I loved animals and would never hurt them to the point that I been an animal activist for years.
Two weeks ago my grandmother and I got in a fight where I said I didn’t care about people in earthquake and that disasters. She called me a sociopath. And since then when I looked at an animal I felt nothing. I started freaking wondering if she was right.
I started reflecting on every thought I ever had of hurting someone. Mainly those who hurt me. But I knew I’d never act on them. I never acted out to hurt people. I always been a wallflower. I was never violent growing up. Well I did throw tantrums and hit my siblings but who doesn’t fight with their siblings.
When I think of animals I fear I will hurt them when in the past I cried at the thought of animal violence. It I smacked the cat for being bad I tried to see if I felt remorse. If I kicked the dog for going after the cats I tried to see if I did. And I suddenly thought I was a sick person. That I turned into my father who abused our dog when I was a kid.
I went to cut something out of my cats fur and got thoughts of how easy it would be to cut his neck and I threw the scissors away in a fit of anxiety.
If I watch something sad I can’t cry and I feel like somethings wrong. I get bored over all my articles on animal activist that I follow.
I watch violence in shows and feel like i don’t care or I smile when I shouldn’t.
I get imaginations of people making fun of me and me killing them. I watched criminal shows and I feel like I have anxiety at them when I feel something relates to me and sometimes I doubt I am anxious at all.
I try and accept the thoughts let them be there.
I reflect to horrible events I write in my stories like a vampire story I wrote horrible torture scenes or recently where I killed characters in one and felt nothing when I wrote them.
I don’t feel like myself and wonder who I am anymore.
I don’t know if this is my OCD or real. I’m afraid to talk to people for help because when I went crying to my grandmother about how I can’t feel anything for animals she laughed and said “That;s because you don’t care. Whatever it is you brought it on yourself”
I don’t feel like me.
Your comments sound like textbook Harm OCD. It is not unusual to have one’s symptoms morph from HOCD to ROCD to Harm OCD. In fact it is quite common.
It is worth noting that people don’t just suddenly become sociopaths. Your lifetime of caring for others and animals indicates that you have plenty of empathy. We all say things we regret in arguments, and just because your grandma called you a sociopath in response to your comments doesn’t mean that you actually are a sociopath. It means the two of you had a disagreement, things got heated, and you both said things that were less than kind. That’s pretty normal for the human race.
So now you are compulsively analyzing your thoughts in an effort to determine if you are a sociopath. But this analysis is evidence not of sociopathy, but of OCD. Sociopaths do not sit around worrying about being bad. They are just fine with being bad. Your analysis is evidence that you have empathy and a strong conscience. But so long as you continue compulsively “reflecting on every thought I ever had of hurting someone”, you are likely to continue being overrun with Harm OCD.
You say you don’t feel like yourself, but you actually are yourself, and your “self” includes the part of you that has some not-so-nice thoughts – just like everyone else. I encourage you to accept that your brain, just like mine and everyone else’s, comes up with all sorts of unsavory thoughts. Who you are is not determined by your thoughts, but by your actions.
thank you for your response it made me see what I too have been thinking about. I read that sociopaths don’t care who they are and wouldn’t worry about it but then I got a lot of doubts centered around that. Funny thing is I KNOW a lot of people have violent thoughts I can just listen to my friends talk that way. Especially my best friend who talks about what she would do to our ex’s for stupid shit they done.
I also know that like my other themes before this I can’t remember what I felt like before the onset of the theme. Like I have memories of crying over emotional things on tv or in books or even crying when I wrote a sad part of a story. Or memories of caring for people and looking out for them and loving animals.
But I can’t feel it. I know the more I try and look for the feelings they possibly won’t be there.
I always believed having these bad thoughts of torturing and killing the people who hurt me was a defense mechanism to make me feel better because in real life if I ever went around my old friends who tormented me for years I have a panic attack whenever I see them. And I can’t be around my ex without my friends, more importantly the guy I been going on a few dates with that I’m good friends with.
With my other themes I did practice with the thought that I am not my thoughts. That I have them because I am human.
I fear because they say sociopaths are manipulative and controlling and I been called that. I remembering even feeling joy that I manipulated my ex a few times into doing things I wanted him to do rather than going out with his friends. But I also remember feeling this tight feeling and I felt upset and bad that I did that because in the end I’d always give into what I felt was guilt and let him do as he pleases. Even when he left I begged him back and blamed all the faults on myself rather than him.
I can see all this is crazy. That it’s just my mind tricking me.
Once again thank you for the advice. I’ll try my best to continue going through my practice of letting the thoughts just be there without trying to react or analyze them.
Again, everything you noted, including your concern that being manipulative is evidence of sociopathy, sounds like textbook Harm OCD. But, as you noted, that’s just your mind tricking you. After all, everybody is manipulative at times. If manipulating someone into doing what one wants is evidence of being a sociopath, then every person on the planet is a sociopath.
Just allow these thoughts (and any other unwanted thoughts you have) to exist, without analyzing them, and without valuing them as “important” or “meaningful”. What ultimately matters is how we act – what we do (as opposed to what we think).
Can ocd make you worry about getting schizophrenia?
Actually, fear of developing Schizophrenia is fairly common in OCD, especially for those with Harm OCD. Some people with OCD think that their obsessions are evidence of having Schizophrenia, or that their unwanted obsessions will eventually result in them developing that condition. But these unwanted thoughts are evidence of OCD, not Schizophrenia. Furthermore, unwanted thoughts, no matter how uncomfortable or abhorrent they may be, do not cause Schizophrenia.
When I was around 13, I was joking with family that I was going to be a serial killer. Now I’m 25 and somehow I remembered this, and it’s causing me extreme anxiety.
Can ocd cause this? I’m refering to reflecting on things from the past like its the reason for my serial killer thoughts, or if I’m a bad person for joking in that way. When I was that age I never experienced intrusive thoughts. Does ocd cause someone to analyze their past as a reason for their intrusive thoughts in the present?
This is exactly how Harm OCD works! It has you analyzing your past thoughts trying to figure out what they mean. But they don’t mean anything. Worrying about a thought you had 12 years ago is kind of like having a stomach ache because of some food that you ate 12 years ago. I don’t mean to diminish your suffering, but you have had millions of thoughts since then. If you were going to become a serial killer, it probably would have happened by now! But even then, one random, joking thought would not have caused you to become a killer. It is just a thought, and if you are anything like most other people, you have probably had many other unsavory thoughts over the intervening 12 years.
Wow. I have been having this feelings for my entire life. I felt like a monster, like I was being punished by demons. When I read this article it felt like someone just pointed a flashlight on my demons and said; there it is. Thats your problem. I finally feel less like an alien. Thank you so much.
Thank you for your comment – glad we could be of service.
Hello. I’m very worried right now. I’ve been having constant thoughts and terrible urges to stab or strangle my girlfriend. I get them all day constantly even when I’m not around her. These started about 2 months ago after seeing a I violent video online. I’m very worried about acting on the thoughts and impulse as they seem very strong. I have still been hanging out with her and sitting close to her, but I have been avoiding staying over her apartment which I use to do every weekend. I also get thoughts of randomly hurting strangers, babies, and animals. I have been sleeping very little and the anxiety (at least I think it’s anxiety and hope it’s not a true desire) is getting out of control. I feel tons of pressure in my face, I feel shaky, and there is a weird feeling in my chest/stomach. I also sometimes feel like everything is zoomed out and unreal. I am constantly getting up to go to the bathroom, feel very restless, and irratate very easily. I feel very little emotions sometimes and am very scared. I feel like I want to do these things sometimes.
I went to a therapist yesterday and he said I just have anxiety. He showed me a breathing exercise and wants me to seek a therapist who prescribes medication. He also wants me to get bloodwork done and get my thyroid checked also.
Could this possibly be OCD or am I truly dangerous? I’m constantly looking things up online for clues an answers. I thought if I was diagnosed yesterday with OCD it would ease my mind a bit since people with OCD never act on their urges. Since he said its “possibly OCD”, but more than likely it’s just anxiety, I feel scared I might act on the urges.
While I cannot provide a formal diagnosis in this forum, I can say that all of the symptoms you describe are consistent with those of OCD. I am not surprised that your therapist was unable to identify your symptoms as OCD – the sad truth is that most therapists are utterly clueless about OCD, and have never even heard of Harm OCD.
The fact that you are scared you will act on the “urges” is actually a pretty good indicator that you won’t. After all, if you were some sort of psycho killer, you wouldn’t be obsessing about your thoughts – you would happily be planning who to murder. I encourage you to stay at your girlfriend’s place as often as you would if you didn’t have these thoughts. The only way to fight them is directly. Avoidance is the problem, not the solution.
I have been dealing with a recent outbreak of OCD and I definitely had symptoms of Harm OCD. I am on sertraline and am feeling much better. However, the OCD keeps morphing on me. I don’t really have the urges anymore, or they don’t bother me as much. However, everything got really abstract, almost philosophical. The thought that keeps going over and over in my head is “what if it is right to hurt someone?”
This turns into “well, everything I understand about life is that it isn’t right to hurt anyone. We’re all here and we’re all on this life journey together and it’s important to be good to others.” And then I feel this resistance to accepting this, and think, “but what if that’s wrong? what if I missed something? what if that’s not REALLY what life is about?” It then turns very philosophical, about what is right and wrong and good and bad and what is REAL and what is truth.
I guess my question would be, is this common for OCD sufferers for things to get philosophical? And how do you stop questioning existence, right/wrong, good/bad, real/not real? Why do I have a resistance to accept reality/life as everyone else knows it, to accept these positive beliefs?
And, of course, what if I convince myself that the opposite is true, that it is good to be bad, etc etc? or what if that is what I really believe?
All this being said, I have always been a very warm, loving person who cares about family and friends more than anything else. I have always had the Checking OCD, and in recent months due to a lot of life change, it has blown up into all these things that I am describing.
Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated. Thank you!!
You hit the nail on the head – the OCD keeps morphing on you. That’s what OCD does. So now it has got you wondering “what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad, what do I really believe”. All of these are just thoughts that don’t merit any special attention.
Obsessions can almost always be reduced to a simple “what if…” thought, and in your case, the obsession has essentially morphed from “what if I am evil” to “what if I don’t even know what evil is”? Yes, it is a bit more abstract, but that doesn’t mean it is more important. It is still just a random thought that doesn’t warrant a reply.
If you try to answer the question, two things are bound to happen. First, you will make yourself miserable. And second, after you finally get some relief, your OCD will morph into some other new variant (or just come back to the same one). You cannot beat OCD by playing on its terms. Let the question sit unanswered.
Can ocd make you think your hearing noises or people talk when your only hearing natural noises? This gives me anxiety
Hi Janie – Yes, sometimes people with OCD obsess about hearing noises or voices. On a similar note, people with OCD sometimes obsess about the possibility of developing Schizophrenia (a condition in which some people hear voices). But OCD and Schizophrenia are not even remotely the same.
Is it ocd to make up scenarios where something bad happens to me or others or I get attention? Sometimes it get triggered by things and sometimes not. It happens automatically and I like imagining it.However, I am not lacking attention or self-esteem. Do I just like imagining it because I am fulfilling an obsession or is there another reason I am imagining this. Sometimes I am obsessed with a person and I even wanted to plan my surgery at a time when I would get attention. I also will randomly say a comment to a person in my head. Like “my family likes reading” if they all are at that moment. I also sometimes have obsessive thoughts to look at someone inappropriately or imagine inappropriate things. I have been suffering from ocd for years and recently conquered it, however it is coming back a little. However now I am not sure if these things are also ocd because I was so embarrassed about it that I never explore what was going on with them and how to handle them. This is my first time seriously trying to figure it out. Is it normal to sometimes imagine scenarios of things you want to happen or your worried about. I would appreciate any clarity you can give me. Thank you.
Hi OCD Suffer,
I don’t know about the attention-seeking thoughts, but the rest of what you describe sounds like classic OCD. The reason you imagine these things is simple – human brains imagine lots of things – all day long, endlessly. That’s what our brains do. So when you have a thought like “my family likes reading”, it doesn’t warrant any attention at all. You should spend no time at all trying to figure out if your thoughts are “normal”. Accept that your brain produces all sorts of unusual thoughts – some are weird, some are boring, some are funny, some are (fill in the blank), etc.
Hi. I constantly think that I may have done something wrong or hurt someone which causes me to not go out much at all. I try and replay every second of my day in my head to make sure everything was okay. Everytime I go out I feel weird and just off which amplifies my ocd. Any thoughts?
Yep – this sounds like Harm OCD. Mentally repeating what you have done throughout the day in order to ensure that you have not harmed anyone is a compulsion, and it will never lead to long-term relief. Your best bet is to accept that you will have thoughts that you may have harmed someone. They are just thoughts, they are not important, and they don’t merit so much attention.
Hi I was wandering can ocd cause intrusive thoughts about the symptoms of schizophrenia? For example I had a thought that my girlfriend was going to control me with here voice I know this thought is irrational and that this can not happen but it’s causing me great stress because I fear developing schizophrenia
Fear of developing schizophrenia is actually a fairly common obsession for those with OCD. While the content may be different than the thought you previously reported here (fear of being a serial killer), the process is identical. You have an unwanted thought that you fear indicates something about you. Then you struggle with that thought in a futile and unnecessary attempt to ensure that it isn’t true. It doesn’t matter if the thought is about killing someone, or developing schizophrenia, or any other thought you don’t like and that you fear may indicate something about you – they are all just variations on a theme of “OMG, what if I (fill in the blank”).
A far more effective means of managing these sorts of thoughts is to accept their existence. That means to allow them to exist, and pay no special attention to them. They are just odd thoughts, not unlike any of the other odd thoughts that we all have.
Can ocd ever turn into schizophrenia? I’m worried thanks for your reply!
OCD neither causes nor in any way leads to Schizophrenia.
Hallo again! Great article.. i suffer from harm ocd and hit and run ocd. i would like to ask you something..i often read that people are afraid that they will harm someone, what about that i am afraid i may have harmed someone, and i check the news, or google it, and when i see that something bad has happened, i am afraid that i caused that harm. i check a lot the last days, even though i know i shouldn’t. i feel like i am a terrible person, that caused harm in the past, hit someone with the car, and do not deserve to be happy.i want to say that i am in medicines and cbt for many years. thank you in advance, for your help.
There is no meaningful difference between being afraid that you will harm someone in the future and that you have harmed someone in the past. Hit and run OCD is not separate from Harm OCD – it is just one of the many ways Harm OCD exhibits itself.
The real problem is that you are responding to these fears by doing compulsions, and that will only make things worse for you. I strongly encourage you to not check the news or google things about harm. I also encourage you to read our article on ERP for Harm OCD. Just because something bad has happened doesn’t mean you were involved. A lot of bad things happen every day!
Hello. I was diagnosed with OCD in February after having horrible fear that I was going to hurt someone. I overcame this fear with therapy and with the help of your website. I got a few days of relief from intrusive thoughts and then they switched to a fear of schizophrenia. I am a nurse so I know the symptoms of schizophrenia, therefore I would think of the most bizarre paranoid thoughts. For example I would think “what if people are watching me”. I know that is not true but the thought keeps bothering me. I also took care of a patient who believed someone had put some sort of a “device” in them. I then thought “what if someone put a device in me”. I know that these thoughts are not true, but they scare me none the less. I am bothered by the fact that they scare me because the are so irrational, and I feel like because they scare me it proves that I am schizophrenic. Is this common of OCD or do you think something more severe is going on? Thank you
The fear of developing schizophrenia is a very common theme in OCD, and is particularly common in those with Harm OCD. It is helpful to realize that obsessions morph over time for many people with OCD. No sooner is one obsession managed than a new one arises. That is the nature of the beast.
The most important thing is that you not do compulsions (including mental compulsions) when you have this (or any) OCD thought. Allow the fearful thought to exist, and make no effort to soften it or eliminate it. Just let it sit there in your head without giving it any special attention or importance.
This article is very helpful. I have yet to be officially diagnosed with Harm OCD, but I definitely identify with everything listed here. I already feel better knowing that there is help and that I am not going insane.
Thank you for your comment. There is definitely help available for Harm OCD. The key is to find a therapist who truly specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Before I post my story, I cannot stress enough the sincere heart felt empathy I feel for everyone that experiences this sort of pain and agony. It is so, so unnecessarily painful….This site and information that you provide is wonderful and encouraging. Thank you for sharing stories and knowledge. Knowing that there are others that experience this is a very, very good and positive thing. I did not have the web or access to forums at the time of my introduction to OCD, just inexperienced therapists who made things worse for me….God Bless all of you…
I’ve been in and out of the harm ocd tunnel, but most recently it has spiked after a very long time. I think how this started 30+ years was when I had a panic attack that made my body go limp and I thought I was having a heart attack. It scared me so much. Then out of the blue, I saw a pair of scissors on the table at my girlfriends house, at the time, and got an overwhelming urge to grab the scissors and stab her. The compulsion or urge was very strong. This really scared the begeezus out of me. Then it went on to sexual, other violent actions, etc. etc….I then noticed that I kept playing out these violent vivid actions in my head. I think it was to re-assure myself that if I thought about the action and it scared me or made me feel bad, that was my re-assurance that I would not perform the actual act. But this got obsessive without any relief, just more of the same. Would the “replay” of the thought in my head be a compulsion or an obsession?
Lets say all of a sudden, I see a knife and have an urge to stab my dog. Then I keep replaying the “act” of stabbing my dog. What is the distinction between the two?
So Now, all of a sudden, I’m suddenly back to vivid thoughts of choking my dog or stabbing my wife. What got me out of this in the past was to realize and really believe that I would not do those sort of things, and that this was triggered by a fear that caused doubting myself,then a loss of faith in myself due to the anxiety. I just told myself over and over that I am in control and don’t care about these thoughts. This worked very well for me, but in recent reading it seems that this is “re-assurance” which is considered a compulsion or bad thing….now I am confused, please advise if you can…
Thank you for your comment.
An obsession is a thought that comes into your head with no volition on your part., It is unasked for and unwanted. A compulsion is a behavior that one does purposefully in an effort to eliminate or decrease their anxiety related to the obsession. But (and this is important), there are numerous ways in which one does compulsions, including what are called “mental compulsions” which may appear to be obsessions, but are active, volitional efforts to eliminate or decrease the obsession and the anxiety that comes with it.
Compulsively seeking reassurance is one of the four main ways that people with OCD do compulsions. You don’t need to remind yourself that you are “in control” and that you would never purposely harm your wife or your dog. A far more effective approach would be to accept that you have Harm OCD, and that these are fairly common thoughts for someone with Harm OCD. Acceptance may not “work” the way you want it to (i.e., to eliminate thoughts), but it will help you to care less about the existence of these thoughts. I think you are halfway there in that you seem to see the benefit of not caring about these thoughts. Now you have to actively choose to live with them. That is true acceptance – letting the thoughts exist in your head, and doing nothing to eliminate or reduce them. To truly not care about them!
I am really having a difficult time with my OCD and need some advice. My obsession started as a horrible fear of harming someone. My fear then morphed into a fear of schizophrenia. I know the symptoms of schizophrenia so I feel as though I am giving myself symptoms. Although I do not hear voices or see anything. I think of strange irrational thoughts. For example ” what if someone is controlling me ” I know that this is not true however it really scares me to think about it. When I have the thought I try to ensure myself that I do not believe it, however I can never fully trust myself that I don’t actually believe it. I know that the thought is irrational but I am really scaring myself. I have been to several mental health professionals none of whom believe I have any type of psychosis/psychotic disorder.
While I cannot provide a diagnosis via blog comment, I agree with the mental health professionals with whom you have consulted – there is nothing in your comment that even remotely suggests that you have Schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder. What you report sounds very much like OCD. It is extremely common for the more obsessional forms of OCD (such as Harm OCD) to morph over time into other variants of OCD, including obsessions of developing Schizophrenia.
I think it is also important to note that thinking “strange irrational thoughts” is not a sign of Schizophrenia. Everybody has strange irrational thoughts. You appear to have excellent insight in that you recognize that your strange irrational thoughts are not true. The problem is that you are trying to compulsively reassure yourself that you are not Schizophrenic, and it’s not working reassurance-seeking never works for long).
I encourage you to accept that your brain, just like everybody else’s brain, comes up with strange irrational thoughts, and to not give these thoughts power by taking them so seriously. Remind your self that they are just thoughts, and then do nothing. In other words, don’t try to refute or disprove or seek reassurance. Just let the thought exist and get on with your day.
As a person with mild harm OCD and recent anxiety into moving away from home, I am thankful that resourceful articles exist to reduce and inform me how to comfront my thoughts. I also find your mindfulness CBT article very useful to handle my OCD into a very controlable environment for my mind, and into something much more passive towards these thoughts.
Thank you, everyone at OCD centre of LA.
Thank you for your kind words Jason – we always appreciate hearing that our work is helpful. Take care.
Hi.I have had ocd and anxiety since my teens.it seemed to change to harm o about 20 years ago after a really bad thing I heard on the news. I get some really good spells where I can really deal with it well. I have health anxiety always going through spells of thinking I have cancer somewhere they can go on for weeks. I have had a lot of stress this year.my manager at work dropping down dead only 44. and health anxiety started. then my back went and I have been in a lot of pain diagnosed with arthritis of my spine. then pow horrible thoughts back again this one about my 29 year old daughter who still lives with us. she and my husband work in the same industry so they always have lots to talk about. when they talk sometimes it’s like iam jealous but i am not I love that they get on so well and have lots to talk about. but it’s like my head is trying to tell me otherwise. I’ve always had a fear of going insane.I’ve been put on 50 mg of serlatine.only been on it 3 weeks.but I just feel like its getting worse I can hardly go out because now I can just look at somebody and I can get a bad thought.the other day the woman I got the thought about was wearing bright pink now I think I will get the thought about anyone wearing pink. I want to hug my daughter all the time after I get the thought .she s getting fed up with it so now I touch or rub where she’s been sat to make me feel better. i am waiting to go for some cbt soon it can’t come soon enough. your web site is the best one I have found.some of the thoughts have been so violent and really scare me iam terrified most of the time. it doesn’t help that the antidepressants scare me after I read the side effects that’s also.part of my ocd scared of meds.this is the worst bout of this I have ever had I have had a few bad spells but this time it’s uped it’s game. i am finding it hard to relax as iam convinced iam going insane and will never come out of this one. I always have to ask for reassurance from my husband iam always scared he says oh that’s it you’ve gone nuts this time. bless him he must be sick of it by now. I guess I just need more reassurance again from you I will be scared all day waiting for an answer in case you say two-hour nuts.xxxxxxxxxxx Laura
Thank you for your comment.
You don’t sound even remotely “insane” – everything you write about is textbook OCD. The most important thing you can do is to challenge the compulsive behaviors you are doing in an effort to control the thoughts. Behaviors such as compulsively hugging your daughter, rubbing the chair she has been using, and asking your husband for reassurance will only worsen your obsessions. Your goal is to allow the thoughts to be in your head without responding to them. I know this will be difficult at first, but a therapist specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) should be able to help you with this. It sounds like you will soon be starting treatment, and I wish you all the best with it.
I have similar fear like Rachael above. I developed this fear a year ago after I had a fear that I am pedophile. I read a lot about psychosis and started to be obsessed about all symptoms that I read that schizophrenics have…even I know that they are irrational I am scared that I am developing it because I think about that. I am seeing CBT who is on of the best in the country and he is telling me that there is no 0.001% chance that I will develop it but I still cant convince myself. Always when I have this thought I am scared and say to myself why do I have it and only schizo people have it and obsession starts…I must say that I was great last 2 months and had a relapse 2 days ago I had a thought that my wife is against me and that I should harm her and I was so anxiuos and started to think that I am paranoid, crazy because I had that thought…I must say again I know that it is numb and not true but why I am obsessed about that and why I had this thought am I schizo and now I am afraid that I will loose control and really do that
Thank you for your comments. The fear of developing schizophrenia is a common OCD fear, and all of what you write sounds like text-book OCD. There is no way I or your therapist or anyone else can provide you with an absolute 100% guarantee that you will not develop schizophrenia. For all I know, I may develop schizophrenia myself. I also may become the next pope. But based on my experience of life up until now, I highly doubt either of those things will occur.
I encourage you to accept that your brain is coming up with OCD thoughts, and to not waste even one minute trying to figure out if they are valid or true or accurate.
I have deeply paining thoughts about my family, which are not about hurting them as the article described, but in the manner of wishing something really bad happened to them. Wishing they die, or have cancer. One of the primary concerns of mine is that these thoughts and “curses”, when they suddenly come out of the blue and require me to undertake a compulsion to make sure they don’t happen, I am able to somewhat conquer them, realizing these are ego-dystonic and irrational, but only when they come out of the blue, suddenly at any time.
However, sometimes these thoughts come along with anger. Sometimes I am talking to my loved ones, and maybe I get irritated with them over something, and get angry, and then there’s this thought/”curse” that springs up. It is this type of the thought that I fear the most. It pains me tremendously. The fact that it follows my anger means I wish that those curses actually fall upon my loved ones;
Yesterday while I was on the phone, the moment after I had an unwanted thought, I started thinking, “no, that’s not me, that’s OCD” and I inquired with my mother why dad hadn’t answered the phone and avoided me, and she said that that actually wasn’t the case, he was just having dinner and hence couldn’t answer the phone. Later, after some time, when I again spoke to my dad late in the evening that day I apologized for having thought that “negative feeling” for him and he just asked me to not bore him with these useless thoughts of mine and keep them to myself (which is understandable- I often keep narrating to him and my family the details of how I touched something possibly infected or had a negative thought for someone in the family- everyone has a limit to reassuring; any one could get irritated after a point). I once again got angry, and a thought spanned across my mind, “See- ha! It was actually right that I wished such and such disease upon him earlier”. I was deeply pained. Anger + Negative wises. Disastrous 🙁
I fear acquiring an infection while sitting at some dirty place, maybe when I am out in the bus sightseeing in the city and the city bus seats are laden with dirty yellow-red blood like stain. I fear contracting the germs- maybe HIV/AIDS or something like that. The point is- I don’t fear contracting these diseases myself; I feel I might pass these germs on to my loved ones, for ultimately my clothes would be washed on this weekend along with theirs when I visit home for the weekend. I think the washing machine would be contaminated and it would later pass on these germs my loved ones’ cloths.
It is this mixture of the thoughts/curses and anger that I dread the most, for it almost feels I really want such things to happen. Once again, let me reiterate, I tremendously love all my family and would never be able to forgive myself for having thought this way for them.
Its too much of a burden for me to carry now; however, I am certainly not going on meditation; I am a deeply God loving and spiritual person and would like to fight this disease my way. I am just pained how I think and wish so upon my family.
I do not want to be put on medication and anti-depressants, and my parents too are strictly against it- they just want me to ignore these feelings- but the fact that they arise so realistically out of anger, I feel I really want these wishes to happen and materialize. What if it was actually the case and I indeed wanted that to happen, for why would they otherwise arise after outbursts of anger? Yesterday’s episode indeed convinced me that I want these things to happen. They were so real and tightly integrated with my thought process that I believe I and I only indeed thought and wished them– who else? What should I do? Please help me!
Tired of these Thoughts,
It is not unusual for someone with contamination obsessions to also have harm thoughts. And in those cases where someone has both, it is quite common for their contamination obsessions to focus on the possibility of causing harm via contamination.
Likewise, it is not uncommon for OCD to spike at times of high emotion. So it is not surprising that your harm thoughts increase when you are angry. But these are just thoughts. Confessing such thoughts and asking for forgiveness are compulsions and will only make your OCD worse. You do not need to be forgiven for having unwanted thoughts. They are just thoughts, and I assure you that every human being you have met has had negative thoughts about other people.
You do not have the power to make these these “bad” things actually occur. If anyone gets sick or hurt, it will have nothing to do with your thoughts. Your goal is to accept that your brain, just like everyone else’s brain, comes up with negative thoughts about other people, and to not give these thoughts so much value. That means not asking for forgiveness, and not even discussing the thoughts with anyone (which is another compulsion).
Hi after reading a article about schizophrenia I’ve been having weird thoughts for example I read about a man with schitzophrenia and was convinced he had a computer chip in him, now I’m having intrusive thoughts about having machine parts in me or other people, I also read about a woman with schizophrenia who thought people were watching her though the vents in her car, then I had intrusive thoughts about the same thing, I know these are not real and not based in reality but it scares me I’m having these thoughts, is this just ocd I’m worried that I’m getting that horrible condition
Thank you for your most recent comment.
This thought is no different than your previous comment about being afraid that your pet had computer chips in him, and whether that thought was indicative of having schizophrenia. As you note above, in these articles you read, the person believed these thoughts to be true, while you note that you “know these are not real and not based in reality”. That is an important distinction, and it suggests that you have OCD, not schizophrenia.
I’ve been dealing with OCD for a while (1 year) in most of its colours and flavors. Just when I think I have surpassed it, something new appears. Its frightful and irritating.
Have you heard about cases on which the patient actually feels like an “urge” on acting on these thoughts? I have two cats, they are among the beings I love the most in life. Some weeks ago the thought of killing them by twisting their heads came to my mind, it was horrible and I think I over attended it. Now most evenings when I spend time with them, the thought arises. The thing is, that a thought both visual/even with sound comes to my mind and I feel the urge of moving my hands towards their neck, and when that happens I of course won’t do anything but a silly act. Nonetheless, is enough to freak me out as I love them a lot. Have you heard about such cases? I know one must not analyze because that only makes the thing bigger, but the urge in that is to analyze and to see if I really love them as I feel I do. The fear is I will act on such urge to relief pressure, and after that commit suicide lol.
Same urges over thoughts happen with other things (like putting my finger on a big fan, or throwing myself from a high place) is this OCD? before I had all kinds of sexual ones, but those are gone now. I have noticed these things happen specially during the evening whem I’m tired.
Thanks for your comments.
All of the symptoms you describe are textbook symptoms of Harm OCD. Furthermore, it is not unusual for those with Harm OCD to also experience other variants of OCD such as sexual obsessions. Don’t be surprised if your OCD morphs into something else from time to time.
Thanks a lot for your reply. I really appreciate your advice and time; I understand the situation and the fact that confessing and asking forgiveness too are compulsions. However, how can I be sure that these are actually just harm thoughts and not actual ill-feelings and wishes I have upon my loved ones?
Once again, I know I am doubting again- doubting is at the core of OCD. Yet, I hope you understand what I am going through. The magnitude with which these thoughts strike, especially when mizxed with anger leaves me paralyzed. How can I be sure that these are just thoughts and not me actually wishing them?
I once read that the fact that I don’t like these feelings means that I indeed would never want anything bad to happen; however, it could just be that I indeed wish harm upon my loved ones and that feeling of regret and guilt comes later once I wish harm upon my loved ones since my brain regrets what it just thought. What is happneing to me?
I really appreciate your help and time.
Hi Tired of these Thoughts,
You cannot be “sure” that your thoughts are just Harm OCD for one simple reason – nobody can be sure about any of their unwanted thoughts. For all I know, I am secretly a serial killer just waiting to happen. I cannot guarantee with 100% certainty that you do not secretly wish ill upon others, just as I cannot guarantee with absolute certainty that I won’t kill someone today.
OCD is all about the quest for certainty where certainty cannot be had. That is why it is so pernicious – the OCD sufferer is trying to achieve something that is impossible (i.e., absolute certainty).
That said, the evidence is pretty clear that you do not secretly wish ill upon others. First of all, if you actually had a secret wish to harm people by putting a curse on them, you wouldn’t be horrified by your thoughts. Your discomfort with the unwanted thoughts is the best evidence that these thoughts are not an accurate reflection of your desires, intent, or character. And second, you have never acted on any of your harmful thoughts (i.e., you have never chosen to actually put a curse on someone).
These are just thoughts. If having thoughts of harming others were evidence of secretly being a sociopath then the entire planet would be populated by nothing but sociopaths, because everyone has at some point thought of harming another person. And anyone who tells you that they have never wished ill upon another person is a liar.
Hi OCDLA, I identify with all of this. I live in the Dallas, Texas area and want to have been thinking about counseling. Can you recommend any practitioners or resources around the Dallas area?
I do not know of any OCD specialists in the Dallas area. You can try the International OCD Foundation at https://iocdf.org. They maintain a list of treatment providers around the country. If treatment at our center is an option for you, feel free to contact us via our website at at https://ocdla.com/.
Thanks a lot for your reply. Really appreciate a lot 🙂
Thank you TiredOfTheseThoughts – I’m glad our articles are helpful for you.
I had thoughts of a train smashing and running over me and my head repeatedly over and over again for 8 month, the thoughts have reduced and it is less severe, however they pop up occasionally and so do the images appear, is this harm ocd, and do i need to be treated.
Thank you for your comments.
I cannot provide a formal diagnosis via a blog comment, but the symptoms you describe certainly sound consistent with OCD. These types of unwanted thoughts respond extremely well to appropriate treatment. There is no reason to suffer through these thoughts, and I encourage you to seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in
Thanks for the advice these thoughts came out of the blue when i was like 19, and since then they have reduced significantly and are less intense than before, however thoughts of these nature come up occasionally, i was wondering is ocd genetic and none in my family had this disorder, what is the prognosis without treatment will these thoughts go away by itself. I appreciate your help and i am glad your website helped me find answers.
There has been some research suggesting that OCD is genetic. You can read about a new study on the heritability of OCD here and here and here.
Without treatment, the prognosis for those with OCD is poor – your obsessional thoughts are unlikely to go away by themselves. Your best bet is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
Hey, I’m desperate to know if what I’m suffering from is harm ocd or if I’m just going crazy. This has been going on for a long time now, and the first time I got these bad thoughts was years ago, and they’ve since gone away but this year they’ve come back worse than ever. My thoughts started when I had a sudden thought “what if I hurt my family” then I panicked and I couldn’t sleep etc. Ever since I have had the thoughts to some extent, but recently they have gotten really bad and instead of just getting a thought of harming someone mmy brain thinks things like “what if I think it’s normal to kill someone, what if ita something I want to do, why dont people do it?” like my brain is testing me cause I obviously think right after “cause its crazy and wrong and only an insane person would do something like that” but the thought gets stuck in my brain and I get so depresses and try to run away from it and the more I get depressed and feel guilt the harder it sticks in my brain like a “fact” even though its not true at all, its the opposite of what I actually believe. All my life I’ve been a hyper moral person, loving people and animals, never hurting anybody, crying over strangers death, feeling bad about bad things happening in the world, crying when I see a dead animal, not being able to drive at all cause I’m scared I’ll accidentally drive over someone or an animal..the list could go on and on. I’m literally always been the exact opposite of what these bad thoughts represent. But it feels like my brain is convincing me “yes you are this person, you really think its normal to do harm” even though I do not. This has caused me depression and my life has been hell. I literally cry myself to sleep every night and I’ve become suicidal. I prefer to die than even think about these things, cause I would die before ever hurting anybody. My dream is to spend my life volunteering and saving lives. Why does my brain keep torturing me with convincing me I’m this person I hate? Why does my brain suddenly think something crazy is “normal” ? It makes me so depressed and I feel like I don’t deserve to live. I dont know what I’ve done to deserve this. These thoughts have ruined my life, I just want to be me again. I’m so scared I have some serious problem and whenever I forget these thoughts for a while when I’m happy afterwards I feel guilty and depressed again cause I feel like I dont deserve to be happy and I should just die. Its a cycle I can’t get out of. I keep telling myself “my brain can come up with anything doesn’t mean it’s real or I have to agree with it” but ita hard cause I take evry thought my mind has seriously and examine it and think “I think this so it must be true” I cannot understand what this is. I’ve read so much about harm ocd and they always mention the fear of hurting others or attacking someone but never mention the thoughts like “why don’t people do those things?” even though all my life I’ve thought the opposite, I can’t understand why people kill others. My depression because of all this is getting worse and I feel like there’s no way out. I hate myself because of this. I really need help from an expert, I would just want to hear if this sounds anything like ocd.
Everything you write sounds like a textbook case of Harm OCD. Based on your comments, I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in CBT for OCD. This is the treatment modality that has repeatedly and consistently been found to be the most effective treatment for all forms of OCD.
You also mention feeling suicidal. If you are now, or ever, feeling genuinely suicidal, I strongly encourage you to go to an emergency room.
Hi, I suffer from Harm O.C.D and have been for 15 years (I am 30).
This site has a great deal of information and i am so glad that there is a place where sufferers can get information on the treatment of this problem, thank you.
I have been through many bouts with IT and i have had IT licked for a good while now almost 2 years. But due to a waking panic attack where i felt like i could not function or think at all upon waking, the O.C.D became active again.
I have been trying to find anyone with the same problem or information regarding not feeling the anxious fear that wells up in me when these thoughts happen, you see i always re assured myself that because these feelings of fear were there, it meant that i was against the thoughts, but at the moment i still have the strange felling i feel in my hands when it shows up (feels like i am overly aware of my hands or they have a wierd feeling that is hard to exaplin) and i still feel uncomfortable around people but the fear seems missing which i am now obsessing over why.
What type of hurdles do people have to overcome when they are recovering? Is this one of them?
I know what happens when i am in the thick of it, but, right now it’s almost like i need to have the fear to be certain i am not the horrible person I feel I could be.
I do take Lorazepam, wellbutrin, and celexa for my mental conditions and i have been taking .5 mg a night for the last week. (I am a person who does not like taking anything in fear that it will change me in an adverse way.) I also see a Therapist who helps me with my problems, but, you guys are experts so i thought maybe you wouldn’t mind helping me find some or offer some information on how i am feeling.
Also, I worry that i don’t feel guilt for the feelings that i think and that makes me worried. I apologize for the length and am sorry for asking you, but, its hard not knowing.
The fear that you may really be a killer because you don’t have pronounced feelings of fear about your harm thoughts is quite common in Harm OCD. Some people describe this as a “back door spike”, which simply means that instead of being anxious about unwanted thoughts, the person is anxious because they no longer have the same fears about their unwanted thoughts.
Hi. Since contributing to this forum back in May this year, when I went through a couple of months or so of crippling Harm OCD, I seem to have had it under control on the whole (with the help of forums such as this one and Jeffrey Schwarz’s four steps). Recently however it has been threatening to rear its ugly head again, and last night something happened that may have tipped me over the edge again. As my son has learning difficulties, in spite of being 17 we have to do things such as wipe his bottom etc for him, or at least make sure he has done it properly. Last night while doing so I touched the back of his scrotum – not in a sexual, molesting way, more like a reflex action that was very fleeting(maybe just part of the hygiene checking or maybe it was the OCD testing me) but which has since haunted me. I told my partner about it and he didn’t seem bothered, though I never told him about the OCD (which revolved around terrible thoughts of harming my son, whom I love more than anything else in the world)for several reasons. He’d most probably think I was nuts and neurotic and just wouldn’t understand, and also I think that I would just be seeking reassurance from him all the time if he knew about the condition and don’t really want to burden him with it. We have enough problems and stresses as it is with trying to ensure the best future for our son etc. I am also perimenopausal and struggling a lot with hormones as well as work, worry over elderly parents and practical everyday situations. I really can’t cope with another bad bout of OCD and am terrified that this (non)incident has been the crack in my armour that the OCD has been looking for, making me feel sick to the stomach and last night even hitting myself about the head again, as I sometimes used to when it tormented me before.
Having done some online research (which can itself become a compulsion!) I now fear that my OCD may have morphed to confession OCD as I feel the need to confess to having touched my son inappropriately (however unthinkingly/fleetingly) as a kind of reassurance-seeking exercise. The truth of the matter is that I am so keen for my son to be more independent and able to look after himself/take care of his own personal hygiene etc, though as he is not always able to achieve this on his own he often needs help, though last night what I did was give him a quick wipe then ran a (second!) bath for him, which seemed more effective and appropriate. For the past couple of days – and today is worse – I have been suffering from loss of appetite (not necessarily a bad thing, but still!), dry mouth, an overwhelming fatigue and all the usual traits of depression and I am thinking – PLEASE, not again, I really can’t afford getting depressed and caught up in all this OCD nonsense again, but now the OCD seems to have found something to latch onto, I am finding it hard to shake off. Any suggestions, please???? Are there any online therapies available as it is apparently very difficult to find a therapist who knows how to deal successfully with Harm OCD? Thanks in advance, Elishka
Your OCD hasn’t morphed into “confession OCD” – compulsive confessing or alleged transgressions is in fact a very common symptom of OCD, especially for those with harming or sexual obsessions (and your fear that you have sexually molested your son falls into both categories).
I can imagine that having to provide basic hygiene for a teen boy with special needs would almost certainly at some time result in inadvertent contact with his scrotum. This is not a sign of sexual abuse – it is a sign of being a compassionate caring mother who is taking care of her child.
It is extremely common for OCD symptoms to wax and wane, and for spikes to occur in reaction to stressors. You note that you have a child with special needs, aging parents, and are perimenopausal, which strikes me as the trifecta of stressors, so it is not surprising that your OCD has once again reared its ugly head.
I appreciate that you have been unable to find effective help. Unfortunately, most therapists have never even heard of Harm OCD, and are stunningly clueless as to how they should appropriately treat it. We provide online treatment for OCD to many clients around the world.
Thank you Tom. I was convinced that I had done it as a flippant gesture in the same way as you would pat someone on the cheek or whatever, such is the self-doubting nature of the OCD beast. But whatever the fact or fiction, what I do know is that harming or abusing my son in any way is completely anathema to me, and the way the OCD goes about undermining my sense of being a good mother is just typical of how cruel it can be. When it wanes I can see it for what meaningless nonsense it is, but when it spikes it is utter terror. I am just so glad that this forum exists to help us sufferes put things in perspective.
You are correct – OCD thoughts are meaningless nonsense that undermine people’s sense of self by planting seeds of doubt about their true character. Your goal is to accept the existence of these thoughts, recognize them for what they are (just meaningless OCD thoughts), and resist urges to to do compulsions. Do this, and you will see progress.
Help I think I may have ocd I feel like a bad mom I hate having these ugly thoughts I have 2 beautiful children I just been so depress for 2 weeks I get bad ugly words in my brain and 🙁 now since yesterday I had a bad dream I just rem 2 girls were doing sexual acts but idk is confusing idk if I was one of them girls and what is worst is that after the dream I had a panic attack jus thinking omg what if my son was involve in that dream …. I just don’t rem him being in that dream but just all of the sudden I felt panic an anxiety and crying telling myself that am the worst mom cus of the dream and the thought?so I keep telling myself that maybe ocd is trying to scared me and make me feel depress and like a bad mom :(I want to be in peace again.. I just don’t want to go out with my husband and my kids because I see other moms and say I bet they don’t think like u I are a bad mom is so embarrassing 🙁
Thanks for your comments.
Everything you write suggests that you have OCD. It is important that you know and remind yourself of the following:
1) Having thoughts is not the same as doing actions. Just because you have had some unwanted thoughts doesn’t mean you have done those things, or will do those things, and it doesn’t mean you are an evil person. It means you, like everyone else on the planet, have a brain that generates weird thoughts sometimes
2) Humans dream all sorts of crazy things. If you had a dream that you were a tree, you wouldn’t assume that the dream is true, so why believe a dream that involves two girls having sex is true. It’s just a dream. And you have no memory of you being in the dream or of your son being in the dream, but even if either of you were in the dream…it’s just a dream.
3) If we are bad people based on what we dream, we are all in big trouble. People frequently dream of murder and all sorts of other unwanted things, and that doesn’t mean anything. These are just dreams.
4) If you avoid going out with your husband and kids because of your thoughts and/or dreams, you will only make the OCD much worse. I suggest you accept these thoughts as a normal (yes, NORMAL) part of having a brain. This is what brains do – they think up crazy stuff (as well as other not-so-crazy stuff). Don’t limit your life because of some random thoughts that have popped up.
Thank you so much for replying 🙂 I been feeling better today knowing that just because I get this bad thoughts or dreams don’t mean am a bad person am really gonna try to not give up on life…..Just like my husband tells me all time don’t listen to your thoughts you are not your thoughts and don’t let them stop you from living your life they are just thoughts
Glad to help Gaby.
Can ocd thoughts be like gross words that pop out in your brain ? I feel like a bad mom? Sometimes I don’t even know if I say them or if is just ocd confusing me telling I say does words…..
Gaby – It is actually extremely common for people with OCD to experience unwanted words coming into their minds. This is no different that any other unwanted thought coming into your mind. After all, a word in your mind is just a thought. A short thought, but a thought nonetheless.
Can ocd trick u making you think that you laugh at the thoughts but you didn’t?
OCD can trick you into believing anything.
Hi I’m 19 and about 4 months ago I started to get thoughts popping in my head telling me to poison my family’s food then to stab my family members and then one day started to get thoughts to snap my cats neck and slit peoples throats and just today I couldn’t finish my Dinner because a thought popped up in my mind to kill people and eat them I know I would never do these things but the thoughts won’t go away and I’m getting anxiety attacks now
Everything you write sounds like textbook Harm OCD. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
This isn’t my first time commenting but I have a couple of new questions. Most of my thoughts could be called what if thoughts. But I am stuck on a thought “I want to harm my precious son”! I ruminate in fear all day every day trying to figure out where this thought came from or why I’m thinking it. It is so different than the real me!!!!! I am and have always been NON VIOLENT and I love my son and family more than anything. My ocd tries it’s best to make me believe whatever thoughts I have. I have had ocd for 25 yrs and was diagnosed 3 times. I have had various themes such as harm hocd pocd rocd HIV ocd etc. my harm ocd has been about my dad myself, girlfriends and ex wife also. Basically anyone I would die for. The hardest is the fact it also is about my son. I love him more than life and these thoughts make no sense. I have had the “I want to harm” thought before in several different harm ocd episodes I’ve gone through but I always knew it was actually just a fear. This time my ocd has a comeback for every truthful thought I have. For instance. I tell myself it’s ocd and you don’t really want to. Then a thought comes back with yeah but you really want to. This makes me spiral down again. Then I tell myself don’t worry because it causes anxiety and that’s proof it’s ocd. Then the thought pops in yeah but it doesn’t really scare you. When in all truth I am a nervous wreck and sad. My whole family sees it and do too. But my ocd just makes me doubt everything. One more thing I have to say is when I have moments of clarity if only for a few minutes I know for a fact it is all ocd. I feel happy and just wanna grab my son and hug him! But then when I wake up in the morning the first thought is you wanna harm him. Then it’s another day of fear and ruminating. There was a child abduction locally here in town tonight and my first thought was to call my ex wife and see if my son was ok. I was worried about him but while her phone was ringing I had a thought pop in my mind that said you shouldn’t be calling because u thought you wanna harm your kid. It’s ridiculous It sabotages every thought sometimes. Well I’ve gone on long enough I just wanted to ask does the fact that it’s a thought in the form of I want to harm make it any worse? And can ocd make you feel as though you believe the thoughts at times. Please know that I have never been violent. I am just the opposite. Caring loving devoted family man. Maybe that’s why it bothers me so much. How should I handle this type thought ?? Thank u so much
As you note, in your 25 years of having OCD, your obsessive thoughts have consistently targeted people you love, so I am not at all surprised that it is currently aimed at your son. I would be far more surprised if they didn’t target your son. This is what OCD does.
There isn’t a whole lot of space between “I want to harm my precious son” and “What if I want to harm my precious son”. The lack of a “what if…” at the front of a sentence or thought doesn’t make it more true. You are getting stuck on the semantics and assuming that there is some special meaning to this particular variant of your harm thought just because it doesn’t present itself to your mind as a question. You noted in your comment that “My ocd tries it’s best to make me believe whatever thoughts I have”, and that is exactly what is happening here.
You also ask “can ocd make you feel as though you believe the thoughts at times”, to which the answer is that is exactly what OCD does.
I have had harm OCD since i had my son in 2008. And i also obtained a OCD where i am afraid of schizophrenia so i get thoughts like a schizophrenic. I have been able to keep the severe feelings of anxiety at bay for the last year, although i ruminate all day. Just recently the actual harm thoughts have reappeared but with little anxiety. I actually feel anger and irritability. Now i am scared this has morphed into something else. I keep thinking maybe i really want to kill x? Maybe i hate them? Maybe i really am a killer?wheras when i first got ocd i was able to say i dont want to or never will kill or hurt anyone. Now i don’t even say that. It all goes towards me thinking maybe i am psychotic:/
All OCD can essentially be reduced to “What if something terrible happens”. If you frame it that way, you can see there is not much difference between “what if I kill someone”, and “what if I am psychotic”. In both cases, your obsession is that something terrible will happen.
The key is realizing that these are just thoughts, and just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it is true. For example, right now, I am having the thought “What if I kill the Pope”. Well, that’s just a thought, and having that thought doesn’t mean I actually want to kill the Pope.
Thank you for your reply 🙂 can’t stand ocd thoughts is so confusing and is so complicate to live with :/
Hi, I suffered from Harm Ocd for years and I’ve been nearly symptoms-free from 2 years! Now it has reappeared with the same theme but some variations: since reading something about psychopathy and evil people in general, I’ve now plagued with these three type of strange thoughts, mostly centered around my wife:
-I’ve read that killers often make plans and think evil phrases, so now I find myself thinking stupid thoughts and phrases like “I’m going to stab her by surprise when she’s sleeping” or “It would be good to hide here and then strike” or “If I kill and escape to another country I may be safe” and so on. I even think things like “This will be your last birthday!” or “You’ll not laugh anymore”
– I’ve an urge to laugh sometimes when thinking bad thoughts of reading bad news so I worry that I’m becoming evil or that I enjoy the thoughts.
– One of my compulsions has always been to test myself by thinking “Do you really want to do this?” and I would always say strongly to myself “Of course not!”, but now when I ask myself this question I’m not answering as convinced as before and sometimes I get an automatic thought saying “Yes I want!” instead of “No”.
So here I am, extremely worried about these new symptoms (expecially the first one about evil phrases)…is this still classic textbook OCD or something else is happening? Thank you in advance!
Yes, these are all examples of classic, textbook OCD. OCD tends to morph over time – these thoughts are just this year’s model. I encourage you to stop testing yourself, as it doesn’t help – in fact it makes the OCD worse.
Help like every time I use the rest room or showering cleanin my private parts I always get ocd ugly thoughts so then I repeat the cleaning to make sure I don’t get bad thoughts about my kids and try not bad thoughts but they come back 🙁 And after my ocd thoughts tell me your are a bad mom you… Does it mean I am a bad mom?? Is realty bothering me
Having unwanted thoughts about harming people, and then doing certain behaviors to get rid of those thoughts, does not mean you are a bad mom – it means you have OCD.
I feel so gross and guilty and a bad mom! I had a dream that I was sitting next to my son and that I was having this horrible thoughts and then after I just thinking and thinking if it felt anything down there because of the thoughts in my dreAm and then I felt like close to like an Orgns I don’t want to even say that word 🙁 I rem after I rem try to stop myself from feeling that even.. I don’t feel like doing nothing no more cus I feel like the worst mom…Help me was all that fake in my dream the feeling? Now I feel like the worst mom? And don’t feel like doing noting no more.
Dreams are just dreams. If they had anything to do with reality, we’d all be in trouble. I have dreamed of killing people, of dying, of being able to fly, and all sorts of other things that are way weirder than that. Trying to stop yourself from feeling certain feelings, or having certain thoughts (or dreams) is absolutely going to fail. I encourage you to seek out treatment with a psychotherapist who specializes in treatment of Harm OCD.
Hi, are urges and impuses to act common in this form of OCD, as I have them and I find them worse than the thoughts to be honest, as it can make me feel I am going to act on them at times, or even that I want to act on them even though I have never committed a violent act in my life and I’m 43.
Thanks for your question. In Harm OCD, there is no effective difference between thoughts, urges and impulses – they are all very common symptoms.
Hello! I’m writing on this particular page because Harm OCD is what I associate my anxiety with. I’ve been experiencing it for a few years now but there’s a new thing coming and I’m really scared. The thing is that I’m starting to have these COMPLETELY unwanted thoughts about aliens.All sorts of alien thoughts occur. Like,for example that they are going to abduct me of have already done that and I don’t remember it happening,or even doing this while I’m sleeping at night(and that’s a new thought that I had just this morning). The second type of thoughts is the one that everything I see and think is what they want me to see and think. These two types of obsessions are probably the most scary for me. The third one,which is kind of part of the second type that I listed is that that maybe I’m having thoughts of killing people because they want me to. I was scared of that particular thought in the beggining but then I labeled it as impossible and it hadn’t been bothering me that much. When a thing like that occurs I say to myself “It’s alright,these are just thoughts part of your OCD. They will go away as long as you take them just as thoughts and not put meaning into them.” I mean,that’s what I should do,right? I definitely am more calm and ready to face them after I’ve said all those things to myself but I can’t stop having those doubts or ‘What ifs’ saying that I’m probably schizophrenic and my life is over. And that’s bothering me a lot. Harm Ocd thoughts have been pushed away by these alien ones and I don’t know what to do with them. Am I going comletely crazy? Please help!
Thanks for your comment.
You are not going crazy – you have OCD. There is no functional difference between one unwanted thought (harming people) and another unwanted thought (“I’ve been abducted by aliens”). An OCD thought is an OCD thought is an OCD thought, the only difference being the nature of the content. The best approach is to accept that your brain, like everyone else’s brain, produces a lot of goofy thoughts, and your alien thoughts are just this year’s model.
BTW, here is a recent article about research showing that everybody has unwanted thoughts: http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/04/ocd-intrusive-thoughts
i have harm ocd i have disturbing thoughts of sexually abusing my child i want your advice
Unwanted thoughts about sexually abusing children are quite common in OCD, and are sometimes described as Pedophile OCD, or POCD. Practically speaking, these types of thoughts are essentially the same as Harm OCD, and the treatment is identical.
The best approach to treating these sorts of unwanted thoughts is mindfulness training combined with a specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
Can OCD morph into ruminating about things you did as a child, such as being mean to another child/ren? I keep going over how despicable I was, and the reasons for it (other kids picking on me, fear/insecurity as a result of moving around a lot, the basic pecking order instinct of children etc), especially as it wasn’t an ongoing thing and as I wasn’t in essence a nasty child and developed into an empathetic and on the whole nice and kind young person and adult. I have been under a lot of stress recently and when I am not worrying directly about the concern in hand, I have been going over my childhood misdemeanours and thinking how I maybe deserve this anguish? It’s as if my mind is seeking out every nasty thing I ever did and telling me ‘Most people with harm OCD are nice people who wouldn’t hurt a fly – you are not,’ and making me defend myself then beat myself up in a vicious circle.
I am not seeking absolution (as I am aware that would be a compulsion), just wanting to know whether beating yourself up about something like this is a symptom of OCD?
Everything you report sounds very much like OCD. Analyzing your past in an effort to determine if you were a “bad” kid is a compulsion that will not work. Besides, if you were a bad kid, there is absolutely nothing you can do to “undo” whatever bad behaviors you did as a child.
Part of being a mature, responsible adult is realizing that you (like everybody else in the world) have made many mistakes in your life, learning from those mistakes, and making an effort to be a better person from this point forward. The world is full of good people who were little brats as children.
As for absolution, I’m afraid I don’t have that kind of power.
Hi OCD Center!
I am currently battling suicide obsessions and am undergoing ERP treatment. However I cant help but think when I overcome this obsession then my OCD will produce another obsession. How do I overcome this?
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, I strongly encourage you to discuss this matter with your therapist. And if you seriously considering acting on those thoughts, then I suggest you go to your local emergency room immediately.
As for overcoming your brain’s ability to come up with new thoughts, I think you would be best advised to accept that this is the nature of the human brain. Its job is to come up with new thoughts. And if an individual has OCD, those thoughts will sometimes be unwanted thoughts.
Hello, my names nicole.
And I started having bad thoughts last year. And they where very bad…
I had thought I was very evil it went on for maybe 5-6 days or longer, the 2-3 day I looked it up, I had many break downs, crying and thinking of killing myself. I had thoughts of hurting my bf who I love VERY much.
So I found a site of ppl who have OCD and talked to a woman who also had unwanted thoughts of harming your loved ones. And I asked does your bf know.
She said yes and if your bf loves u he will understand.
I told my bf that day and at first he was freaked out but he now knows what I was talking about. And to this day he’s by my side.
but I stared having them again. I now have a 5 month old baby boy and I’m having bad thoughts…it’s been 3-4 days now…
How can I deal with this…I have no money to see somebody and I dnt rlly care to take somthing for it.
Everything you write sounds like Harm OCD. The best suggestion I have is that you seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD.
hi ive been suffering for far too long with this. ive been afraid to even tell anyone these thoughts because first of all, i think theyd think i was insane and second of all, when my anxiety is so high and the thoughts are so intense, something in my brain says, if i tell someone my deepest darkest secrets and fears, and theyre out to get me, they will want to make them come true. i have a fear of everything that i use being poisoned. so much that if i have a can of tomato sauce and i have an irrational fear that pops out of nowhere that i poisoned it with ajax or..some other kind of chemical to clean in the home, then i just get so afraid that i have to stay away from the tomato sauce, then it goes bad. this will happen with everything from other food items like a container of salt or even olive oil to beauty products like shampoo or body lotion, sometimes even my lipstick. ill live with it for awhile then i just get so upset about it that ill give away all these things and then i buy new stuff and then the obsessions start again…sometimes ill think that i put my laundry detergent into my beauty product, now my body lotion or my perfume or my shampoo is ruined. sometimes when i wash the dishes ill be afraid that i put the soap in the coffee pot or in whatever im cooking on the stove instead of the sponge, sometimes its easier to cook in the kitchen with putting the dish detergent away so that theres no way my fear will get the best of me.. sometimes i think that i put cleaning product into my lotion…and it never stops….and the thing is i know i would never in a million years do these things..
its so time consuming, exhausting, and its just horrible. sometimes i think, where did these thoughts stem from? did i sleepwalk and do it and that’s why im having “false memories,” or is this just coming from nowhere? sometimes, ill worry that if i didn’t lock the door that my neighbor or someone is going to come in my apartment and poison everything…then im gonna have to buy all new shampoo and makeup and food.
its super hard to have this type fear when youre in your early 20s and you don’t know who you are yet, and youre broke but you spend all your money when you have some on getting all new things because it seems like hell to wait 3 months when your shampoo will be done and then you can get all new shampoo that’s possibly not gonna be contaminated…but the truth is, everything is going to be contaminated in my mind, because i have a problem so trying to run away from my mind isn’t gonna work.
and as i write this, i feel like telling myself to just go a hospital but then i remind myself, im a normal 22 year old woman, im not bonkers, i just am suffering from something that hopefully i will overcome someday..and the hope of oneday being free of this keeps me going everyday
but i wont lie this type of ocd is very hard…sometimes you just want to lay down and cry all day because who wants everything they have and use to be poisoned? no one. but then the normal part of me says, “WEll its just your fear, you would never do things, pull yourself together.” but the weak part of me…oh that weak part is so difficult to tackle.
im afraid if i go to a therapist with these fears, its something they’ve never heard before but now that im on this website i see maybe that’s not true.
I can’t provide a diagnosis via blog, but I can say that everything you write sounds like OCD. And as you note, running away from your mind isn’t gonna work. But when you give away your personal products because of your thoughts, that is exactly what you are trying to do.
As an alternative, I suggest allowing your self to have these unwanted thoughts without valuing them as “real” or “accurate”. It sounds like you have had these thoughts hundreds (or thousands) of times, yet they have never been true. So when you have these thoughts, remind yourself that, based on experience, you have no reason to value these thoughts as being true. Just identify them as being nothing but thoughts, and allow your self to feel the discomfort. Over time, this will be far more effective for you than capitulating to your fears by giving away your personal products for fear of being poisoned.
Finally, I think it is important to point out that learning to more realistically appraise your thoughts is very difficult to do on your own. You say you are afraid to see a therapist, but that is exactly what you need to do. And don’t just go to any therapist, as many are absolutely clueless about Harm OCD. Seek out a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD. This will be the best way for you to lesrn how to more effectively manage these thoughts.
This article may have saved my life.
I’ve seriously thought about ending my life. I was fearful that the awful thoughts about harming my wife and son would become reality. They literally made me ill and drove me insane.
I’ve contemplated about committing suicide while my son was young… is going to turn 1 soon… so he would have no recollection of me.I was even looking into purchasing more expensive policies for life insurance to ensure they were financially taken care of. I even thought of ways to hire a killer. I was worried that the life insurance policies wouldn’t cover suicide.
The only thing that stopped me was the fear that I would hurt my family too much….wife, nephew, niece, brother, mom, dad, other family members.
I also am a stubborn bastard and I didn’t want to be defeated by these thoughts. I’m learning that my resistance to them actually made them worse… ugh.
I was also fearful of getting help because would I become the lunatic or the crazy person that nobody would let their kids around. Would my son be taken away from me? Would my life not be worth living any more?
The feelings going through me right now are unexplainable.
The relief. I sat here sobbing and I haven’t cried in a good 13 years.
This has tormented me for over 10 years.
I have a rough exterior and nobody would have had the slightest clue that I suffered from this. Not one person is aware of this.
Bless you for putting out this information. You truly saved me and more importantly, you saved plenty of pain for my family.
Thank you for commenting. It is gratifying to hear that one of our articles has had such a profound impact on you.
I assure you that your concerns of being perceived as a lunatic and losing your child are extremely common thoughts for those with Harm OCD. In fact, everything you write sounds like textbook Harm OCD.
There is nor reason for you to suffer so deeply with these thoughts. You sound like a man who genuinely loves his family, and I think the most compassionate thing you could do for your family (and your self) would be to seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Harm OCD is quite treatable.
I found this article and others helpful and they made me feel better about the thoughts Iève been having since my daughter was born last week – However I read on a forum about about Harm OCD about a woman who actually acted on one of her urges and harmed her cat, so, now I am back where I started – I was originally having panic attacks, but I have now crossed over into thoughts that I won’t do anything if my daughter is hurt, and that I don’t care etc. and i feel sick to my stomach and my compulsions have amplified to a level they haven’t been in a long time.
How are we to know that the thoughts will remain just thoughts?
I appreciate any help you can give,
Thanks for commenting.
Just because you read something doesn’t mean that it applies to you. I recently read in the newspaper about a white male in his 50’s in Los Angeles who is a serial killer. I too am a white male in my 50’s in Los Angeles. Should I assume that because someone else with similar characteristics acted a certain way, that I am doomed to act the same way? Of course not!
As for “knowing” that your thoughts will remain just thoughts, and that they won’t lead to violent activity, you are out of luck. Nobody gets to have that kind of certainty. For all I know, I am going to wake up tomorrow, go to gun shop, purchase a bunch of guns, and go on a killing spree. I would be quite surprised if I did this, as I have no history of acting violently. But I don’t get to “know” with certainty that I won’t do such a thing. The best I can do is guess that, based on my life experience, it is unlikely that I will kill a bunch of people tomorrow. But that’s just a guess.
That said, it is worth noting that there is absolutely no link between OCD and violence, and no link between harming thoughts in OCD and violence.
Thanks for the response.
I’ve gone through many of these types of stages in my life – I was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 9 and I’m now 31 – I’ve been worried to death that I was a serial killer, a child molester, that I was going to kill my parents, that I was going to be incestual with members of my family etc. but everytime a new obssesion rises it’s ugly little head, it’s impossible to remember that those thoughts were the same and that they passed.
This time has been especially hard (maybe the hardest since the child molester one when I was a teenager) because my daughter is so innocent, and the idea of hurting her is unbearable to me – It also doesn’t help that my doctor is very hard to get an appointment with and the earliest I could book one was July 17th – Then, my father, who has gone through all these things as well in his life is away right now, and I can only speak to him on the phone about this, which just isn’t as good as in person. Finally, I failed a driver’s test two weeks ago, so, I lost my licence for a couple of weeks, so I don’t have the freedom to simply go when I wish to.
I really appreciate the help, just talking to different people who understand the obssesions always helps a lot.
It sounds like you have very good insight – you recognize that your past OCD symptoms aren’t really all that different from your current symptoms. It’ all OCD.
When you have unwanted harming thoughts, it is crucial that you challenge your immediate response of seeing the thoughts as realistic. Instead, accept that these thoughts exist in your head, but not that they are accurate or in any way an indicator of your true intent.
Finally, while I appreciate that you have support in your life, I want to caution you about talking to different people about your OCD. First off, this can become a compulsion in its own right. Second, people are likely to to inadvertently provide you with reassurance, which is the exact wrong thing to do. Ultimately, you will best serve yourself by learning how to independently manage your responses to these thoughts.
I been getting a lot of sexual thoughts in images and in words while I have the images And then after I’ll just try to remove them but after there’s this feeling like if I say those words in nasty words in reality! Help can’t ocd trick u making you think you say those nasty word in reality ??? It gets me paranoid and then I get sad saying to my self that am a bad personmom for tinkling that like they feel so real like If I did say those nasty word pls help
Just as thought are just thoughts, words are just words, and images are just images. They are not particularly important. The problem is that: a) you are analyzing whether or not have actually said these words, and this analysis is a compulsion; and b) you are trying to “remove” the words and images from your mind, which is also a compulsion (and one that will never work). I encourage you to seek out treatment with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD.
I am 24 years old male and I am writing from Finland and this is the first time I write about my ocd thoughts somewehere. My situation is quite hard and I want to write little about my past becouse it is so linked to my situation.
I have quite traumatic childhood, including many kind of abuse from my parents. I am also refugee from Middle East where my first years of my chilhood was terror and fear.
I was diagnosed OCD (more Pure o?) and panic attacks and other anxiety diagnose when I was 16 years old. The problem was that I lived in a family where you had to suppress everything, all your emotions from sadness to narutal anger. And the very painful thing for me was also that I had to also HIDE my OCD symptoms as well. So I was in a some kind of jail where I couldn’t do anything, becouse there wasn’t nobody to help me. Actually they used to criticize my mental problems – and sometimes even make jokes about my issues.
Today after 10 years of suffering this ocd I can realize that all those years I suffered these distressing obsessions, to be honest more than 20 different themes e.g. death, psychopath, gay and endless figure out ideas and doubting…
I of course realize that I was diagnosed an illness, but I didn’t take anything seriosly as I said that from my parents mistreatment I only learnt to hate myself.
But my life changed when I moved to own house and started pschodynamic therapy. But I hide my obsessions becouse I was afraid of misunderstood or that the thouhts would become REAL.
Nowadays I know that my therapist didn’t knew about ocd treatment. Actually it sometimes made me feel much worse when I asked something about my fears…
But, why I am writing to you know is that in winter I had almost suicidal moments and I really appreciate if you can give me some ideas for my future, before I start CBT therapy in this Autumn.
About six months ago I faced Alice Miller’s works about past expriences and true feelings – and inner child. And that really was life changing for me. But it only took about few weeks – I was really stressed, beginning searching for my true life story and dealt with my traumatic events – and THEN there came horrible thouhgts for example ” my inner child is gay, or, when I am searching for my life story I will realize my gay identity. ” And there the cycle began – very distressing.
And for example when I am dealing with issues of my parents abuse, my mind is saying: “you are the narcisstic/psychopath here, not you mother”. And then the cycle is again starting.
And when I am tired or stresed sometimes my thouhts go so fare that I am questoning: “Was there actually any abuse?” Maybe it was all my ocd.
I have now for few weeks started to practise not to fight with the thouhts and NOT TO seek ressurence, and stop compulsions.
But please give me some advice, what should I do when these horrible thoughts, images and mixed up ideas are coming?
I really just want to be with myself, and now search for my self and my life story. And yes, I have been with womens and loved them (of course problems in relationships), and I think I am a good man. Not want to be a sociopath, or pscyhotic, or gay. And I am tired to figure out why some thouhght come, what is the root of this illness, or witch thought was the inner child’s and witch one was the OCD.
I now realize now that I have to take care of myself and also seek help to this ocd.
Thank so you much for you, and your healing sites.
Thank you for your comments.
While I empathize with you and appreciate that you have suffered, it is important to note that Alice Miller’s work focused on childhood abuse, and has absolutely nothing to do with OCD. You do not need to figure out your “true life story” or whether or not your “inner child” is gay or a sociopath. You need to realize that unwanted thoughts are extremely common for everybody, to accept the existence of these thoughts, and to stop analyzing them. You mention that you are planning to start CBT in the autumn, and I strongly encourage you to commit to that treatment. Assuming you are getting help from a a therapist who specializes in CBT specifically for OCD, I am confident that this will help you more in six months than a lifetime of psychodynamic therapy.
I’ve got Harm OCD and last night I watched a film where a guy shot an innocent woman with a rifle and then killed himself.That triggered some thoughts about hurting/killing my family and I got really scared. The thing is that this isn’t the first time I’m experiencing this whole situation and I’ve dealt with it pretty successfully many times before. I’m writing to you because you’ve helped me before here on this blog. Explaining those unwanted thoughts with the fact that they are a part of the OCD has helped me in my battle.The thing that worries me now is that as I was trying to calm myself down last night,a sudden and again,unwanted thought popped out in my mind. It was something like this: “What if it’s not a part of OCD at all? What if you are indeed a psychopath,or a scizophrenic or god knows what else? What if everything you’ve been telling yourself is a lie? What if this whole OCD thing is a lie?”
I was shocked and frightened. I know the whole dosirder is based on doubt. But are my doubts something that you’ve seen in your patients?
So is doubting OCD normal?
Thanks in advance!
Doubting that one has OCD is extremely common, as is questioning whether one’s symptoms are actually signs of schizophrenia or being a psychopath. We see it all the time.
Thank u so much for your comment
This is a good article i was formually diagnosed back in 2009 But Harm OCD was never brought to my attention drs just called it OCD with unwanted thoughts. I was on Meds for a few years and though they did help some they made me fat. So Last year i got off all of them and have been doing great until recently. If i watch a violent movie the violent actions of the movie have me thinking that i will do those acts. I guess in a way these episodes as i call them come in waves. i might have a week of freedom then bam get hit hard with the mental images and thoughts of doing acts of violence then it subsides. You would think that a person would get used to them after awhile but to me each episode feels like the first one. Im currently in one now and has been rough. Its not enjoyable you start second guessing yourself as a person its very scary to go through. I think the biggest mystery that my doctors cant seem to answer is why they started happening. I was a Aspergers kid happy for the most part and as i got into my mid 20’s the thoughts started to occur then all the other symptmoms showed. im now 30 and i can honestly say that the last 5 years have been a living hell. It sounds bad to say this and im sorry if it does but i would trade places any day of the week with someone who washes there hands exsessively then to go through these violent thought episodes that i get. Sorry for the long post just needed to have my voice heard.
Thanks for sharing your concerns.
Harm OCD is just a type of OCD. It is not different from OCD, it is just a flavor of OCD. Think of it this way – chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream taste very different, but they are both ice cream and they are both made the same way. The only difference is the flavor. Pretty much everyone thinks that their type of OCD is the worst, and that they would happily trade places with someone with a different theme of OCD. So if you primarily obsessed about contamination, and didn’t obsess about harm thoughts, you think it would be wonderful to switch places with someone who had harm obsessions. That’s just part of how OCD works – by leading you to believe that the thing you fear is the worst possible thing that could happen.
This is a very informative article and I am glad to come across it. My son has been complaining of thoughts/doubts in his head since quite some time like he has gone out of the house and harmed someone. Due to this, he is not sleeping well and keeps saying he has to sort out his doubts that is why he sleeps late night/early morning. Also, his meals are not taken in time. We tried counselling him at home but it is not effective. I really don’t know how to get him help. Can you guide us? I would appreciate to receive your reply.
If your son is interested in online therapy for Harm OCD, please ask him to contact us via our website.
Thank you for the articles! I’m a 31 years old Ocd sufferer. My Ocd revolves around the fear of being/becoming schizophrenic, so once I read about delusions my Ocd began to throw similar thoughts at me!
For example, I fear I’m going to believe that my family have been replaced by robots and that everything that happens around me is a message like in “ideas of reference”.
When I try to disprove them with logic my Ocd throws another, craziest obsession to counter my arguments, also it’s like one part of me knows that rationally the obsessions are absurd and another feels like I’m on the verge of believing them.
Is this a typical mechanism for Ocd or the beginning of schizophrenia?
Thank you for your comment.
As you have learned, trying to disprove OCD using logic just results in new obsessions popping up. This is extremely common in OCD. A far better option would be to stop trying to disprove the obsessions, and to instead accept their existence. That doesn’t mean accepting that the thoughts are accurate or valid, only that they exist.
Our minds have all sorts of thoughts that are not accurate, and these are just the ones that bother you. Let them be, and do no compulsions related to them.
I would like to thank you for the great articles. It is very useful and relaxing to read them. I lived so many types of OCD. I defeat all of them except harm OCD.
I am 100% sure that I cannot harm or kill anybody but my brain is playing with me. When I reply a question, it asks me harder and harder and I am very confused.
My OCD is quick to inform me that I haven’t considered that I may have already killed someone and forgotten about it. Or maybe I have repressed such a terrible memory of the murder I committed.
Is it possible to forget such a this kind of terrible memory? My brain is trying to find a place that harm or killing might have been occurred and it is trying to define what kind of people like child or weak people,etc.
Could you help me?
The fear that one has committed a heinous crime and somehow forgotten about it is quite common in Harm OCD. The solution is the same as with any other symptom of OCD – accept the existence of the unwanted thought (“What if I killed someone and forgot about it???”), and make no effort whatsoever to answer the obsessive question. Instead accept the uncertainty of the situation. That may sound crazy, but the simple truth is that none of us can know if we forgot something – after all, if we forgot something, how can remember that we forgot it! I have no more certainty than you that I have not killed someone. Perhaps I am a serial killer who only kills people while sleepwalking. That sounds preposterous…because it is. But I don’t have “certainty” that it is not true.
Life is full of uncertainty. The sooner you recognize and accept that you cannot know certain things, the better. You will never find the answer, and frankly, the question doesn’t need an answer. Just let it sit there unanswered, and get on with your day.
I have suffered with Harm OCD and have learned techniques to help me, such as allowing thoughts to come as they please, but recently the anxiety hasn’t been occurring when I get a harm thought, even though this is what I was wanting to achieve, I’m now scared that I’m becoming what I always feared, especially after reading The Imp of the Mind, with one of the bad thoughts being not feeling concerned by the thoughts, I now wish I was anxious about it again because not feeling anything towards it makes it seem worse, I even threw up this morning, I was thinking this could be a “backdoor spike” but all I can find online is that a backdoor spike is related to relationship OCD, nothing on Harm OCD
What you are describing is a classic backdoor spike, which can occur with any type of OCD (but is most prevalent with the more “obsessional” variants such as ROCD, HOCD, Scrupulosity, and yes, Harm OCD).
I was watching a short video on harm OCD in which a therapist and patient were demonstrating an in vivo exercise where the therapist has her patient hold a sharp knife up to her wrist and of course he is supposed to tolerate the anxiety. My question is, as the patient is describing his gruesome thoughts on stabbing the therapist, how is she so sure he isn’t going to snap and indeed stab her or harm her in some way with a sharp object. Has the feared harm ever happened?
Thanks for commenting.
The simple fact is that the therapist doesn’t know for sure that the client isn’t going to snap and stab her. On the other hand, I have purposely had many clients hold a knife to my throat, and none have stabbed me. The bottom line is that we cannot 100% know what someone will do. For all I know, I will go on a killing spree tonight.
As for a client with Harm OCD snapping and killing their therapist or someone else during an exposure, I’ve never heard of that happening. But it could…
Either way, I fully intend to continue instructing my Harm OCD clients to hold knives to my throat (not my wrist, which is way too tame).
Wow this article is great and meant so much to me. I have been battling thoughts like this for a little while now and it is so hard to deal with at times! I didn’t know what was going on or why I was thinking such messed up thoughts and it was so scary to me because I have always been a good person and didn’t know why my thoughts were going to this! I have had anxiety in the past and had thoughts like this and were able to overcome them but about two months ago I started a new career and my anxiety sky rocketed and thoughts like this creeped in again and it feels so bad! I am only 24 and don’t ever want to act on any of these thoughts because I know that is not me and that is what is so scary. I just want to enjoy my life and be my normal happy self again and not dread on these irrational thoughts! It is good to know this is common and definitely something that can be beaten!
Thanks for your kind words. I am so happy to hear that our articles are helpful to you. Rest assured that Harm OCD can be beaten. But realize that the word “beaten” can be a bit problematic. The goal is not to get to a place where you never again have unwanted harm thoughts. These types of thoughts are quite common, even in the general (non-OCD) population, not just in those with OCD, so you should expect that you may have them in the future. The goal is to not take them so seriously, and to not react to them with compulsive or avoidant behaviors. Let the thoughts come and go without making an effort to control them. If you accept their existence, they will no longer scare you – they will just annoy you. But life is full of annoyances, and these thoughts needn’t be more than that.
This site has been remarkable for me. It makes me feel like I am not alone. However I do have some questions about what I have been experiencing. About a month ago on my girlfriends and my anniversary I woke up in the middle of the night and had a thought/ urge to kill her. My anxiety was so high I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know what I was experiencing. For a month now I have been battling these thoughts and almost anything that could be used for a weapon triggered these thoughts, tools, knives, tv shows, etc. I have been avoiding sleeping with her and spending as much time with her as I used to out of fear that I am going to hurt her. Sometimes I am fearful that I am going to wake up in the middle of the night and lose control of myself and do something I wouldnt dream of doing. I have a hard time looking in the mirror because I am afraid of seeing a serial killer. The thoughts have felt so real I have considered moving or just plain killing myself so I don’t hurt anyone. If it isn’t about hurting her, its a stranger, or a lot of people.
I have just started seeing a therapist who believes its ocd. I have also just started taking Lexapro about a week ago that doesn’t seem to help. My anxiety is gone, however now since i don’t feel the anxiety or sad emotion i feel like the thoughts i am having are wants. I am confused and am having a hard time distinguishing what i want and don’t want now. In reality I know i would never act on these thoughts. However it seems like if i don’t do something i am going to lose my mind. This has been the most painful thing i have ever gone through and I am starting to be fearful that it is never going to end until something drastic happens. The only time the hurtful killer thoughts have stopped is when i was convinced i was Schitzo. I have a hard time believing this is OCD because it just came out of know where. I am affraid i am a psychopath constantly or that it is something else. Is this all common in Harm OCD? Please give me any knowledge you may have.
Thank you so much for your time.
Everything you wrote is quite typical of Harm OCD. And, just because it came out of nowhere doesn’t mean it’s not OCD. In fact, many people with all forms of OCD report that it seems to suddenly appear with no warning, which is part of why it is so scary.
If your therapist only “thinks” this is OCD, there is a good chance he is clueless about OCD, as this sounds like textbook OCD. And that includes the fear of not being upset about the thoughts anymore. This is called a “backdoor spike”, which can apply to all sorts of OCD subtypes, but is especially common in Harm OCD and HOCD.
I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and support through what was the absolute worst period of my life. I was terrified of the thoughts and even more scared that I was going to harm someone. I am glad to say that I now live without even noticing if I have a intrusive thought. In fact I can hold a knife or any sharp object without even having an outrageous thought enter my mind….while I admit it was HARD work, it is possible to get through this. I promise
Thanks for your comment. It is always gratifying to hear that we have been helpful. Hopefully reading this article will be motivated by your comment to more proactively challenge their obsessions. Keep up the good work.
i have panic attacks really bad and ocd and for the past month or so i been having really bad thoughts that everything is going to hurt me things i eat drink anything i do anywhere i go all i think is its going to hurt me people have said it might be my ocd playing tricks on me but im not sure i really want them to stop it is ruining my lfe and relationship if you could please help me and give me some advice on how to stop the thoughts and live a normal life would help thank you
Hi im not sure if im am suffering from Harm OCD iv never had harming thoughts towards anyone. However i had harming thoughts to myself and acted on it, after i had a very traumatic experience couple of years back must be like 10 years back that i used to cut myself, but after i met my love of my life i pulled my life back together and everything was going fine but after my son was born which hes now 8 months old i think its been a month or 2 that i have had these thoughts of harming him -it only happens when hes being difficult and i think im obsessive about time i have a daily routine for us as i can take him to work with me which im so lucky that i can. At work im fine he seems to be keeping to my routine mostly i know that everything doesn’t always run smoothly especially with a baby around but i cant help to try to keep everything on time always saying there isnt enough time with looking after him and working i know i get a bit stressed when things isn’t working like it should. i have now and again arguments with my hubby regarding the time factor. i just hate it when i feel like harming my son and i am afraid that i will act on it he doesn’t deserve that he deserves a great mother that loves him to bits and wont be having these thoughts of harming his little body like slapping him or pinching him ( i have slapped him once on his bum i felt like a pig told my hubby about it)im just afraid that it might get worse and i do more harm! please help im 28 years old
Thank you for this article. I’ve been seeing a therapist, but I must confess I haven’t been honest to him. I was convinced I was some sort of sociopath or psychopath and telling him about those violent thoughts I’d been having would only confirm that and turn him away from me. It was incredibly distressing and still is whenever it happens, but I hope I will now be able to be honest and hopefully work towards some sort of recovery.
Hi. I have came across this page few weeks ago and has been reading most of the messages ppl have posted but I’m not really sure if my abnormal thoughts can be classified under harm OCD since the content of my thoughts are quite different from others.
My abnormal thoughts appear since quite a few month ago. initially the frequency is ~once per week and now i think it becomes part of my life as i do have them everyday now. Its just “appear out of nowhere” now and then. all the time triggered by the things i see, hear or in my memory.
The content of my thoughts seemed to differ from others that i have seen online. hence i wonder if those are intrusive thoughts or i’m just an evil person with an evil thoughts of harming others. Nowadays i think i belong to the latter since my thoughts are really that bad and disturbing. most intrusive thoughts i have seen online is that people have such thoughts of THEMSELVES harming people (usually their loved ones) in one way or another. BUT for my thoughts, it is NOT ME who harmed those people. simply to put, i have thoughts of bad things happening to people (including my family, friends and even strangers) e.g any accidents and diseases leading to their death. I think these might be my obsession for death? Such thoughts appear in my mind almost naturally e.g. if my mum wasn’t home yet by her expected timing, i would think that maybe a car accident happened, leading to her death, and sometimes i walk past a stranger, i would have thoughts such as maybe this person would die of cancer, that kid would fall and bled to death, that pregnant lady would have a miscarriage, etc. These thoughts are like a CD player, playing in my mind from time to time, triggered by what i see, hear etc.
Is there any advice for my case? thank you for your time for reading this.
Thanks for commenting. Everything you write suggests the possibility. You have repeated unwanted thoughts about harm coming to you, and you wish those thoughts weren’t there, and you feel overwhelmed by them. My best suggestion is that you seek out a therapist who specializes in treating OCD and anxiety with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Having a baby can be very stressful, and stress tends to exacerbate OCD symptoms, including unwanted harming thoughts. Just because you are having unwanted thoughts doesn’t make you a bad mother – it makes you someone with OCD.
Ultimately, we cannot control which thoughts pop into our consciousness, so the best long-term solution is to accept the existence of these unwanted thoughts, and to recognize them for what they are -just thoughts. I encourage you to seek out a therapist who specializes in treating OCD, as this will be your best path to successfully managing these thoughts.
Unfortunately, many therapists are utterly clueless about OCD, and it is possible that your therapist will not be able to grasp that your symptoms are OCD. If he doesn’t immediately understand that this is OCD, then show this blog article to him. Or if you are really afraid to openly discuss this for fear of being seen as a sociopath, show him the article first as a jumping off point for discussion.
The bottom line is that there is no way any therapist can possibly help you if you don’t discuss your symptoms with him/her. But if this therapist doesn’t get it, then you will need to find one who does.
Thanks for commenting.
Everything you write sounds like Harm OCD to me. You are having unwanted thoughts about harm, and the person who is causing that harm is not really the issue. Yes, many people with Harm OCD obsess that they will be the person who causes harm. The only difference is that you worry about harm in which you are not the person who causes it. Either way, you are having unwanted thoughts that apparently cause you significant distress.
You ask what you can do about it, and my answer is the same as for anyone with Harm OCD – accept the existence of the unwanted thoughts without trying to control or eliminate them. Then get on with your day as if the thoughts don’t matter…because they don’t!
Hello! Thank you so much for your wonderful articles! I’ve learnt to cope with OCD thanks to them but I still have some questions. I saw something about a woman with schizophrenia committing suicide last night on TV. As usual,this triggered some worries and thoughts about me being in this situation,etc. You probably know that scenario. So I went searching on the internet what are the differences between OCD and schizophrenia. I didn’t read much because I know this usually worsens my anxiety. I found out that the two illnesses could coexist(which drove me crazy) and that a fundamental difference is that while patients with schizophrenia don’t realise that their thoughts and visions are bizarre, patients with OCD do realise that(probably minus the visions). Is that right? This whole thing resulted in changing my main OCD title to “Omg, what if I’m actually a schizophrenic without realising it?!?” I have no visions or something and I don’t really know what the symptoms are(because if I did,I would probably put in my head that I am for sure). Another thing that really made me think is that they mentioned that the lady looked stable and happy but she probably committed suicide because she was worried about the future of her child and because work didn’t go well. I thought to myself “Well,this is what we all worry about but it doesn’t mean that we should burn ourselves to death(that’s what she did). I have my ups and downs but despite the disorder I strive to look and feel happy and think positive. For sure my inner sadness doesn’t show sometimes and I’ve been thinking about suicide many times but this has never let me down. What does this mean then? Thank you in advance!
Yes, OCD can co-exist with schizophrenia. But it can also co-exist with depression, alcoholism, toenail fungus and going to the beach. While I might sound glib, the point I am making is that just because something can co-exist with something doesn’t mean that it always does, or that there is automatically a connection.
Additionally, it is worth noting that obsessing about schizophrenia is very common in OCD – especially the fear that one’s OCD symptoms might secretly indicate undiagnosed schizophrenia.
And you are correct that people with schizophrenia generally don’t realize that their bizarre thoughts are bizarre, while people with OCD generally are all-too aware of how bizarre their unwanted thoughts can be. Everything you have written here sounds like textbook OCD, and nothing you have written even remotely suggests schizophrenia.
Hello! I was here around a year and 2 months ago. I had a very strong case of Pure OCD. Mostly harm (harming others, harming myself) and HOCD. However, ever since then I have had many life habits.
I do not know if it’s inappropiate to ask here but.. Well my OCD greatly diminished this year since I did the changes. I stoped masturbating among, many other things. I can say the intrusive thoughts didn’t bother me anymore and was feeling stronger than ever before.
However, some three weeks ago I decided to retake this habit of masturbating, and since 3 days ago I have felt a lot of anxiety. I guess these two are connected aren’t they?
I need an advice: The OCD is tricking me this time with eating soap while taking a shower or brushing my teeeth and shallowing the cream. I know it sounds absurd and stupid, but this is a compulsion right? should I breath in this moment and simply concentrate in what I was doing before?
I know of no research indicating a connection between masturbation and Harm OCD thoughts.
Yes, it sounds like your OCD is leading you do compulsions with soap and toothpaste. That’s what OCD does!
My advice is simple – find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Well my harm ocd has returned after being free from it a yr now. It’s about my child who is my life. It started a week ago after feeling anxious for a few days. Then bam at bedtime I thought atleast it’s not harm ocd and I had a thought about my parents who are staying in town. The thought was I want to harm them. Nothing else just those words. Well it destroyed me just as usual and two days later I had my son for the weekend. And somehow it changed from my parents to him. The thought I want to harm him. It’s crazy because I am a strong family oriented guy who doesn’t have a violent bone. I have had ocd 23 yrs and have been diagnosed so it seems I would know how to handle it better. If it was a what if thought I wouldn’t be as scared but it’s a I want to thought that just keeps popping in all day and night. Then I ask for reassurance non stop either from family or online. I have compulsions of checking, reassurance, turning lights on off just right, praying etc because to my ocd mind if I don’t it means I want to harm my family. It’s ridiculous. When I think the I want to harm thought my ocd tries to make me believe it. This makes me so scared depressed and withdrawn. I feel numb. Then when it eventually leaves I am able to say without a doubt that I never have wanted to harm and never will. I love my family and especially my son with all my heart. I would give my last breath to any if them. So my question is does the fact that the thought is I want to instead if what if make it any worse. And how does ocd make you feel like you believe lies it tells. I’ll beat it again I have before but my ocd makes me worry and scared that it’s me sometimes. Even though all evidence says it’s not me thanks
You ask two questions:
1) Does the fact that the thought is “I want to” instead if “what if” make it any worse.
It may feel worse, but there is no essential difference in these questions. They are both very typical OCD obsessions.
2) Wow does OCD make you feel like you believe the lies it tells.
Nobody knows exactly “how” OCD makes sufferers believe the lies that OCD comes up with. What is known is that the most effective way of managing OCD thoughts is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a focus on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). I encourage you not to waste your time trying to figure out “how” OCD works, and instead to focus on finding effective treatment with CBT, an established therapy that has been found to work by scores of research studies.
Thanks for the reply tom. I guess what I should have asked in my previous comment was “is it common for ocd’ers to feel they believe their thoughts sometimes. For instance my obsession usually plays out in my head I want to harm my son etc.. This in turn makes me think oh god I wanna harm my son. It’s like when my mind is racked with anxiety and fear I can’t seperate and rationalize and instead I believe I wanna harm someone. Not only does this make me ask for more reassurance but it sends me deeper into the pits of fear shame sadness and guilt. I hope you understand my question. I know that every intrusive thought that comes on should be looked at as just that but it’s hard. A week ago my harm ocd had been gone for a yr. prior to a yr ago they had been gone for 4 yrs. it’s like they come on out of the blue. I was in tears this morning from these thoughts about my family and all I could think was god I don’t wanna harm anyone. It’s plain to see but it’s like ocd won’t let me
I don’t see any effective difference between you new question (“is it common for ocd’ers to feel they believe their thoughts”), and your question from your previous comment (“does OCD make you feel like you believe the lies it tells”), and my answer remains the same: don’t waste your time trying to analyze your OCD. Instead, find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
I have a 14 year old cat that I dearly love but I’ve developed a terrible fear of contracting or transmitting microscopic roundworm eggs. He is an indoor only cat but he used to spend time on the screened-in deck. I’ve read a lot on the Internet that sounds extreme about contracting roundworms. I did read that it is possible for a cat to contract them by eating certain bugs. That is the only way I can figure out that my cat would have gotten a roundworm egg since I’m sure there is an occasional bug in the house (I don’t see them often)and I’m sure there are some on the screened deck. I had him checked last June and was told by the vet that he found one roundworm egg. I told him I was surprised since he had been given a preventative a month ago. The vet said it could have been pollen but he thought it was an egg. I gave my cat the medication. I took him back a month later and was told he was clear. The vet told me he did not recommend a preventative for an indoor only cat and to just have him checked in a year. When I clean the litter box daily I sometimes accidentally tap the scoop against the wall or door facing as I’m cleaning the box. I worry that I should clean the wall, door facing, or whatever, even though I won’t be sure where it tapped because I was not looking at the spot at the time. I just wash the scoop a few times a year when I wash the litter box out. To complicate everything, my cat has developed a constipation problem. I give him Metamucil in his food and add a laxative the vet prescribed when needed. Sometimes he accidentally drops hard, dry poop on the floor or carpet and if no stain is left I struggle with do I need to disinfect or even clean that spot in any way? Sometimes I’ll just see a dark crumb (everyday trash or food on the carpet and I’ll worry if it could be poop).
The litter box is in a storage closet. Mom used to have a cat and had a litter box there also. That cat would get out of the house (sometimes for days) and come home. I had her checked for parasites after she got out and was told she was clear. The thing is that with OCD I will doubt if that was what I was told.
Yesterday, after I accidentally tapped the door facing with the scoop I saw a little spot on the facing, got some disinfectant cleaner and a paper towel and wiped the facing. The little spot came off and I wiped up and down the facing for several feet. That towel had black and gray streaks on it. I’ve read that these microscopic roundworm eggs do no become infective for one week to a month, so I always clean the litter box everyday. Finding these dirty streaks on the paper towel makes me feel very anxious because I wonder if old roundworm eggs could be there. I also noticed that as I wiped the door facing my sleeve was rubbing the outside of the wastebasket lined with a sack that the scoop stays in. OCD says my arm went inside the wastebasket but I don’t really believe that. I made myself keep that shirt on for the rest of the evening.
My mom says I should not even pick up these crumbs/bits of trash on the floor and examine them. I should just vacuum them up. She also does not feel I need to clean in any way if a bit of poop leaves no stain on the floor or carpet and that there is no need to clean the spot I accidentally hit with the litter scoop unless I later see residue. I will also worry about petting the cat and then rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher without washing my hands first (contaminating the kitchen faucet handle), the cat sleeping with me. etc. It just takes all kinds of forms. I know that what worries me most of all is that when I ask how I should handle these things I will feel doubt about the answer given me. I want to make it clear that it is not if the answer is correct because I know my mother would always give me an honest answer. It is doubt if I: 1)Really asked the question? 2)Did I express it clearly enough that she understood what I was saying? (my mom is 95 and hard of hearing). 3)Do I correctly remember what she said? I feel so guilty for badgering her for reassurance. The vet tells me it is possible for a cat to get roundworm eggs from just eating certain bugs so how can anyone know their cat is free?
Can you please tell me if it is best to ignore and NOT WASH in any of the situations I describe above unless I see stain without searching for it? I respect your opinion and need to know how to behave in these situations. I am always badgered with the question: what if you’re wrong and you get roundworm or cause someone else to do so. Thank you.
While I cannot provide a diagnosis on the basis of a blog comment, I can say that everything you write sounds like OCD to me. The doubts you have ( Did I really ask the question? Did I express it clearly enough that she understood what I was saying? Do I correctly remember what she said?) are typical obsessions in OCD. Also, repeatedly asking for reassurance is a typical compulsion in OCD. You can click here to learn more about why reassurance seeking is a problem for people with OCD.
The best treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). And using a CBT treatment protocol, you would not wash in any of the situations you described.
I’ve been experiencing some harm thoughts while masturbating, it’s very annoying when this happens as this was a good release to have but now it’s irritating. I no longer want to do it because I’m afraid that if I have a harm thought while masturbating then I must be evil. Any ideas of how to stop thinking of harm thoughts, especially while I’m “busy”?
Offering up suggestions for how to stop thinking unwanted harm thoughts would be counter-productive. Simply put, trying to control what you think will never work. I encourage you to read “White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts”, which is an excellent book about what a fruitless task that would be. The bottom line is this: the more you try to control your thoughts, the more entrenched they will become.
Thank you so much for this post and for all your replies, they are very helpful. I suffer with intrusive thoughts. I have always been a very anxious and worried person, particularly about the health of my family and loved ones. I know I have ocd as I do things like repeating senseless things in my head or feeling like I need to touch things a certain way to feel “right”. However, the content of my intrusive thought is really bothering me because it doesn’t actually involve me “doing” anything, which makes me worry that it’s not an intrusive thought but some desire I have becaus I am an evil person. My thought is that I want a loved one to die and that I would enjoy it. I know in my heart I would hate this and it breaks my heart to think it but I worry that it’s not an intrusive thought but some evil desire because it does not se to “fit” any of the thoughts I have read about.
I should add that the thought that I would want this to happen makes me extremely anxious and I have overwhelming feelings of guilt. I have lost weight because I have no appetite because I feel sick to my stomach at the thought. I am also on 15mg lexapro.
Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. I am starting CBT on Friday. Thank you!
OCD doesn’t require that a person have thoughts of overtly “doing something” that they find offensive. You are having unwanted intrusive thoughts that upset you, and in turn lead to more unwanted thoughts about possibly enjoying the death of loved ones, which leads you to obsess about possibly being “evil” (despite feeling anxious and guilty about these unwanted thoughts). This sounds exactly like OCD to me.
I have feared many things, killing people, being a pedo, having heart problems, having cancers and having schizophrenia which is what I am fearing the most at the moment
I have feared schizophrenia before but the fear normally passes once I start to fear something else. The reason why it’s more of a problem now than before is because I decided look up the symptoms and it has freaked me out
When my fear is focused on something else, I can think I saw something that isn’t there and think “am I a schizophrenic?” And I say no immediately but because I’m fearing this more than my other fears I question myself
Now that I have looked up the symptoms for schizophrenia I keep thinking I have them and that anxiety or ocd is not an option anymore, it just feels so real, I’ve always feared losing control and going crazy, I’d rather not be here anymore than be a burden on my family and friends and that way I know that they will be safe from me if I do lose it
I can’t remember the last time I felt normal, 7 months ago I was living life to the fullest, 6 months ago was the beginning of the hell, I just want to be happy and normal again
The fear of having schizophrenia or another severe mental illness is very common in OCD. And you are correct – the reason your fears have spiked is because you did a compulsion when you looked up symptoms of schizophrenia.
Keep in mind that, just because you have a thought about having schizophrenia doesn’t mean that you actually have it. I encourage you to read our article on Thought Action Fusion which addresses the problem of overvaluing thoughts in OCD.
Your job is to accept that your brain produces certain thoughts (i.e., “OMG, what if I have schizophrenia”) without taking those thoughts seriously. They are just thoughts.
Thanks for the feedback, it does feel better to know that this is all a part of OCD. It’s hard because this fear of getting schizophrenia isn’t talked about much anywhere else.
The symptoms I read about it and started to fear never bothered me beforehand (fear of people being robots and thinking people are staring at you are symptoms, really weird), only that I knew they were a symptom I started to think irrationally, and I know whenever I think them they aren’t true and im not even scared of them, I’m more scared of turning schizophrenic and and believing them, thinking the thoughts as rational instead of irrational. Knowing that because I know the thoughts are irrational is what is calming me down, hopefully I can one day go back to my old self and think of schizophrenia, harm thoughts and other things and not have them bother me
I also read that males gets schizophrenia between late teens to 24, I don’t really want to be scared of something I have apparently a 1% of getting :/
I think I’ve always, since I was a kid, had kinda ‘weird’ thoughts that came from nowhere, including ones that were distressing (like when my younger brother was little, I would fear that if I jumped off a couch or something I would land on his head and it would explode everywhere, or with my cat, that I would accidentally slam the door on it and cut it in half or cut its head off or break its spine.) That was a long time ago, but I don’t think they ever went away (just changed.) I’ve found recently that they’ve been worse than they were, (though about different things, though there are some consistencies, like recently I saw in a tv show, someone’s head was crushed in in the same way I would imagine when I was a kid, and I found the image from the show replaying in my head unwantedly and the feeling like I would accidentally crush someones head or my head would be crushed.) Those generally seem more… “textbook” I guess, but a lot of the thoughts have been not so much, and because I haven’t seen anything talking about thoughts like it I end up doubting that it could have anything to do with OCD or be actual intrusive thoughts? The thoughts are mostly of putting painful things in my eyes. IE, there’s hotsauce near me, and I get images/thoughts of putting it in my eyes, or I want to take off nailpolish and get thoughts of pouring nailpolish remover in my eyes. I kind of literally get an image of it happening in my mind (including how much it would hurt.) Sorry if this is rambling or not making a lot of sense, I’m not really sure how to put this into words. I don’t really ever talk about this because I feel like people will think I’m “crazy” or will tell me I’m making it up.
Your comment is not rambling, it makes perfect sense, and you aren’t crazy. That said, it is worth pointing out that all people have “weird thoughts“. It’s the price of admission for having a functional brain. There is nothing particularly unusual about your unwanted thoughts about putting painful things your eyes. People can obsess about anything, and those with OCD tend to obsess about things that they would not like (i.e., painful things in your eyes).
Hi I’m hoping someone can help me. I’ve picked up your Mindfulness Workbook for OCD. I quote the book says,”an obsession is an unwanted intrusive thought,this type of thought may present itself as an idea, image, impulse,urge etc….. The word that worried me were impulse and urge. Now from my understanding an impulse or urge is a desire or wish to do something. So I suffer from ocd; fear of hurting someone,I have had unwanted thoughts and images but never urges. That word scares me what exactly does urge mean in ocd language. To me it sounds like a strong desire to act but I thought having ocd was an egodystonic condition meaning no desire to act. I’m sorry but it caused me to panic and sit on my hand for like 10 minutes. I would hide my knives for fear of being triggered into anxiety. I mean the word urge sounds scary because for example if someone has an urge to go to the bathroom they will act on their thought and go to the bathroom, So if you say but the urge is unwanted; how can someone have an unwanted want? Hope I make some sense.
Thank you for your comment and for getting the book. I hope it is helping you to better manage your OCD.
I think you are getting too caught up in (i.e., obsessing about) the difference between the word “thought” and the word “urge”. Some people conceptualize the unwanted experience as a “thought”, while others think of it as an “urge”. We have treated many people with Harm OCD who describe unwanted “urges” to harm people, and none of them have ever harmed anyone. Your suggestion that an urge is, by definition, something that is “wanted” is simply not accurate. Ultimately many of those with Harm OCD have the unwanted “thought” that they may have an “urge” to harm someone.
Aside from this splitting of hairs, the real issue here is the compulsions you are doing in an effort to quell your fears. In the long-run, hiding your knives and sitting on your hands will only make your OCD worse. Whether it is conceptualized/experienced as a thought or an urge, or a feeling or whatever, your better option is to allow for the discomfort, and to not perform any avoidant or compulsive behaviors related to that discomfort.
Dear OCD Centre of Los Angeles,
There are several questions regarding Harm OCD which I have not been able to grasp:
I understand that Exposure and Response Prevention is used to habituate an individual’s mindset to the unwanted harmful thought. Nonetheless, there are infinite methods in which someone can be harmed, and infinte methods in which the mind of a Pure-O sufferer could conjure up. In that case, how can ERP be effective as a treatment?
You are correct – there are infinite thoughts that people with OCD (and everybody else on the planet) can have, and there are infinite ways in which someone can be harmed. The goal of ERP is not to get to a point where a person never again has an uncomfortable thought or to obliterate harm in the universe. The goal is to learn how to better manage and respond to unwanted thoughts so that they don’t negatively impact one’s life. It is effective because it provides not just relief from the anxiety induced by current thoughts, but also because it teaches concrete tools for more effectively responding to the infinite unwanted thoughts that may potentially be experienced in the future. It’s not like you beat OCD once and you’re done. You have to keep fighting it precisely because there are an infinite number of potentially disturbing thoughts one might have, and ERP is the most effective way to do so.
Is feeling like you MIGHT have done something but don’t remember doing it a characteristic of Harm OCD. I had certain thoughts that I did something and I try and rack my brain to remember and I don’t remember anything but I still have all these *thoughts* that I might have done something, but no urges or however you might call it.
Yes, feeling that you might have done something wrong or bad is quite common in Harm OCD. I encourage ou to accept these thoughts and to resist the temptation to rack your brain for evidence that you have or have not done anything. Embrace uncertainty.
I am working on mindfulness and I realize that some of the time I am trying to supress and control my thoughts. I started this few weeks ago, I have Pure-O for years and I am understanding more and more how I have reacted to my thoughts as I if they were something true about me. I now feel that my anxiety is very much rising while I am doing this, not trying to explain the thoughts away etc, but my my thoughts are keeping more active. Could you give me tips?
Thanks for your comment. Keep in mind that the goal of mindfulness is not to rid one’s self of anxiety (that would be impossible), but rather to become more accepting of whatever thoughts and feelings come up (including anxiety). I am not surprised that your anxiety has increased in the short term as you no longer try to compulsively explain your thoughts away. I encourage you to continue letting the thoughts exist without trying to explain them away, and to accept the existence of the anxiety that comes with them. This may be uncomfortable at first, but if you truly accept the presence of unwanted thoughts, they will essentially become unimportant background noise in your head. I also encourage you to read our article on mindfulness for Harm OCD.
hello, i am only 15 years old and i believe I suffer from OCD as a whole. In summer 2014, I had many fears and obsessed over them until another one came along. My first one was the fear of being pregnant simply because I used my brothers used towel by accident after getting out of the shower. I searched online for hours seeing if that was even possible. The fear only stopped once I got my period of course. My second fear was having brain cancer because I had a headache. I, again, searched online many times to check symptoms of brain cancer. I made my mom check my head for lumps several times until the headaches went away. Another time I got scratched by a cat and got scared I would get cat scratch fever. Again, I searched and searched online for answers to see if it was possible. When texting my friends, I felt like I had to hold myself back from using the cat emojis because if I did then I would get infected (i know that sounds crazy, but it made sense at the time.) And then I had a fear of having a blood clot because of my legs feeling all tingly and such. I researched online for symptoms and was so scared that I could die.
Then, in august 2014, I developed HOCD (I believe) and I searched online every day for hours trying to make myself feel calm and that this is all in my head. I had all the symptoms of HOCD and I even tried to accept myself as bisexual and asexual yet my mind wouldn’t let me. I got used to the thoughts however and didn’t have anxiety from them anymore, which freaked me out, and all this went on up until this month.
For the past month ive been binge watching criminal minds simply because I enjoy the show and I enjoy watching shows like that. Then I found this other show where they interview murderers, out of curiosity I started watching it. I then had a thought saying “If my mom walked in the room she’d think I was a killer for watching this.” And ever since then my mind has been telling me that im a killer. It makes no sense to me because all my HOCD thoughts completely vanished once that thought came along. I am aware of harm ocd but I just can’t accept it in my head for some reason. When that thought first happened that im a killer, I got a heat flash and I started sweating and shaking, heart rate increased, I even felt like puking. I got light headed and just felt like crying. My whole entire i have never had one thought of actually hurting someone. I hid the scissors in my room to avoid thoughts of killing my mom.
I am crying as I type this because I just can’t believe that Im having thoughts like this, I never thought it would come to this. I love my mom very much but my mind is telling that I don’t and that I want to kill her, which I don’t, but making me wonder how I can be so sure. This is all so overwhelming to me because I still live with her so I see her all the time and im so scared that one day I’ll actually do something. I know I don’t want to but my brain is telling me I want to. I just feel insane and I avoid talking to her now because I feel guility that she doesn’t know what im thinking. But I don’t want her to be afraid of me. I just wish I never watched that tv show, none of these thoughts would have happened. Please help me.
Thanks for commenting. What you are experiencing is actually quite common in OCD. For many, the content of their obsessions changes periodically, morphing from one concern to the next. From what you write this is exactly what you have experienced as your concerns moved from health, to sexual orientation, to whether or not you are a killer. All of these are common OCD themes.
The best response to these thoughts is to accept that you have them, without taking them seriously. In other words, your perspective towards these unwanted thoughts is crucial. If you assume your thoughts mean something about your true values and intentions, then you will forever be at the mercy of whatever thoughts pop into your mind. As an alternative, I suggest you see these thoughts as being unimportant ideas that pop into your head. Additionally, it is important that you not try to control them or avoid them – hiding the scissors is an avoidant behavior that will simply amplify the importance of these otherwise meaningless thoughts.
I have very bad anxiety, i have panic attacks whenever i go out. One night while watching a crime TV show, the commentator made a comment about how a man just went up and shot his wife because he was tired of her. and i got a vision in my head of "what if i killed my little brother" i shook it off and went to bed as per normal. the next night while watching another episode i went to bed and thought what if i killed someone right now?" and i told myself "nah im too lazy to" and that thought scared me, i thought about it for a week and while watching the tv show on a 16 year old that killed a boy, I had a panic attack. i threw up everything i had in my stomach. i thought about it for a few more days. it plagued my thoughts. I’d look at someone and think "i bet they have never thought about killing someone." i worried about "what if one day i find it acceptable to kill some one?" i decided id kill myself if i ever thought it ok to take someones life. i go through phases where id think "im bored of life". i dont want to have a boring life.. i go through moods where i think "its just a thought, i make my own decisions" and i reach calm and tell myself that there is no reason as to why i would kill someone (I’m not a violent person, i adore my brothers and sisters) then i get back into a panic and think "maybe i want this thought, maybe i want to kill someone". and then i feel numb and think "im too lazy to kill someone". i also go through phases where i honestly want to kill someone. i think of how average my life is and how i don’t want to have a normal life. then after i reach calm i realise i do want a normal life. also i like the thought of prison. i started thinking like what makes someone a psycho, i feel as if i have no emotion and that makes the thoughts worse, and then i was watching a sad movie and i didn’t cry and it made me scared that maybe im turning in psycho. it sounds ridiculous but i cant stop thinking about it, sometimes i don’t want to stop thinking about it, and that scares me even more, but today on the bus i made myself think about it, and while watching the news I thought “i want to kill some” and the thought didnt scare me and i think that scares me the most.
Everything you write sounds very much like Harm OCD. Also, it is quite common for people with Harm OCD to reach a point where they become concerned that they are not upset by their harm obsessions. This is called a “backdoor spike”.
It sounds like, in addition to OCD, you may have Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. It is not unusual for people with OCD to experience a broad swath of anxiety symptoms, including Agoraphobia.
I encourage you to seek help with a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD and anxiety disorders. This treatment approach has repeatedly been found by researchers to be the most effective therapy for most anxiety conditions, including OCD, Panic Disorder, and Agoraphobia.
Thank you so much for your articles on this, I broke down crying when I first read them because for quite a while I thought I was going crazy or that I am a psychopath or pedophile or that I could kill someone. I am especially anxious that I will hurt my little brother who is only 6, it terrifies me, he’s so tiny and I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt him, I love him too much, and it’s so draining to have these thoughts going round constantly.
It’s really great to know I’m not alone in this and it helped me to tell my mum (I’m 16!) about it. I was worried she would think I was insane, so I didn’t tell her how distressing these thoughts are until I read this article, but she has been amazing and has been really trying to help me through it.
I always want to google symptoms for different disorders, such as psychopathy, sociopathy and schizophrenia but it makes me more anxious that I have them, but when I try not to obsessively google I feel anxious that I must be in denial and that I need to look at the symptoms or take a quiz to reassure myself that I don’t have whatever it is I’m searching for(which just starts the cycle again.)
Is it best to give into the need to reassure myself that way, or should I continue to try to fight it, or is there a better solution all together?
I am glad to hear that our articles have been helpful for you. And it is wonderful to hear that your mum has been supportive. So often, kids and teens are afraid to tell their parents about their OCD symptoms, and it is great to hear that you have been able to turn to your family for help.
It is quite common for people with Harm OCD to think that they don’t really have OCD, that they are “in denial”, and that they subconsciously want to harm people. I encourage you to read our article on the denial obsession in OCD, which directly addresses this issue.
I also strongly encourage you to NOT seek reassurance online. As you have learned, when you compulsively seek reassurance via Google about mental health conditions, you ultimately make your symptoms worse. The best solution is to remind your self that you have OCD, that your concerns are a standard part of OCD, and to not give into the urge to check out symptoms of various conditions.
First of all, excuse me my english I am not native speaker. I am 30 old and I experienced first violent thoughts just two weeks ago. I got very bad anxiety. I thought that I am becoming crazy. My thoughts were about my girlfriend who I love so much. Reading this article helped me understand what is my problem, but I still didnt find peace. When Im with here I dont have these thoughts, but Im worried all the time that I will. When Im alone, whenever I think about her words like “I will kill her” pop in my mind and I get anxious. I understand that this is probably because I suffer from OCD, but still it ruins my life. I consider myself non violent person and I dont understand why I have to go through this. Im worried if I can manage to stay in reatioship with her while having thoughts like this. Im visiting psychiatrist an I hope I will get through this without losing her. Thank you one more time for great article. I read it already few times. I wish all poeple with same problem to win over it. I will, I have to 🙂
You are not “crazy” – you have OCD, which means unwanted thoughts are going to pop into your mind, and you are unfortunately going to take them too seriously. That is the nature of OCD. I encourage you to accept the presence of these thoughts without taking them seriously. Our brains create all sorts of thoughts, and if we believed all of them, we really would get crazy. These are just thoughts.
I have a question. Does anyone with harm OCD ever start to feel like they enjoy the thought? Like they want to smile about something bad they might do although that feeling disgusts them and scares them making them feel like they might actually harm the people they love? Please help? I feel like it’s an automatic reaction to a bed thought or even seeing something bad happen in the news. Like I don’t care about those people enough. Like I think it’s funny. I’m so sick of it, it makes me want to go away.
Yes, it is quite common for those with Harm OCD to be concerned that they actually enjoy their unwanted harm thoughts. Most OCD thoughts can be easily conceptualized as “what if…” thoughts, and in the scenario you are describing, the person’s fear would be something like “what if I am such a sick, depraved person that I actually like these thoughts?”. The fact that you are horrified by the possibility that you could actually enjoy your harm thoughts is pretty good evidence that you have Harm OCD.
I try not to rack my brain thinking if I have done something, but it’s hard because I make up this whole scenario that the police are after me or even my friends or family are sort of trying to “trap” me into confessing something. I analyze every single thing they say and if they compliment me or are nice to me, I feel like it’s a ruse. It’s literally driving me crazy because I don’t feel relief when people are nice OR not so nice to me. If my friends and family don’t answer the phone or a text right away, I feel immediately sure that they’re angry with me or avoiding me because they’ve realized I’m a horrible person.
Hi OCDLA, I haven’t been diagnosed with OCD as of yet but I have been diagnosed with anxiety and my Therapist says I do share OCD traits. He has me using a form of CBT with some thought replacement and challenging, as well as mindfullness as I told him it helps me. I know everyone has different types of thoughts, but mine began with suicidal thoughts, briefly changed to pedo thoughts, and now to harm of my mother and others. Specifically killing. These can be images or violent scenarios. All of which make me upset, I clinch my teeth get irritated or cry. This has been going on as a whole for 8+ months now.
I think the most disturbing is how natural the thought process is itself, it is very automatic even feels like I’m the one producing the thoughts. I almost worry that It’s just a habit I created, why? Who freaking knows? But I never really know if they are “intrusive” because it feels as if there is some level of control at least in how I respond or if I continue. It’s like a real shitty douche bag version of myself is in there thinking of all kinds of messed up things to do or say. Its not very many what ifs thoughts, though they do come about eventually in the form of “what if I am this monster in my head” the most recurring pattern is more of a natural response, examples such as : my mom is coughing and I think “good she’ll die now” or she’ll be laughing and I’ll think of “she won’t be laughing when I kill her” or I’ll wake up already dreading the thoughts and I know if I have to get out of bed so then its like “time to get up and kill mom” almost as if these thoughts are the task at hand and unless completed they’ll just continue. And this goes on and gets worst and worst I don’t want to trigger anybodys OCD so I’ll stop with the examples. But I just don’t see how anxiety or OCD could cause all this.
Its so confusing I can quiet my mind for good periods of time and feel especially good after therapy (maybe the reassurance) but eventually hours, days, or weeks after….it comes back my mind searches to see if the obsession is still there, is the urge there, and do I like it? It’s like some sick part of me goes back everytime and theres no uses in arguing with the thoughts because it most assuredly has plenty of rebuttals as to “why” I want to act in such a horrific manner. This can really send me into a whirlwind of emotions if I let it, I start to think im a schizo, or maybe I should be diagnosed with something harsher. I start to believe it, I walk around calling myself crazy and refuting whatever my Dr. Says, I research and research and start believing there is much more wrong than me and just run with it. As if it’s not bad enough that I have OCD or anxiety. I just don’t understand how this can all be, without something seriously wrong with me, I have a great amount of shame and guilt becasue of all this and that should let me KNOW that hey I’m not into these thoughts, but then I think “hey in general you’ve kind of been a douche bag throughout life, maybe this is the real you, some murderous evil person” and I don’t want to Believe that. …..
anyways thanks for the time, I guess I’m just looking for more reassurance, and hoping I’m not some monster that is better of dead or locked away…I really wonder if anyone out there thinks like this and they aren’t some “sicko” with something terribly wrong, as I view myself so often.
While I don’t want to provide you reassurance, I can say that everything you describe sounds like textbook Harm OCD. The most effective treatment for all forms of OCD, including Harm OCD, is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), If your therapist is focusing on “thought replacement” instead of ERP, then there is a good chance that he has no idea what he is doing. If that is the case, I strongly encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in treatment for OCD.
It appears that I’m not afraid of being a killer anymore, But still have the thoughts and urges. I keep searching for things that help me re-assure myself that I’m not a murderer, but i cant find any… what if one day I stop looking? What if I am a killer? I remember when I was a kid, growing up on a farm I wanted a gun licence, I don’t know why, but I did. Maybe I am a killer… I’m no longer afraid of listening to the news about murders… in actual fact they interest me, this kind of concerns me. I want to be afraid of these thoughts and even as I type this now I’m having a thought saying “maybe you do actually want this”. I was able to re-assure myself and now I’m not, my mother has always been obsessed with true crime shows, and I always watched them with her, so how do I know that deep down this isn’t what I actually want? The thought of killing someone no longer scares me, I sometimes have thoughts of “what’s so bad about killing someone” when last year when watching true crime, when they were giving the sentence I always wished they’d be given death penalty because no one has the right to take someone’s life, it makes me question if I really believe that… I want to want to get better, but sometimes it feels like a want to have them… I look at someone and think “bet they haven’t thought about this” and then I get the image and the urge. I feel evil. I feel like I belong in those Tv shows were they are showing the lead up. The other day my sister and I were joking and I put my hands on her shoulder and got the urge to strangle her what if I did. I was so close to her. This time last year I wanted nothing more than to grow up and start a family. Now I want nothing. I don’t even know if I want to get better. I sometimes get the urge to do weird things like draw pictures of a dead person or look up dead people. (I think that’s because when I first started having these thoughts I looked up Harm OCD and this man said it had gotten to the point we he was drawing pictures). I never do these things but, I always think them. What if I do them and start planning a murder. Sometimes when I get these thoughts I pray and say a sentence or two and that relieves me, but what if I only do that because it’s expected of me? I know its ridiculous and I forced myself to start doing it after the thoughts came because they temporally relive me. It’s not even urges a lot, it’s just thoughts of “maybe I want to be a killer” or “why do I need to learn this, I’ll be in jail soon anyway” or I think about what id tell if I went to a therapist (my mother won’t let me go to one, I already pleaded with her). Any possibility this could be more than OCD?
Your comment suggests textbook Harm OCD. Seeking reassurance will not help in the long run, but rather will make your symptoms worse.
Not being afraid of the news doesn’t make you a killer. It makes you someone who is interested in the news, including crime stories. I read crime fiction pretty much every day, and I have yet to kill anyone. I just like reading about cops, detectives, and criminals.
The fact that your mother won’t let you go to a therapist tells me that she doesn’t understand OCD or how much you are suffering. If you’re over the age of 18, you don’t need her permission. If you are under the age of 18, I encourage you to show her our series of articles on Harm OCD, starting with this one.
I just want to say that articles about OCD that I read here are amazing and really helped me alot, so thank you so much for it. I am very new to this so I have big fears and many questions ￼.
So basically, I just have moved permanently to UK 3 months ago ( moved in with my fiancee that I love most in the world, i’m 21 ). I have never been anxious or depresses but month and a half ago everything stumbled down on me. I started having a head pressure that lead me to extreme fear of having a brain tumor and was experiencing panic attacks ( I was going to my doctor who said it was anxiety and sent me to ct scan to prove me everything is ok).
Ct was thanks God clear and I had peace for 3 days until I stumbled onto a picture wich triggered my current opssesion. Basically I started being scared of what if i’m dangerous for others? Or what if I could hurt someone? I know I couldn’t….I never hurt anyone, neither I want to….I couldn’t kill a fly…now I am very scared of what if I hurt my fiancee who I love the most….This intrusive toughts and pictures bother me so much and make me feel so scared and paralysed around him and our everyday life (i’m scared of stabbing him with knife or whatever sharp object :() ￼.
I talked to psychologist who said it definetly sounds like pure O ,that has been brought up but living location change. Sometimes I am really scared of what if I go crazy and become killer or something like that. I am just so scared…. my brother ( 6 years younger than me)has been having mild version of ocd (touching stuff) from when he was a child but I never experienced it till now. Also sometimes i fear of what if i hurt myself cause i read so many stories of ocders that do that).I’m waiting for cbt treatment now and just trying to cope with this and control it.
Is there hope to cure this somehow widouth meds ( I don’t want to go on meds at the moment- my psychologist said she doesn’t think I need it). Also could this maybe just be brought up by shock of moving to a new country and new life( I don’t have any friends here jet,don’t work at the moment and spend alot of time alone cause fiancee works alot). Could it dissappear forever when I get used to new life? Is it possible for this to progress in something worse? 🙁 I would really appreciate your advice…Thank you once again
Thanks for commenting. I’m glad to hear our articles are helpful for you.
Everything you have written sounds like straightforward Harm OCD. And it is not surprising to hear that your brother also has OCD, as studies have found that family members of those with OCD have a higher probability of also having OCD themselves.
I encourage you to follow through with your plan to start CBT, s it is the most effective treatment for OCD. If you decide to augment your CBT with medication that would likely be fine as well, as studies have shown the combination of CBT and meds to be very effective. I suggest you discuss medication with your physician if/when you want to start it. Take care.
This article has made me feel much better but i’m just wondering, will i ever be normal again? I have read quite abit about harm ocd and i see that the cbt treatment is the best answer, i’ve thought lots about going to my doctor but i constantly think that if i go he’s going to say i’m just crazy!
I love my partner so much but the thoughts i get scare me so much e.g. stabbing him, killing him…, everytime these thoughts pop in my head i have a panic attack and get quite upset. Also we have just got a new flat but i have avoided staying there now because when i first got one of these thoughts i was at that flat so i’m afraid its going to make me worse by staying there.
When i have to use a knife whilst cooking or something my heart sinks and i dont like my partner been around me incase i hurt him or if there’s a knife in my site i have to get it and move it somwhere else straight away or i’ll get scared incase the thoughts come and i act on them although i would never ever hurt anyone its just not in my nature so i dont understand why this is happening to me. I used to love horror films too but now i avoid watching anything with death or murder in, even if its a cartoon film with fighting in i can’t watch it or i just panic and leave the room until its off the tv.
Sorry for the long message but 1 more thing is my partner wants to start trying for kids soon, i really want children myself but i’m just too scared incase i get bad thoughts about him/her too. When we were on about starting a family the bad thoughts came straight away e.g. (if someone see’s me changing my babys nappy they would think i’m a pervert)… I know it sounds stupid but thats what came straight into my head 🙁 please give me some advice thank you!
Everything you write sounds like textbook Harm OCD. Don’t waste time trying to figure out why you are getting stuck on these unwanted thoughts. That is the OCD at work.
Not staying in your new home, not watching scary movies, not using knives around your partner, and not having a baby, are all examples of avoidance behaviors that will not provide long-term relief. In fact, avoidance will make things worse.
It is extremely common for people with Harm OCD to also avoid treatment because they fear their therapist will think they are “crazy” and have them locked up. I encourage youth seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Take care.
Thank you so much for this article. Realising that my son has OCD, I still could not find a description that really matched what he told me until now. This clarifies it perfectly, extremely helpful.
Thanks for commenting. It’s great to hear that our article has been helpful for you. I encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for OCD. Take care.
First, thank you for creating this website. To say the site has been a tremendous help to me is an understatement.
Im a bit of rambler but I will try to make this message as succinct as possible.
I started having intrusive thoughts Sept 2013 when I change jobs and abruptly stopped taking my prescribed 40mgs of citalopram.
The intrusive thoughts were first geared towards the need/want to kill my dog Spyder – the intrusive thoughts then turned to my other dog, Miriam.
The intrusive thoughts re Miriam have yet to go. They are with me day in and day out almost every second of the day. Needless to say the thoughts bring me great distress
and a whole lot of anxiety, which is affecting every aspect of my life.
I have not acted on these thoughts, as I love my dogs very much. I am very concerned that I am going to snap and bye-bye dogs…god, just writing that puts me into tears.
Im wondering if the antidepressant citalopram caused my brain chemistry to wack out?
I was on citalopram for 4 yrs and it was a wonder drug…the intrusive thoughts came when I abruptly stopped taking it, which coincided with the new job.
The thoughts freaked me out so I went back on citalopram and the thoughts didn’t stop. At times, they made the thoughts even worse, which was odd because
I never had those types of thoughts for the first 4 yrs I was on the drug.
Since citalopram wasn’t helping I tapered off of the drug and am citalopram free as of Oct 2014 – yet I still have the intrusive thoughts.
Im at a loss at this point.
Ive always been an aficionado of horror movies and Ive never, never had these kinds of thoughts watching horror movies day in and day out. As a side note, sometimes
watching horror movies takes the thoughts away. However, if I watch anything related to true crime – even something as formulaic as 48-hrs mystery – it sets my anxiety off
and the thoughts just go and go and go.
There is nothing particularly novel or meaningful about having thoughts of killing your dog. Humans frequently have thoughts of killing animals and other people. Your job is to accept that your brain is producing some unexpected an unwanted thoughts about killing your dog without analyzing these thoughts, and without trying to neutralize them.
Also, for what it’s worth, if you watch a lot of horror movies and true crime shows, it’s doesn’t seem very surprising that your brain comes up with unwanted violent thoughts. If you watched a lot of cooking shows, you’d probably come up with thoughts about cooking. I’m not suggesting that you watch cooking shows in an effort to control your thoughts, but merely suggesting that the content of the tv shows and movies you watch impact what type of thoughts arise in your mind.
As for citalopram, I encourage you to discuss your concerns with a psychiatrist or whomever prescribed the drug for you.
Firstly, thanks for these very informative articles! I recently started experiencing OCD (about two months ago). I’ve just turned 17. At first the worrying thoughts were minor but progressed to fear of jumping/falling or pushing someone off the subway platform, then to fear of hurting family members/pets. At first, most of my thoughts started with “what if I-,” but morphed into “I could-” or “I want to-“. Is this OCD?! I keep having disturbing thoughts that start this way now. I used a technique I read about, repeating the thought until it no longer becomes alarming. But now i’ve had these thoughts/urges and I don’t feel that alarmed about them… but I feel like I should, because they involve thinking that I “want” something terrible to happen to my family, or that I “want” to kill my dog! I don’t know why I would think this! I am afraid I am becoming a sociopath, or I that I enjoy the thoughts, because I keep feeling these urges/thoughts but they don’t bother me like they used to. I keep analyzing my reactions to my thoughts. This is distressing because I would never do anything to hurt my family. I can’t even watch movies with lots of violence! Is this the OCD? THanks
Thanks for your comment.
Everything you write sounds like Harm OCD. There is no real difference between thoughts that begin with “what if…” and those that begin with “I could…” or “I want to…”. In all of these cases, the person with Harm OCD is tormented by uncertainty about the possibility of doing something that they find abhorrent.
It is also quite common for people to become upset if they think they are no longer alarmed by their unwanted thoughts. This is sometimes described as a “backdoor spike”.
Analyzing your response to your thoughts and feelings is a compulsion that will only make your obsessions worse. Your goal is to accept that your brain, like everybody else’s brain, produces some unwanted thoughts, and to not respond to these thoughts with over-analysis (or any other compulsive behaviors). Just let the thoughts sit there in your head unanalyzed and unanswered. They are unimportant and do not merit your attention.
hi im suffering from a fear that i may look at other people’s private parts and that others notice it . my problem is whether this is an ocd or psycosis.if it is only a obsessive fear how can others notice it? I DONT LOOK at those areas directly. but my attention goes to those areas an make me anxcious.
There is nothing in your comment that suggests psychosis. We often treat people who fear that they are looking at other people’s private parts, and they often worry that others can notice that they are doing this. Your fear that others notice this is not psychotic, as it is directly related to your fear that you may actually be looking at others’ private parts. This type of thought is no different from any other kind of OCD thought. In other words, it is just mental noise and deserves no attention.
I love animals and have 2 cats and a dog and am terribly protective of them. I worry constantly about my animals that have passed away – that they are ok and know that they are loved. I have terrible thoughts that I say terrible things to them about my family who loved them just as much as me. It makes me feel horrible and evil and I worry that they will think these thoughts are true. I have a lot of trouble driving and suddenly have thoughts that I ran over a cat on purpose. I feel like a part of me is evil and wants to do horrible things like that and that I do do them. I work in a bookshop and have to receive in stock which means cutting open the boxes with a Stanley knife. I was just doing this before and was about to put down the knife when I had the urge to lunge and stab at something. I am scared that I stabbed a cat even though it is unlikely that a cat would even be in a bookshop. I keep looking at the knife to see if there is any blood and telling myself it is OCD. But I keep thinking I see a little injured cat running around out of the corner of my eye. It terrifies me that I could be capable of doing something like that.
This is essentially the same comment you posted three weeks ago on our article Harm OCD Treatment with ERP. Our answer is the sams as the one we provided you there.
Keep in mind that, for some, reading articles about Harm OCD and submitting questions can become a compulsion. Rather than seeking reassurance via blog comments, I encourage you to tolerate the discomfort without seeking relief via compulsions.
After struggling with OCD for some time, the intrusive thoughts suddenly developed into feelings – impulses and urges to act on what I was thinking. The feelings – not the thoughts – became the most frightening part of my OCD, because everything seemed more dangerous now that my worries about becoming a killer weren’t just based on thoughts. As the time passed, I got really afraid of all sorts of “good feelings” related to murder and other horrible images. Even feelings that I had felt before, but hadn’t payed attention to because I didn’t think they were important (i.e. liking some parts of horror movies or stories about killers), became unwanted and frightening. Sometimes I thought about how it would be like to kill someone, and felt that I to some degree liked certain aspects of the images. I spend a lot of time being ashamed and trying to analyse the feelings, coming up with logical reasons as to why I feel these things. I know that my OCD has caused a lot of them, but I also know that the feelings aren’t “fake”. I actually have come to like some parts of the thoughts and know that they aren’t just caused by fear alone. This terrifies me. What if accepting them is dangerous?
It is very common for people with Harm OCD to obsess about whether they have come to “like” or “enjoy” their harming thoughts, or to be obsessed with the fear that they are not despising the thoughts enough. Nothing in your comment suggests that you “like” these thoughts – in fact, if you liked them you wouldn’t be writing comments about how terrified you are that you like them.
Additionally, it is fruitless to separate “thoughts” from “feelings” or “impulses” or “urges”. They are all personal internal experiences delivered by your OCD. From an OCD perspective, there is no real difference between them (though your OCD will try to convince you otherwise).
Your goal is to accept that your brain comes up with all sorts of thoughts/feelings/impulses/urges about harm, and to not take any of them seriously. They are all cognitive garbage, and any analysis you do of them is a compulsion that will only make them worse.
Finally, it is important to note that there is no harm that comes from accepting the existence of a thought/feeling/impulse/urge. Right this very moment I am accepting the presence of the thought “I want to kill the pope”. It is just a thought that deserves no attention. The only difference between my thought and yours is that you are assuming that the presence of the thought indicates that it is meaningful and indicative of your intent. But there is no evidence whatsoever to support that you are actually interested in hurting anyone. In fact, writing a comment to express how horrified you are by these thoughts and feelings is a pretty good indicator that you do not intend to cause harm.
I struggle with harm ocd since 5 years with ups and downs but don’t seem to find a way out of this one:
2 Years ago I found myself on holiday at a beach abroad and when leaving, thoughts intruded me of having snapped a child’s neck (accompanied with false memories). I still feel uncomfortable even whilst writing this down. Of course this is something that I never would want to do, as I’m in no way a violent person. It’s the worst thing that could happen to me as a human being.
By reading a lot of books and articles about harm ocd, I understand that its already a bridge too far even considering the possibility of doing such a thing. Letting it pass by is the best way to deal with it and I train this. Nevertheless, since this particular situation it seems like I’m living in autopilot-mode. I am no longer able to enjoy pleasurable moments and get energy out of small things, which I could before. It’s a lot of guilt I feel and I’m not able to let it go. It’s clear to me that I punish myself by blocking happy feelings. Although I know that going back to ask for reassurance is not the right way, it just seems like the only solution after 2 years to unblock my head and live fully again.
I think it is quite natural to be uncomfortable in response to thoughts about harming a child. This is evidence that you have a healthy moral center. But trying to just let the thoughts pass is clearly not working for you, and seeking reassurance is the absolute wrong thing to do if you want to better manage these thoughts.
I recommend that you read our article on reassurance seeking in OCD to get an idea of how to better respond to unwanted harm thoughts. I also encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in ERP for the treatment of Harm OCD.
Hello. So…I was diagnosed by a psychotherapist with OCD tendencies…he says I don’t have OCD, just some obsesive tendencies. What bothers me the most are my intrusive thoughts. I am afraid that I might hurt my parents, or animals and so on. I respect the human life (I want to become a doctor), I also love kids and animals…and still I have this thoughts. I am afraid that one day I might actually do harm, or that one day I might feel the need to do harm…it’s so scary. My therapist told me that these thoughts are just thoughts…that they don’t represent the reality and I agree…I really do understand and accept that these are just some chemical events happening in my brain and nothing else, yet…they still scare me. What I want to ask/know…what should I actually do when I have a intrusive thought? My therapist said that I should ignore the thought if I can (it’s actually a good sign if I can do it), or that I should think logical and say consciously to myself that it’s only just a thought and nothing else…so that along the time, I will come to not be afraid by it anymore. Is it a good method? Am I on the right path? Thank you very much!
Your therapist is correct that these thoughts are just thoughts. But if the thoughts are consuming a significant amount of your time and psychological energy, then I would suggest that they are a symptom of OCD and should be treated as such. There is no reason to avoid the label.
The two strategies you noted are both quite effective in managing OCD, and I encourage you to use both. Ignore the thoughts when you can and get on with your day. And when you cannot ignore them, challenge their legitimacy and accuracy by noting that they are just thoughts. If your symptoms continue to be problematic, then you would be best served by having a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focused on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
It’s so great to come across this article. It gives me more idea what is going on.
I suffer from obsessive thoughts that I may do something bad, and wouldn’t even know or realise my act of doing it because I am in deep thought or my mind wanders off. It all started with driving in the first place. I was worried that I may have hit someone I don’t even know because I am in deep thought while driving.
Now it is in regards to everything. I think to myself I can put something bad into somebody’s food without realising or knowing because I am in deep thought. Or I can walk up to the top of a building or push somebody on the road or walk in front of a fast moving car without even knowing and realising my doings because I am in deep thoughts or my mind wanders off . Then I fight with it in my head. I wouldn’t do all these dangerous things and would realise my acts even though I am in very deep thought. I am having lots of stress and anxiety because of this and been off work for 3 weeks.
I really hope you can give me some advice.
Thanks so much.
Everything you write sounds like textbook Harm OCD. My advice is simple – get into treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating Harm OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
I was diagnosed with Postpartum OCD five years ago after the birth of my daughter. I was able to successfully treat it through medicine, CBT, and ERP. However, it has morphed into Harm OCD. Parenting is exhausting enough and adding OCD fears/exposure techniques to that is even more tiring. My problem now is that one of my biggest fears is having my daughters grow up without me. My OCD brain has been filled with terrifying thoughts of killing myself because living with OCD is hard or swerving in front of a semi when driving with the kids in the car. Most of the time, these thoughts happen when I try to nap or go to bed at night. I continue to drive since I know avoiding driving will only make these fears worse. When I actually drive my anxiety is much lower because I know the thoughts don’t mean anything. I guess my question is, can I do some kind of ERP to reduce the anxiety about killing myself? Is there a safe way to imagine or think about these thoughts that will help my brain get bored of freaking me out? I am tired of having my sleep interrupted and I am tired of feeling like I have to throw up from the terrible thoughts. I do not want to die!!
Fears of self harm are extremely common in Harm OCD. The good news is that you have had success with CBT / ERP in the past.
That said, I am confused about something – you appear not to know about imaginal exposure, which is a key component in treating OCD, especially the more obsessional forms such as Harm OCD, HOCD, ROCD and Scrupulosity. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who really specializes in treating OCD, as they will undoubtedly be able to help you with imaginal exposures.
I was doing very well with my OCD but recently have been having a terrible bout of intrusive harm thoughts. I hate these thoughts so much and would do anything for them to go away. Can OCD make you feel like you want to do the bad thought even though you would never? To me wanting to hurt someone is just as bad as hurting someone. I do not want to be someone who wants to hurt people. How can I be sure that I don’t want to hurt the people I love the most. please help me this is torture
A few thoughts…
1) It is normal for OCD symptoms to wax and wane.
2) The problem with desperately wanting any thoughts to “go away” is that you are setting yourself up for failure. Humans do not get to control what thoughts pop up in their minds. A better goal is to work on managing your response to your unwanted thoughts so that you can experience them without taking them seriously and without responding to them with compulsive behaviors.
3) Having these unwanted thoughts about hurting people is not the same as wanting to hurt people. And having these thoughts is not the same as actually hurting someone. Thinking something, wanting to do that thing, and actually doing it, are three separate things.
4) You can’t be sure you don’t want to hurt other people. Neither can I nor anyone else in the world. We don’t get to have certainty. I may kill someone tonight. I doubt it, but I don’t have 100% certainty.
A few months ago I was always thinking I was a diabetic or had low blood sugar so I would keep testing my glucose levels and they were always normal. Well that stopped and shortly after that I remember having a flash of me hurting or killing myself, I remember my stomach just dropping and feeling really scared. That’s not me! Why did I just think this? It scares the hell out of me. I read your book which has a lot of good info and am looking for a local ocd therapists. I can also see I look online for some sort of reassurance, like this site. Not to mention I constantly have conversations in my head of me trying to rationalize me being a good person. It seems like I’m not the only one.
The reason you are having these sorts of unwanted thoughts is because you are human. We all have unwanted thoughts sometimes, including really weird uncomfortable thoughts. So no, you are not the only one.
The key to managing unwanted thoughts is to allow them to exist without responding to them. You mention analyzing your thoughts and seeking reassurance via websites, both of which are compulsive responses that will only make these unwanted thoughts worse.
The best way to find a therapist near you who is qualified to treat OCD is at http://www.iocdf.org.
I have always been a person who loves to see people laugh and, about a month and a half I started having these horrible thoughts of loosing control of myself and hurting my wife or myself. I love my wife more than anything and these thoughts have been haunting me and it switched from thoughts of harming her to thoughts of harming myself and it makes me cringe to think of doing that to myself but I’m so afraid that my mind will get locked in to that path being the only way.
I just want so bad to go back to normal I have a great life but just lost all the desire I once had. I took 2 weeks off work and it helped but as soon as I went back the anxiety hit me hard again. I’m just so afraid of my mind locking in on self harm, it makes me so scared that I have trouble breathing and feel so overwhelmed. I guess it’s just the fact that it would be easy to harm myself and that it really does happen in this world that it makes me so afraid that I’m gonna end up like those poor people that have lost there battle. I miss my old life so bad and love my family so much I want to be better so bad.
This all sounds like textbook Harm OCD. Harming one’s self is a common Harm OCD theme, and having these thoughts does not mean that you are automatically going to do what these thoughts suggest. The nature of Harm OCD is that it presents sufferers with unwanted thoughts about causing harm, but these are just thoughts.
i got OCD after I had my son 7 years ago. Now my ocd has moved on to the fear of schizophrenia that has made me have thoughts like a schizophrenic, such as “i’m impregnated by the devil” or “aliens are putting thoughts in my head”. I know these thoughts are not true but I can’t stop asking myself if I believe them or not. And then I feel unsure if I believe them. I am on medication and attend therapy. It was so much easier to deal with harm ocd than this. Is this type possible to overcome? Is there a point that I will stop thinking these things?
Your thoughts are not evidence of Schizophrenia – they are evidence that the human brain can (and does) generate all sorts of weird thoughts. The mere presence of these thoughts does not mean you have Schizophrenia – it means you have a brain.
You note that you know the thoughts are not “true”, and that the problem is that you can’t stop asking yourself if you believe them or not. But you don’t need to stop asking yourself these questions – you only need to stop trying to answer the questions. Just let them exist in your brain without taking them seriously. I assure you everybody has crazy thoughts, and your unwillingness to let these thoughts exist is the real problem. You don’t need to “overcome” them or “stop thinking them” – you need to stop paying so much attention to them and stop assuming that they are important.
Excellent article! Since I was a kid I was afraid of my thoughts. Years ago, after hearing my friends talking about a horror movie they watched, I became afraid I would loose control and do something horrible, like worship the Devil or try to talk to spirits, it was terrible but this year it changed to something even worse. One day, after waking up, the thought that I would kill myself if something happened to my books (I love reading) popped in my head. I was very ashamed, thinking I valued more my books than my life, reading them stopped giving me pleasure. I tried to analyze these thoughts, to discover if they were true or not, if I was an evil person. I usually concluded that they weren’t true and that I wasn’t evil, but the next day they would reappear stronger and more distressing. I then became afraid I would also hurt my family, I thougt I was insane and would loose control then I avoided knives, heights, even crossing the street was distressing to me. The thing that most worries me is that my mother always said if we find something distressing, it’s because it reflects our inner self, our “evil side”. I became very anxious with this, I don’t want to be an evil person.
A few thoughts…
Your mother is wrong. Just because you have thoughts that cause distress does not mean that you have an evil side or that your thoughts reflect your true character. Everybody has weird unwanted thoughts, including thoughts about harming people.
Thoughts about harming yourself and thoughts about harming others are not really all that different. The obsessions is essentially the same – “what if I harm (fill in the blank)”.
The main problem here is not the thoughts but your reaction to them. You note that you “tried to analyze these thoughts, to discover if they were true or not” and to figure out if you were an “an evil person.” This analysis is a mental compulsion. Yes you got some short term relief from the mental compulsion, but you actually worsen the OCD in the long term by doing this analysis. A better response is to accept the presence of these weird unwanted thoughts rather than analyzing them.
Avoiding reading is a compulsion.
Avoiding knives is a compulsion.
Avoiding heights is a compulsion.
Avoiding crossing the street is a compulsion.
Stop the compulsions and you will likely see vast improvement.
Hi, I have been struggling with harm odc for nearly a year now and it went away when I woke up one day and decided to ignore it. For about three months I had few obsessions but ignored all compulsions. Unfortunately more and more compulsions started creeping back up on me and now I am having a full blown episode again. I feel like I’m so used to this now that I can’t help but follow through with my compulsions, if feel if i don’t something horrible will happen and its all because I was too lazy to do what my ocd tells me to do. My fear is that my obsessions are worrying me less and less and that because they aren’t affecting me I want them to happen or they will and i won’t care. I would rather kill myself then harm a soul but sometimes I worry the only way to alleviate the pain is to act on my fears which i never wanna do in my lifetime. I get comfort out of being scared because I know I’m scared and therefore have OCD but I worry, like I am right now, by the fact I’m not too phased and more calm. Is something wrong with me? I am so scared I will act on my obsessions even though I don’t want to, Im worried my brain will think I have to.
Your fear that you secretly want to hurt someone because because your thoughts aren’t affecting you as much as before is actually quite common in Harm OCD. Not only is that thought unrealistic, it isn’t even an accurate reflection of what you are experiencing. After all, if the thoughts were not bothering you, then you wouldn’t be posting blog comments about how horrible the thoughts are and how you can’t stand them. Your comment on this blog article is proof of just how much these thoughts continue to upset you.
The bottom line is that I see no evidence in your comment that you are going to act on these thoughts. In fact, your comment indicates the exact opposite – that you are horrified by these thoughts and would never act on them.
Also, you note that you are concerned that “the only way to alleviate the pain is to act on (your) fears”. I fail to see how acting on them (i.e. hurting someone) would alleviate the emotional pain you experience related to these unwanted thoughts.
Having thoughts about harming people doesn’t mean that you actually want to harm people, or that you will harm people.
Great article, but I have some doubts about a thought I had. During a stressful situation the thought that I wanted to die appeared in my mind. I was horrified, because I’m a very religious person and the situation wasn’t very bad, it was just stressful. I fellt like I was weak and didn’t value my own life. Could this be an intrusive thought? What scared me is that this was more a reaction to the stressful situation than just a passing thought.
When you write “I have some doubts about a thought I had”, you are perfectly describing the core issue of Harm OCD (and all variants OCD that are colloquially known as Pure O).
You had an intrusive, unwanted thought. This doesn’t mean you are “weak” or that you don’t value your life – it means you had a weird thought. I doubt anyone who lives past 20 gets through life without ever having at least a stray thought about killing themselves or dying.
You seem to be concerned that this was a reaction to stress rather than just a passing thought. It seems to me that it was both a passing thought and a reaction to stress. After all, these kinds of “I just wanna die” thoughts are most likely to arise in times of stress.
Since the 6th grade (10 years ago), I’ve struggled with thoughts of self-harm: what would happen if I drove head-on into another vehicle? Couldn’t I jump off this building and end my life? How would people react? What would it feel like? Could I do something like that? Will I do something like that?
A therapist helped me recognize that these thoughts are obsessive. That being said, I still find myself getting anxious around certain triggers. If there’s an oncoming car, for instance, it’s difficult to feel at peace as it rushes past me at 60 miles per hour. “How easy it would be to give into this fear,” I think to myself.
So instead of the peaceful assurance that “it’s just another obsessive thought,” my mind races as I try to understand how I’ll address the situation. In the moment, that can be really stressful. And as soon as one car passes, another is right down the road, waiting to trigger the same cycle of confusion and angst.
I need help being confident in the midst of these triggers. I need help building up a reservoir or strength, it seems, so that my mind doesn’t have to race as quickly when the triggers arise. Any ideas as to how I should move forward? Thank you.
Of course you get anxious about these thoughts – you have had OCD related to these thoughts for ten years. I encourage you to stop trying to find “peace” when faced with triggers, and to instead accept that certain situations will trigger certain thoughts. While it may seem counterintuitive, accepting your discomfort is more likely to provide you some measure of peace than actively seeking peace.
Likewise, I encourage you to stop trying to understand how you will “address the situation”. This sounds like a compulsion to me. There is not much to understand – you have OCD, and these thoughts are likely to continue. There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that you will actually act on these thoughts, so trying to understand how you will “address the situation” is a waste of time and energy, and is actually making you more uncomfortable.
You don’t need confidence or strength in the midst of triggers – you need a willingness to experience the discomfort of these triggers without over-responding to them. They are just thoughts, and they require no response whatsoever.
I believe ive been experiencing harm OCD for a while now but it didn’t really kick up until this past week. Back in August I started to have HOCD thoughts due to a bad relationship with my ex and childhood trauma having to do with step sibling abuse. But now I’m experiencing Harm and self harm thoughts and it isn’t pleasant. A couple days ago I actually kinda choked my moms little dog and I said I cant do that. Now im kinda on edge around animals. At the time my adrenaline was already up because I was mad. I feel pretty insane these days. I’ve had thoughts about being run over by cars, being choked by eating, random objects, and by hand. Any object and throat at this point is a trigger. I don’t like being home alone, even more so now than I used to. I’ve also been having thoughts that Im going to twist my ankles, snap my neck, choke myself, etc. I feel crazy and my mom says that i act like a drug addict who is withdrawing. Is this harm ocd or is this a deeper issue?
I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, but I can say that everything you write sounds exactly like Harm OCD. I encourage you to seek a formal diagnosis with a therapist who specializes in treating Harm OCD.
I think I have ocd but I’m always doubting it. It started mostly with pocd themes and now it’s been hocd. The reason I don’t know if it’s ocd is because I’m not sure if I have compulsions as they are covert if I do. I mostly try to figure out why I have them and come up with ideas how to stop them from coming back. Also, can intrusive thoughts be verbal thoughts? My thoughts often begin with “I want to x” and I often question if they are really intrusive or if I’m just deliberately thinking them (sometimes I think I do as an exposure strategy in hopes they will go away).
1) Yes, obsessions can be “verbal thoughts”. Many people experience their obsessions this way.
2) Trying to “figure out” why you I have these thoughts trying to “come up with ideas how to stop them from coming back” are perfect examples of mental compulsions.
3) If you are deliberately thinking thoughts in an effort to make them go away, that would also be a mental compulsion.
A better solution is to allow your brain to think whatever it wants to think, without trying to control it. These are just thoughts, they have no particular importance, and as you have seen, your attempts to control them have backfired.
The key is to accept the presence of (not the accuracy of) unwanted thoughts, without trying to “make them go away”.
I’m Luna. I’m only 17 years old, but I’ve had Harm OCD for 8 years now. I’ve been living my own personal hell. It started when I watched a show with someone committing suicide and I had the thought, “Hey. Just what if I killed myself?” From there I obsessed over it and it only got worse. For about 4 years I had constant intrusive and disturbing thoughts, ranging from killing myself, to harming myself, to killing my family. These thoughts would bring panic attacks and I ended up losing a ton of weight because I just couldn’t eat and throwing up due to the anxiety. I started to recover on my own and learned to control my reaction to these disturbing thoughts and I thought I was getting better. But for the past month, my Harm OCD is coming back alive and well. I have gotten little to no sleep because day and night I have thoughts of killing myself or my family. And now recently I’ve become obsessed with the thought “Well what if doing it (harming myself) will stop my desire?” and it’s really really affecting me. I’ve never gotten treatment for this and when I told my mom years ago, she acted like I was crazy and I’m afraid to ask and be judged. I just really need some help.
I’m sorry to hear that you have been struggling so long with Harm OCD without getting help. This is a very treatable condition, and you are not crazy. Step number one will be getting your mother to understand that your mental health should not be ignored. I encourage you to show her our four-part series of articles on Harm OCD, starting with this one. If she continues to ignore your mental health needs, then I encourage you to speak to your father, or a grandparent, or anyone who will take this matter seriously. There is no reason for you to continue suffering.
Hi, I found this website a while ago after googling the thoughts I was having. It all started whilst I was on holiday I had a random thought of strangling my girlfriend whilst she was asleep. She is the sweetest most caring girl I know and I love her very much. Anyway from there on I had intrusive images of people strangling each other or me strangling them. I just couldn’t get it out of my head, I kept looking at myself in the mirror wondering what sort of monster would think these things. The thoughts carried on all that day and got worse and more obscure and I started having thoughts saying “I’m going to strangle her when we get back to our hotel” “I’m going to do it”. I started getting really panicky and had to get back to the hotel where I had the worst panic attack I’ve ever had and I was almost sure I was going to kill her, it was the single most horrific experience I have ever gone through. After that I could’nt sleep. The next day the thoughts persisted and made me hugely distressed, I could’nt eat at all.
This was over six months ago and the thoughts are still persistant. And to a certain extent I’ve started believing I could be capable. It’s taken over my life 🙁
Yep, this sounds exactly like textbook Harm OCD. And as you’ve noticed, your attempts to “get it out of your head” have failed miserably. I encourage you to instead accept the existence of the thought, without taking it seriously. Now that I have read about your thought, I am thinking about strangling my girlfriend. I am also not taking the thought seriously. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Hello Tom – great article. I have had sporadic harm OCD for most of my life – usually related to a fear of acting out these acts why I am dreaming or having a nightmare. As a child I had my share of “bad dreams” and eventually grew out of it however I have always had a fear of harming someone in my sleep. I have heard that a person will never do anything while “sleepwalking” that they wouldn’t do while awake. Please give me some reassurance – God bless you.
I cannot give you reassurance that you will never harm someone in your sleep for two reasons. First, I cannot predict with certainty what you or anyone will do in the future. For all I know, I will sleepwalk tonight and kill my girlfriend. If I gave you reassurance, I would be lying. And second, giving you reassurance would be the exact wrong thing to do for someone with OCD. I encourage you to read our article on reassurance seeking to get a better idea of why reassurance is a trap that never works, and always makes things worse.
Hello Tom – it’s Bill again. When I look back at my life, I have probably had GAD most of my adult life ( always thought I was just a “worrier” ). I have never been on a SSRI – only an occasional Xanax for sleep.As I mentioned in my previous post, I am presently having persistent harm OCD symptoms as it relates to acting out these in my sleep. I have only “sleep-walked” once in my adult life – probably a so-called “night terror” when I jumped out of bed and started running. This was many years ago and have had no more sleep walking since. However for some reason I now fear doing something to myself or someone else in my sleep. Like most OCD patient’s I have researched many OCD articles ( reassurance seeking) and feel confident that my daytime OCD thoughts are just that – only thoughts, and are probably related to those times when I am more stressed. I have never thought about “sleep-walking” OCD symptoms my entire life ( over 40 years) until now. Of course I made the mistake of finding a few cases on line where an individual actually did some violent acts in their sleep. Any thoughts or connections between harm OCD and sleepwalking and have you had others with similar fears? Thanks
I don’t think your obsession with sleepwalking is particularly unique – it is just another Harm OCD thought. We have treated others with a fear that they will commit some harm while sleeping and/or sleepwalking. And as you note, researching your thoughts is just a compulsive attempt at gaining reassurance, so I encourage you to refrain from researching. Besides, just because you find something on the internet that provides “evidence” that something can occur does not mean you will do that thing. Yesterday, I saw an article about tightrope walking, and I am pretty sure I am not going to do that any time soon (or ever).
Thanks Tom – great web site. Keep up the excellent work because you are helping many people.
Thank you Bill!
I have dealt with various forms of OCD over the last 7 years ranging from thinking I’m a molester to having schizophrenia, to harming my family. One day after I watched a news on someone that commited suicide. I started being afraid that I will get tired of dealing with OCD and do the same, it’s difficult because for the first time the anxiety is causing me to feel depressed and when I feel depressed I become even more anxious cos I am worried about being depressed and commuting suicide or losing my zeal for life. I have just majorly coped with talking to my family, prayer and reading the bible has helped me. But this suicide issue is proving more challenging, even seeing the word suicide makes me anxious cos I feel I don’t know if it’s real cos I feel depressed or OCD.Thanks for the forum
Your story is a perfect example of how OCD frequently morphs from one sub-type to the next. Also, you should know that fears of self-harm, including suicide, are quite common in Harm OCD.
With all due respect, talking to your family is a good start, but prayer and reading the bible are not substitutes for effective treatment. I strongly encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in OCD treatment. there is no reason for you to continue suffering.
Thanks Tom – helpful advice and much appreciated.
Glad to help.
Hello. First I would like to say this article was excellent. I’ve had OCD symptoms since childhood, from fears of contamination to paying too much atention to blinking and breathing to knocking on wood to fears of the Devil. Now, I think I’m on the Harm OCD. The problem is that I’ve talked to some friends, prior to having Harm OCD, who are Freudian pyschologists and they view these kind of thoughts as dangerous and revealing about the personality (they are from the id, I guess). Reading articles like this and the comments, I see that they can’t be that problematic but I’m still afraid. Why these two theories are so different? Are there thoughts that are dangerous, even if you’re completely horrified by them?
When it comes to OCD, Freudian psychology is utter nonsense. These thoughts are not dangerous, and they reveal nothing about your psyche. They are just thoughts, and I assure you that everyone, including your Freudian friends, have plenty of weird thoughts pop into their consciousness.
You report a long history of various OCD thoughts, and your harming obsessions are just the latest manifestation of this problem. You report being “horrified” by these thoughts, and you report no history of acting on them, so I see no reason to have concern about them.
In July of last year (after going through months of extreme stress) I woke up to a thought of killing my fiancé. It was the first time it had happened. I was so scared. I love him more than anything and even typing this now is making me cry. I googled (bad idea) and was so scared of developing schizophrenia. My boss at the time told me she thought I was bipolar. So I became obsessed with these thoughts, as well as obsessed about being bipolar or schizophrenic. I saw 3 psychotherapists, who all said that I was neither bipolar nor schizophrenic…just had an anxiety disorder. How come I still am obsessed with having this disorders? I still have intrusive thoughts, but they have gotten better. I am convinced there is something wrong with me. I am so scared.
A few thoughts…
Everything you write suggests Harm OCD.
The reason you have these thoughts is because you have Harm OCD.
Unless your boss is a trained mental health treatment provider, you should ignore his mental health advice.
This article helped me so much but I really need your help, your advice. As soon as I started University I Started to have Anxiety Symptoms (fear of throwing up in front of everyone during a test, fear of experiencing an axiety attack in the middle of a text and actually experiencing an axiety attack). I also experienced symptoms of social anxiety (I blush if someone is staring directly at me. Or even when I think about blushing). But now there is something else happening.
I see life in black and white when I’m alone and I also experience intrusive harm thoughts (everything when Im alone). It started with the fear of actually killing my family with a knife (I started avoiding seeing knifes). And then I started obsessing over harming myself. I have the fear of killing myself. I dont even know who I am anymore. How can I have such URGES? I swear I get to cry in some ocassions because the urge and the fear are so strong and they feel so real. But then, when I feel good, I’m like “Wow I was really afraid of doing that?’ Like I dont even believe it. Im already seeing a therapist and practicing mindfulness but I feel scared to tell her what is happening to me. I need your advice please
You requested my advice, so here it is…
All of these symptoms are extremely common in OCD, specifically for those with Harm OCD.
Mindfulness is not in and of itself a treatment for OCD. It is a technique that can assist in the treatment of OCD, but using it as your only approach to managing OCD is a big mistake. The most effective treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with an emphasis on Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who actually specializes in treating OCD with CBT / ERP. Based on the fact that you have not told your therapist about these symptoms, and that you are focusing primarily on mindfulness, I have little reason to believe that your therapist specializes in treating OCD.
When you find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD, tell your therapist about your symptoms. If you don’t tell your therapist about your symptoms, there is absolutely no way they can help you!
Hello, I want to thank you for responding to these questions. This is a fantastic resource.
I have been struggling with harm OCD for about 5 months now. The theme at first was me having a fear and seemingly uncontrollable urge to snap random people’s necks. I essentially beat this by doing some imaginal visualization and exposure, which I learned about through here.
However, now basically anytime I get annoyed (which is far more frequent lately) I feel an awful fear that I may want to kill that person who is annoying me. It is extremely distressing to me and I have not been able to come up with any kind of imaginal exposure to work for this. I have also been very irritable in general. Do you think this is still just OCD? and if so do you have any recommendations you can make for me to get out of this. I feel so trapped. It’s terrifying.
There is nothing unusual about your most recent thought about killing people. I frequently joke that if I end up stuck on the 405 freeway at rush hour, it’s just a matter of time before I start thinking about killing someone. Besides, you have a history of Harm OCD, so it is not even remotely surprising that you are experiencing a Harm OCD thought.
The imaginal exposure for this scenario is fairly straightforward – create a story that matches the thought you are experiencing. You can learn more about imaginal exposure, and can see some examples that may help you, in our article on this topic at https://ocdla.com/imaginal-exposure-ocd-anxiety-4847/. That said, imaginal exposure is best utilized within the framework of structured Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), rather than as a freestanding technique.
I wanted to thank you for this brief, but really helpful article. It was one of the things I read over two years ago that finally pushed me to get help for OCD that was keeping me from starting a family and enjoying my life. It took me a long time to accept that I might have OCD versus being a monster who needed to isolate myself to protect others. Then, I had to convince myself I was not lying to myself about the possibility of having OCD in order to assuage my guilt for what was actually underlying violence or perversion. It took me longer to accept that treatment would not mean eliminating the thoughts and fears, but rather changing how I responded to them. I cried for hours the first time I read somewhere that there was no treatment that would stop intrusive thoughts from occurring and I initially could not see what the point was, in that case. I went through CBT and exposure and response prevention therapy and now two years later, I have a child and can visit family and friends. While I still have little relapses, it is nothing like what it once was and I am happy with myself.
I am so happy to hear that you sought out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You are living proof that Harm OCD can be effectively treated. Keep up the good work!
I think I have OCD. For most of my life I’ve been a happy person.As a young adult in stressful times Ive struggled with OCD about sexuality or catastrophic events (9/11 or ISIS attacks).Even so I was still a happy person.Recently it’s gotten worse.In the last 3 years I got married,my father died,i bought a house,started two new jobs,got bullied at work, Etc.With all that stress I’ve developed harm OCD.I was afraid of basement bc I had an image of hanging myself.I didn’t want to go in the kitchen bc there were knives & I was afraid I’d hurt me or someone .Just recently two people I know committed suicide and it’s gotten worse. I’m afraid its my fate. I compare myself to them then try to figure out how I can avoid it.This has made me depressed bc I can’t “figure out” how I can make sure I never do it .But the mix of “figuring it out”,&?unwanted thoughts (like me thinking “I should do laundry” & my brain says “but you will kill urself down there”)feels awful.I spend so much time trying to figure out if Im suicidal. I’ve lost sleep and it’s hard to focus at work. I also search the web for info but find horror stories that frighten me.
A few thoughts…
1) Stress often exacerbates OCD.
2) Obsessions of self-harm are quite common in OCD.
3) Avoiding the basement and kitchen is a compulsion that will make your obsessions worse, not better.
4) There is no such thing as fate. It is a ridiculous pre-scientific notion invented by people desperately trying to understand the world. Just because others you know have killed themselves does not mean you are fated to kill yourself. Killing yourself would be a choice you make, not fate.
5) I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. They should be able to help you better respond to these unwanted thoughts.
6) IF you are ever seriously considering suicide, please take yourself to your local emergency room immediately.
My 78 year old mother was hospitalized for depression 48 days ago ( she is still there) She had no signs of stroke, dementia etc. But her depression ( a first occurrence ( at least as far as we know) ) is treatment resisitant. Just recently they put her on Effexor and remeron ( California rocket fuel) and she is asking me questions like have I abused children?What if I have ? What if I did something terrible , or sexually molested someone . These are things that in her right mind would completely revolt her. I assure her that she has done no such thing, but she is certain she has, but then she says I don’t know what if I did? … Could she be manifesting Harm OCD?
I assure you that none of my siblings, or her siblings have ever been molested by her . I Do not know if as a child she was ? ( another thought) .. … I feel like they have her way too medicated or the medications are making this worse? thoughts? I am desperate.
Unfortunately, there is no way I can provide an assessment of your mother via a third party report on a blog. I encourage you to discuss your concerns with your mother’s physician.
My therapist says I got anxiety with some obsessions. I used to think he was wrong and that I actually had Harm OCD but now, almost 5 months into it, I believe I just… went crazy.
It first started with an image; I thought of going to the kitchen and stabbing my parents; it was an intrusive thought.
After that, any object that can be used to cause harm (even a tooth stick) caused me anxiety. I looked at the alcohol bottle and the image of me setting them on fire would appear. At first I knew these images had no value, but now things are different:
It’s been a month that I’m just… tired of it all. Now the thoughts aren’t just images, but tell me “You gotta kill your mother to be free of these thoughts”. I wake up in the morning and my first thought is “I’ll kill my mother today”. The worse: I now feel URGES! I’m afraid I’ll act on it soon, everyday I’ve to try really hard NOT to act on my urge.
I’ve always had good morals. But now I’m numb! I can’t feel empathy anymore. I don’t feel love for my mother anymore. I don’t even think I’d get sad for killing my mother, in fact I “contemplated” it when the thought first appeared.
If you lacked empathy, you would not be so horrified by these thoughts, and you would not be seeking solutions on a blog. All the evidence you present here strongly suggests that you have Harm OCD, and none suggests you are a cold-blooded killer. I’m not convinced that your therapist understands much about Harm OCD, and I encourage you to find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
Hello, I have been here some 3 years ago. Back then I was suffering some horrible ocd, most specifically harm ocd as also hocd. Your tips were fantastic and were part of the help to get out of OCD.
Now, I’m suffering a bit once again. In the last 3 years my OCD has diminished in 90% and my life is mostly normal in this aspect. It doesn’t affect my life so much. Nevertheless, this year I developed some obsession with teeth. Most specifically, with the teeth of my cats. I started checking our their mouths to see their small teeth on the front, and to touch them.
Since I have the sweetest cats in the world, they never harm me nor get angry, they are extremely docile. Over the last months the compulsion to check their mouths and touch their teeth grew further. I began checking if they had any teeth in bad taste by touching them. One of my cats had a weak frontal small teeth. I ended up pulling a little bit and taking it out. It made me felt like a horrible monster because a bit of blood came out (even though she didnt seem to be affected) this was a month ago. Now I feel the compulsion to touch/see their teeth again.
Your comment is evidence that people can obsess about just about anything. Simply put, the quickest solution is to stop checking you cats’ teeth. Allow yourself to have the thought about checking them, without actually checking them.
As for pulling out your cat’s tooth, I hardly think this makes you a monster. The tooth appeared loose, and came out quite easily. Furthermore, your cat didn’t seem even remotely upset.
Hi! I am a young, teenage girl who is struggling with these dark, obsessive thoughts. It has made me so sick and so disturbed that I am constantly crying, shaking, and have become very irritable. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, along with OCD and ADHD. I am also constantly making both my parents and doctors tell me that I would never do such a thing, but it still doesn’t help. I’m posting this because all I want is help, reassurance, and a guide. If you have any advice, or tips, or suggestions, please please please let me know. Thank you for your time and have a great day!!!
The best guidance I can give you is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. Because you are under 18, I encourage you to discuss this matter with your parents (instead of seeking reassurance from them, which does not help).
Hey all, I’ve known about the OCD Center of LA for awhile now – I wish I didn’t live on the other side of the country or else I would have definitely visited. You should open one up on the East Coast!
Anyway, I feel as though I’m one of the more rare people who suffer with self-harm OCD. I have terrible images, urges, and thoughts that depict me violently killing myself. I also have OCD that tries to convince me or scare me into believing that I don’t really even have OCD, I have severe depression or schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, or any other disorder that can cause people to act irrationally and perhaps kill themselves. I was originally diagnosed with GAD…then a year or so later, I went to another therapist, he had he take a short test, and he was easily confirmed that I had OCD. I felt SO relieved. I’m always reassurance seeking, telling many people about my problems so more people know (so it doesn’t look, to me, like I’m depressed and hiding my feelings), I avoid watching the news, scary movies, or documentaries about serial killers etc. Im currently on Pexeva which is helpful but I’d love to go further and learn more about ERP.
There is nothing particularly rare about what you describe – self-harm obsessions are actually quite common in OCD. Furthermore, many people with self-harm obsessions (and all forms of OCD actually) worry that they don’t really have OCD, and to worry that they actually have other mental illnesses.
Reassurance seeking is counterproductive, and will actually make your OCD worse. The same is true of avoiding news, documentaries, etc.
To learn more about ERP, I encourage you to read the following two sections of our website:
Tom – I have always had a fear of physical illness (e.g. Cancer, Stroke, etc), but then my OCD migrated to mental illness (Depression, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, etc). I have some Harm OCD and HOCD mixed in, but it appears that my worst obsession is relating to the fear of depression and suicide. I am constantly obsessing and thinking that I am depressed and it will lead to suicide. I know that is a cognitive distortion (all or nothing thinking), but since it has a high degree of uncertainty (E.g. “OK, I have been battling these thoughts for weeks, what if I get tired of them and become so hopeless that I lose control and commit suicide?”), the thoughts are really bothering me. I keep reading that those who are fearful of it won’t do it and it is actually different than a suicidal ideation, but my OCD makes it hard to believe! I keep working on evidence based cognitive restructuring and other techniques to accept thoughts, but still having trouble. I have been on an SSRI for 3 weeks (not helping yet) and been working with a psychologist (OCD specialist) 1x week for 6 weeks. Generally, how long does it take to “retrain your brain” using CBT and ERP to feel better?
Fears of having a serious mental health issue are quite common in OCD, and are sometimes described as “Mental Health OCD”. We address this concern in our article Doubt, Denial, and OCD, which you can read at https://ocdla.com/doubt-denial-ocd-5342. I encourage you to discuss your concerns with the OCD specialist who is currently providing you with treatment.
So I always knew that I had OCD since I was young but ever since I had my second child almost two years ago it got worst and I started getting intrusive thoughts..
I use to get bad images in my head about her, my family, and even strangers, it lasted for two months! And then it slowly disappeared. 9 months passed and I felt like I was getting better I mean I would get thoughts but I would ignore them and they wouldn’t appear anymore. Then I got an anxiety attack out of no where and started getting these instrusive thoughts again! For two weeks I thought I had psychosis and scared if I was going to do and say something dumb to someone. I knew in my heart I would never do such a thing but it was scary! Now once AGAIN they came back and now my thoughts tell me “kill her/him” or something dumb like that and they appear out of no where! I know these thoughts aren’t real but they scare me and make me think if I’m going to go crazy. But maybe it’s just me trying to scare myself. My therapist says it’s my OCD scaring me but it’s just so annoying to have it. I love my kids, husband and my life and if people seen me people wouldn’t even know I’m having these issues 🙁
Your therapist is right – this all sounds like your OCD.
Hi- I am dating someone with harm OCD and found this article (it is by far the most informative out there!). Is there anything I can do as a girlfriend to be supportive over her persistent thoughts/questions? I accidentally inferred that I got a bruise from her after an argument (I wasn’t thinking at all when I said this, and it was inferred on her end to be much worse than I could’ve imagined) and it has put us in an uneasy place– even though we have been communicative and understand that this couldn’t have happened. She only just told me about harm OCD a few days after this argument. I appreciate any insight, and thanks again for the resource!
The best things you can do to help your girlfriend are:
1) Don’t personalize her Harm OCD thoughts. They have nothing to do with you, even if the content may suggest otherwise.
2) Don’t accommodate her OCD by doing actions that are meant to mollify her anxiety. For example, if someone with Harm OCD requests (or demands) that others not say certain words, or eat with knives, etc., the others should not accept these requests/demands. Short term relief from the momentary issue will only lead to long-term exacerbation of the problem.
3) Do not provide reassurance to the person with Harm OCD. For example, if your girlfriend asks for reassurance that she has not harmed you, compassionately tell her that answering that question will only worsen the OCD in the long term, and then hold form to your position.
4) Help her get into treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
I have been told by a Physchiatrist that I have OCD and three psychologists told me I have an anxiety disorder. My problem is that I am super afraid of pedophilla. Everytime I see a child I almost run the other way and if I cant run, I imagine the worst scenarios and ask myself how I feel. Its always the same: I check my heart, mind, and crotch area. Its like the scariest cloud looming over my head. I read once that pedophiles dont want to be pedophiles, they just cant help what they r attracted to. That scares the hell out of me. Its like is pedophilla a disease that could happen to anyone? Yikes. So, everytime I tell myself, “you know that you do not want these things. Its obviously just making you very upset”. Then another voice tells me, “well either do Pedophiles. They cannot help it. So, perhaps you could be or you may turn into one in the future. Its somewhere lurking in you”
Is this OCD that I am experiencing? I thought at first I was developing schizophrenia. A psychologist was able to convince me that I wasn’t and i have anxiety and pedophilla is simply the scariest thing to me, so my anxiety grabs it to give a name to my anxiety. I cant shake it, Im filled…
Everything you write suggests that you have a form of OCD that is commonly called Pedophile OCD (POCD). I encourage you to seek treatment from a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
I have these same fears along with all the fears of harm ocd. My psychologist didn’t seem to think that my fear of becoming a pedophile was separate from my harm ocd. Either way, I suffer from both and day in and day out, my mind obsesses over these things and I feel so miserable. It takes all the joy out of life being afraid of hurting anyone in any way. I’m reading all this right now because I just returned home from our session and we were talking about it. I’d like to find local treatment but with people who understand this condition. I don’t want to be misdiagnosed anymore. Jacky, you are not alone in these thoughts and it gives me the smallest comfort I’m not either. The last thing I want to do is hurt anyone. So why can’t I believe that and move on? These thoughts keep intruding and I feel like I have no control..
Your psychologist is correct – there is no significant difference between what is commonly called “Harm OCD”, and what is commonly called POCD (aka, Pedophile OCD). In both cases, the sufferer obsesses that they are doing something that they consider horrible and hurtful. The only difference is the specific thought upon which the individual obsesses, but the experiential process is the same.
As noted above, I believe your current treatment provider is correct about your symptoms being evidence of the same problem, not two separate problems.
Hi! I feel I am suffering from OCD from past 8 years. I had been in severe anxiety over a petty issue at its onset, which got complicated with unresolved complaints about me not being good enough to my parents. Though I have always tried to be nice with all and adjust with everyone. Due to anxiety and poor self-esteem, I judged myself a very bad person. I used to cry days and nights. As time passed by, I felt like I am liking negative thoughts. I used to get thoughts about harming my family members. It has been a long interval I have been living with these thoughts. I started having such thoughts, they became normal for me. Whenever I push myself to do some work to involve in good things, I resist or avoid work by bringing my negative thinking myself. I am doubt if I really want bad things to happen to my loved ones. I am overly religious person. I think even after knowing these thoughts are not good, I am thinking every time. So, God will punish me. Also I feel that I have developed a negative attitude that since I like these thoughts I would never change or try to be a good person. Please help to change my negative attitude and how can end my liking for this?
While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, it certainly sounds like you have OCD. You ask for help, but there is nothing we can offer you in a blog comments section. If you would like to discuss online therapy for OCD, please contact us via our website at https://ocdla.com.
I just recently got diagnosed with OCD a few months ago. My obsessions were primarily with HOCD but last night I was in an OCD support group and someone was saying that were having Harm thoughts and that freaked me out. I looked up what Harm OCD was and it said that people have mental images of killing self, parents, and others. As soon as I read that I got a mental image of killing my mom and it freaked me out. Now my sexual obsessions are gone to be replaced by violent obsessions. Is this normal for HOCD to go to Harm OCD in the event of one evening? I start an important internship with the Governor of my state and I’m afraid to do to the internship because of possible violent thoughts I’ll get while I’m in the job. Thank you.
A few thoughts…
1) It is quite common for people with HOCD to also experience other variants of Pure O, including Harm OCD.
2) It is not unusual for the theme of one’s obsessions to change in an instant.
3) Harming thought are not necessarily meaningful. In 20 plus years of treating people with Harm OCD, I have never had a client act on their harming obsessions.
4) Not taking a job because of Harm OCD would be an avoidant compulsion, and would do nothing to relieve you of your unwanted thoughts. The only thing it would accomplish is to worsen your OCD, and to put you out of work.
I always find things about how someones intrusive thought disgusts them.
What does that mean?”
For me it is just a panic feeling. And I begin questioning the thought. I think I subconsciously used roleplaying to do the writing exposure thing. But I think it is just make wanting to think that. Like when I was roleplaying and thought of a mother harming her child or molesting them. The thought was there then left. I did not panic on it until after I got my harm thoughts again and when I worked on getting those under control I had these new thoughts pop up.
I debate with myself. I try and rationalize. I try and sit with the thought and not bother with it.
I go back through memories. I always had a good memory and now its a curse. For it finds old details like when I was a child and I had showers with the daughter of one of my mothers friends to speed up bath time before bed during a sleepover. Those effected old gay obsessions before I let that go and had not been bothered in years by it. I understand children always play things like doctor and that.
Is the panic enough without the disgust?
Yes, of course “panic” in response to unwanted harm thoughts is “enough”. In fact I don’t have a clue as to where you got the idea that the feeling of “disgust” was necessary for one to have Harm OCD. We have four articles on Harm OCD on our blog, and the discussion includes numerous uncomfortable distressing feelings, including anxiety, panic, disgust, etc. Focusing on which type of unwanted uncomfortable feeling you have is splitting hairs, and likely nothing more than a compulsion in which you are trying to gain certainty about your feelings. The bottom line is that you don’t need to figure out what exact feeling you are having, nor do you need to figure out if your feelings qualify for a diagnosis of OCD.
As for your childhood memories, I see no reason to assume that your early childhood experience of showering with other kids to save time indicates that you are gay. You were a child and you did something innocent and harmless. Don’t sully your past by trying to ascertain if this common childhood experience has some secret hidden meaning. It doesn’t.
Hi, my name’s Emma and I’m a 17 yr old junior in high school. All of my life I’ve struggled horribly with what I call anxiety “cycles”. I’ve been a million times better in recent years, but when I was younger things were much worse. I had cycles of worrying my cat would be lost/die, then about my health, than that I was obsessed w/ sex or perverted in some way (this was in like 4th grade), then that my mom was crazy, then that I might want to self harm, and then finally that I might want to harm or torture others or that I might be a serial killer. These thoughts plagued me for years and I would constantly analyzed them, trying to figure out whether I actually enjoyed them. I’ve never received any sort of professional help and the only person I’ve ever told was my mom. I would constantly ask her for reassurance that I wasn’t a bad person/serial killer. In these past weeks, I’ve just discovered this disorder. I feel so comforted knowing I’m not alone, that I’m not insane, and that I have a disorder with a name. If only I’d found this when I was younger. As I read this however, I worry about the language of “unwanted” thoughts as I’m scared that I may actually enjoy these thoughts.
I am happy other that our article has helped you get some clarity about your experience. That said, I want to make a few points here…
1) Analyzing and trying to figure out your unwanted thoughts, and whether you secretly enjoy them, is a compulsion that only makes things worse.
2) Ditto for seeking reassurance from your mom
3) I see no evidence you enjoy these thoughts. If these thoughts were “wanted”, you would not be spending your time analyzing them in an effort to prove to yourself that you are not a crazed serial killer who enjoys her murderous thoughts.
4) You say you have never sought help. I encourage you to seek the services of a therapist who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
First I’d like to say thank you for your patience in being willing to respond to so many comments in such a thorough way.
My problem is with what seems to be Harm OCD, in that I have never harmed anyone in my life, and am known as a kind and decent person, and yet am plagued by violent intrusive thoughts. The thoughts have brought me to the brink of suicide out of a terrifying fear that I might hurt somebody. They started about 6 mths after a very traumatic and stressful marriage breakdown and are accompanied by extreme anxiety.
A related problem is the fear that I might now have become a bad person, or am headed in that direction. Again, this fills me with a sense of dread. I worry that once someone has had these experiences there is “no way back” – you can’t unthink the thoughts and doubts.
These symptoms are playing havoc with my relationship with my 12 year old daughter, who is staying with her mother. I was my daughter’s primary caregiver from the age of 8 months through to 11 years of age. I am finding that being with her is very anxiety-provoking, which is especially painful given that we have been so close.
I guess I’m seeking a sense of hope…
Thank you for comment and your kind words. I am happy to be of service.
It is not unusual for those with Harm OCD to also have a fair amount of Scrupulosity, which is a type of OCD that focuses on religious, more and ethical concerns. This variant of OCD often focuses on obsessions of being or becoming a “bad” person. I encourage you to read our series of articles on Scrupulosity.
Hi all, I am Harm Ocd and scrupuolosity sufferer. My ocd is in control now. But I feel very anxious and tensed when it comes to studying. I feel like I can’t be able to cover the syllabus, its complexity or I feel bored to sit for long. This feeling is normal for me but I bring up intrusive thoughts when I get so tensed before studying. I threaten myself in this way so that I escape from studying. I want to stop this practice. I am feeling guilty about it. I don’t want to study by thinking like this. This happens with situations where I become anxious like I being late and likewise. Also this happens when I force myself to do things I am bored of or complex ones. What do I do? Can anyone with Ocd feel like this?
If I understand you correctly, you are purposely calling up unwanted thoughts as a conscious effort to distract yourself from studying because you don’t like studying. You ask “What do I do” and the answer is simple. Get into treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
I have OCD harm thoughts that come and go throughout the year, I started having them about 2 years ago and they were quite strong at first as I’d have mental imagery of myself hurting a very close family member, these thoughts caused me extreme anxiety and I felt so guilty and monstrous for having them, I’ve heard a lot of people on here mention their fear of developing Schizophrenia, I have to say that this is also a fear of mine, although I never have delusional thoughts and I don’t see things, I’m beginning to consider whether I may be hearing voices? Although I can’t be certain, it depends on how schizophrenic victims experience ”hearing voices” for me, sentences or words can emerged into my conscious that will have sometimes very little to know relevance with what’s going on in that moment of time in my life, the best way I can kind of explain it is like an internal monologue which isn’t my own? so I just thought that these were also thoughts but perhaps they are voices and I could very well be schizophrenic? The Thought alone terrifies me night and day and I have definitely obsessed over it.
Everything you write here sounds like text book Harm OCD, and nothing even remotely suggests Schizophrenia. Thoughts “emerging into consciousness” as an “internal monologue” are not the same as hearing voices.
After a recent trip to Minnesota which was very stressful due to lack of sleep, my OCD fired up with a vengence after I came back. I had been on maintenance dose of fluvoxamine for several years and had to recently almost double the dosage to get some relief.
Unfortunately, my OCD centers around existential topics which are impossible to prove or disprove. I’m very caught up on the passage of time and that someday I will die. I am also the youngest in my family so that makes it even worse.
When I talk about these things to people, they tell me to be focused on the here and now, the present. However, this can very difficult when your mind is constantly dreaming of the past while dreading the future. In addition, our western culture makes it more difficult due to the importance we place on the future.
I’m not sure how to tackle this type of OCD. I’m not that religious and the more I think about religion, the worse it gets.
I just want peace of mind.
You are right – existential dilemmas are impossible to prove or disprove. So don’t bother trying, as you will only make yourself miserable.
You are also right that time passes and you will someday die. I have no idea why you think being the youngest in your family has anything to do with your concern about this. Time passes the same for everyone else in your family, and they too will die someday.
Your concerns about this issue have nothing to do with religion or western culture, and everything to do with OCD. I encourage you to read up on a type of OCD that is commonly called “Existential OCD” or “Solipsism OCD” or “Philosophical OCD”.
For about a month I have been dealing with very scary thoughts. I lost a girl I went to school with for years to depression and even tho I have no idea what happened since I didn’t see/talk to her in 5 years I constantly am thinking I’m going to turn into her. I was on birth control and one night I got so anxious and wanted to claw myself out of my own skin and then she popped in my head along with constantly feeling like I’m going to hurt myself. I’m petrified to be alone and I constantly think something is going to send me over the edge. I’ve been seeing a counselor for 3 weeks and she said it’s anxiety hypofocusing on suicides/death. I have always been scared of dying but this has me so scared. I have so much to live for and I don’t want to feel like this. My boyfriend just went on a trip for 3 weeks and I feel like I’m never going to see him again because something willl happen to me. I’ve suffered from anxiety in the past and can usually control it. But this is awful. Could I have OCD? I worry when the stomach bug is around that I’ll get it and I check if I unplug my straightener 10 times even tho I know I did because I’m afraid something will happen.
While I cannot provide a diagnosis via a blog comment, I can say that the symptoms you describe sure sound like OCD. It is quite common for people with Harm OCD to obsess about harming not just others, but themselves. Furthermore, it is quite common for people with OCD in general to obsess about having a mental health issue that will destroy them.
When your therapist describes your obsessions as “anxiety hyperfocusing on suicides/death”, that sounds exactly like “obsessing”. If she fails to grasp that these obsessions are more than just run-of-the-mill anxiety, it may be time to find a new therapist – specifically one who specializes in treating OCD with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Can Harm OCD trick you into thinking you would be capable of doing the things you fear ? Why do they feel like impulses ? It feels as if it takes a lot to stay in control . Is this all anxiety and OCD tricking you ? I’m so afraid I’m suddenly going to act out on an impulse or lose my mind and do it .
Tricking the sufferer into believing that they are going to harm others is EXACTLY what Harm OCD does. Don’t get too caught up in trying to differentiate between “thoughts” and “feelings” and “impulses”.
I have had harm thoughts and violent thoughts a few years ago when I was going through a stressful time. They went away. But now I am having many health problem me that the doctors can’t figure out. I’m sick and I can’t leave my house. This is very stressful. Since this started I have been having these thoughts again, and more frequently. I’ll have a thought “I’m going to kill my grandmother.” Or “I’m going to stab my brother” or I’ll have a mental image of me chokin my mother. I’ll tell myself I won’t, but am afraid, what if I actually do? Or what if I snap and kill/hurt someone? I sometimes have to walk by them just to show myself that I’m not going to do anything. But even then I’ll have those thoughts. I try to read the Bible or recite the Lord’s Prayer. I’m also on high doses of prednisone, which is known to cause major anxiety. That’s also a problem. I wonder if the meds I’m on will make me go crazy and i will hurt someone. I’m so scared of myself and that I’ll do something. I’m not a voilent person, as I can’t stant to watch the news or watch violent movies because it saddens me so much.
I am a bit confused. You state that you used to have Harm OCD, but that this problem went away. You then go on to describe all the current harm obsessions that you are experiencing, along with compulsions you are currently doing in an attempt to eliminate your anxiety related to these harm thoughts.
Unfortunately, OCD tends to increase at times of stress. And health problems are stressful for most people. I encourage you to focus on the real issue (your health), and to challenge the importance of the unfounded harm thoughts that arise in your mind. You might benefit from reading our article “OCD is Fake News”, which addresses how to challenge the bizarre unwanted thoughts that OCD puts in our heads. Challenging your OCD thoughts will do a lot more good than reading the Bible or testing yourself by walking past people to see if you actually harm them.
I value your articles a lot and have had a lot of insight and support from all your articles. Regarding harm ocd, apart from very common symptoms of this ocd type, sometimes I also have these thoughts that somebody or something has caused a violent harm to myself or something that I love and value a lot. Are these thoughts also part of Harm ocd? And mostly, my ocd thoughts tell me that the bad things have already been committed in the past, rather than they are going to happen in the future. Is it also normal? Can you pls advise?
Yes to both questions.
Yes, Harm OCD can include obsessions about harm coming to one’s self.
And yes, it is common and normal for Harm OCD obsessions to focus on what might have occurred in the past as well as what might occur in the future. It makes no difference if the focus of the obsession is a past or future occurrence.
My 23 yr old daughter has harm OCD. After years of working with different therapist I think she has found one that will help her. I worry about medications that are given to help the anxiety. Are there any articles I can read? thanks you, your 4 articles are very helpful
I am glad to hear that our four articles about Harm OCD have been helpful to your daughter. You should be able to find other articles about this topic using Google. As for medications, I encourage your daughter to discuss this matter with her prescribing physician.
5 years ago I was first experience anxiety/panic; I overheard my professor speaking about a guy who committed suicide. After that, ideas of self harm/suicide were implanted in my brain and I just knew I would end up like him. Thoughts of hurting myself were obsessive & couldn’t explain it to anyone out of fear of someone thinking I was insane. I didn’t understand, because I didn’t want to die, or kill/hurt myself. But, the thoughts were so overwhelming I went into a deep depression. I remember being really aware of the guns in the house, scared I would randomly jump off the balcony, etc. Once I moved, the thoughts went away. I’m not sure how. Well, here I am 5 years later and they have come back. I am scared of the knives in the kitchen. I’m convinced I’m schizophrenic. I don’t want to die, but I am so confused about these thoughts. I avoid being alone. I obsessively search the web looking for anyone who feels this away. I compare myself to others who have committed suicide to convince myself that I’m not like them. I fear I’ll explode or lose control and just do it. I’m scared I cant be helped Does this sound like Harm OCD or a more worrisome illness?
Everything you write sounds like textbook Harm OCD. You say that you “just knew you would end up like” someone who committed suicide, but it sounds like you were wrong. Five years have passed and you still have not killed yourself! That’s pretty good support for the thesis that your thoughts are not particularly accurate.
I first experienced Harm-OCD 20 years ago and recovered with meds, plus an awareness that I would always have a choice whether to act, and could always choose no. The thoughts/urges were things like “what if I threw my cat at the wall?”, or “what’s stopping me from smashing this coffee mug on my coworker’s head?”.
But they’ve returned with a vengeance in the last 2 weeks and revolve around the question, “do I want to kill people, or my family?” In the past, I think I always felt sure enough that I didn’t really want to do the horrible things. But now I’m not sure. In fact, after reading about ERP, I tested myself by saying the sentence “I want to kill people” aloud. And I’m scared because I felt sort of a thrill, and realized I wasn’t sure of my intentions. I’ve tested myself many times over this idea now (which I realize is a compulsion) and often am convinced I DO want to do harm, even coming up with reasons. I’m 52 and have lived alone for decades. I’m often lonely and depressed because I fear life has no real meaning, and so there is maybe no difference in my doing or not doing these things. I feel very broken inside.
A few thoughts…
1) You are not “broken” – you have Harm OCD.
2) Your experience with trying ERP on your own is a evidence of why it is not such a great idea to try self-directed ERP. Simply put, there is way more to ERP than just randomly exposing yourself to unwanted thoughts. Unless you have specific training and experience as a therapist specializing in the treatment of OCD, you are almost certainly unqualified to treat yourself.
Thank you for such a helpful article. I have been suffering so much from harm OCD these recent years, and it just getting worse and worse…
Especially when a real hit-and-run occurs near you, that is one hell of a thing…
Yesterday, I was walking down a really narrow alley way and it was really cramped with cars. Then, a motorcycle suddenly ran past me and he bumped into the left headlight of the car just in front of me. The driver and rider were yelling at each other for a while, and the rider then flee.
I know no one got badly injured from the accident and i know that i wasn’t involved in anyway with the accident. However, i could just cant get it off my mind. I have been wondering for the whole day at work if the motorcycle actually crashed into the car because it avoided me who was on the sidewalk, and then i started thinking whether nobody really not get any injuries because of it, and that’s driving me nuts.
The Hit-and-Run OCD have been haunting me badly enough as it is. Nowadays, even when i took the escalator at malls, i always have to look back so many times to check if i have knocked anyone down.
And this incident that just occurred really damaged my mind
It is not uncommon for people with OCD to be triggered by events in the real world, especially if those events closely mirror their obsessions.
That said, ruminating on this real event will almost certainly fail to provide you with any sense of certainty.
Likewise, looking behind you on the escalator is unlikely to provide you with long-term relief.
A better solution is to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.
Can smoking marijuana result in harm OCD ? I ask because while I had previously experienced harm thoughts occasionally, they never stuck and kept recurring until I was smoking marijuana nightly.
I know of no research that indicates that marijuana usage directly causes Harm OCD. That said, many of our clients over the years have reported that their OCD and anxiety symptoms significantly increase when they smoke or otherwise ingest marijuana. So this begs the question…if using weed leads you to have unwanted side effects, why on earth are you continuing to use weed.
A more rational response would be to stop using weed.
I’m curious. I suffer from this and I’ve been thinking. Would it be a good idea to get the thoughts out in a constructive manner? Be it through writing a story or journal maybe. Or anything else.
I doubt that writing the thoughts in a story or journal will “get the thoughts out”. A better approach is to accept the presence of the thoughts without investing them with any importance or meaning. They are just thoughts.
Hello. Can you please provide some info about how to deal with harm ocd + Law of attraction, which basically is “what you think happens to you”
The so-called law of attraction is absolute nonsense. Unfortunately, many people with OCD have read this nonsense and it has furthered their belief that their meaningless harming obsessions are somehow meaningful and important, and that these obsessions are going to come true if they have them. The bottom line is that what you think does not automatically happen to you. Otherwise, nobody would have OCD, because pretty much every person who has ever had OCD has wished long and hard that they didn’t struggle with this condition. So my advice is simple – stop reading anything and everything that has to do with the idiotic law of attraction.
Thank you so much for making this article. I have dealt with this since I was very young. I believe my parents just blamed it on them fighting all the time. And therefore, I was never aware that it wasn’t just a panic attack. It wasn’t just anxiety. It was not just an overwhelming fear/paranoia. It was a true disorder. That is common and treatable. And of course the reassurance of not being crazy is good too! Anyways, please continue to advocate for all of us that experience episodes of suffering from this disorder! On behalf of all of us, I can probably say for the majority, that all we want is to feel normal and not worry. And with the help of articles like these, we will be one step closer to that. I truly appreciate this article.
Thank you for your kind words. It is gratifying to know that our article has helped you.
Hello Tom. Thanks for the articles. I left a post on here back in 2014. Yep 4 years without harm ocd. As of 4 weeks now it’s back! Every time I’ve had an episode it’s the same month! Hunting season. I’m thinking being around firearms so much may bring it on. My intrusive thought is the same I want to harm my son as usual. With the same thought about other family members too. But it revolves around the false belief created by ocd that I want to harm. It tears me down to nothing. I say false belief because my reactions to the thought shows how much I distress and worry over it all day. The thing is I can ask myself do you love your kid? Heck yes! Do you want anything to ever happen to him? God no! What if someone was trying to hurt him? I’d protect him even if it meant losing my life. But when I ask myself do you want to harm him I just freeze up like a wall of doubt is blocking everything. It’s crazy because I just answered 3 questions that prove I don’t want to but my mind can’t see it. I was diagnosed a long time ago with ocd. And every compulsion I perform is because my mind says if I don’t it means I want to harm him. Any words of help would greatly be appreciate
A few thoughts…
1) It is quite common for people with OCD to experience a spike in their symptoms from time to time.
2) It makes sense that your harm obsessions would spike when hunting seasons arrive, especially considering that you will be spending more time with and around guns.
3) Not doing compulsions does not mean you actually want to harm your son – it means you are experiencing Harm OCD, and you are terrified by the thought that you want to harm your son.
4) The single most important thing you need to do is to stop responding to the obsessions by doing compulsions. You need to allow yourself to experience the unwanted harm thoughts without taking steps to reduce or eliminate your anxiety related to these thoughts. I encourage you to read our article Exposure Therapy for OCD and Anxiety atet addresses how resisting the urge to compulsions helps reduce OCD in four ways.
Hey Tom thanks for the reply. Yes I really need to workin resisting compulsions. When you said it’s a fear of wanting to harm my son not wanting to harm him is the truth. That’s what every harm ocd episode I’ve ever had has revolves around. I don’t want to sound crazy cause believe me I’m not. But when I’m in severe ocd mode that’s my fear. That it’s really me and not ocd. Almost like I want to scream why am I thinking this crazy stuff! This is not me!!! Then I look at my emotional state from the thought and I see that it scares the crap out of me and makes me feel very very depressed. So I know it’s not really me. But at the same time I can’t make myself see it. Last night was good. It left at bedtime again and all was well. I knew for a fact it was all garbage. But at 130 this morning I woke up with anxiety and it was back. I have a question. When I look at my kids picture the first thing I think is I wanna harm. This blows me away. Is it I’m so sensitized by this obsessive thought and it just triggers it? I am a loving dad and this stuff makes me feel like a crazy person. No one does ocd therapy here in Mississippi. Any ideas.
My best suggestion is to seek treatment. And if there is nobody in Mississippi that can provide you with qualified care, then you need to go outside of Mississippi. We offer an intensive outpatient treatment program that is specifically designed for people who need treatment, but don’t have any OCD specialists near them. You can learn more about this program at https://ocdla.com/intensive-treatment-ocd-anxiety/.
I know that I have harm OCD. but I’m starting to get scared of meself. Say I see a video of someone (real life or fake) being hit or hurt, most of the time it makes me uncomfortable, but sometimes I feel like my mind may like it. Like it excites my brain. It is very hard to explain. For a second I almost feel like I want to hit someone. Is this more than harm OCD? The thought that I may feel this way terrifies me.
The fear that one secretly like the idea of causing harm is extremely common in those with Harm OCD. This thought is part of the fear of being in denial about one’s character that so often plages people with Harm OCD.
I really think I have this HARM OCD I’ve had visions of hurting or killing people for about a decade now and it affects my jobs n relationships. My biggest fear is ever hurting someone I absolutely hate these thoughts and there ruining my life. I convince myself that I’ve done these thoughts and it takes my weeks to get over them and they happen everyday.