A DEFINITION OF OBSESSIONS.
- These are recurrent, persistent and unwanted thoughts that cause the person much anxiety/distress.
- Besides coming under the form of thoughts, they can also be images or impulses that will repeat themselves and are experienced to be unwanted, intrusive and inappropriate.
- The person feels overwhelmed by the obsessions as they seem to intrude in every aspect of their thinking and are very disturbing thus triggering much anxiety and discomfort.
- They will try hard to suppress the thought/images/impulses and/or try to "neutralize" them by other thoughts or specific actions.
- They do realize the thought to be a product of their own mind, although with children it can be they sense it to be "a voice" that is telling them to do bad things.
The Obsessions and what they stand for are often in harsh contrast with the person's own convictions and beliefs which makes their impact only greater.
Obsessions are accompanied by uncomfortable feelings or wanting things to be done "Just Right".
What is Meant by People Who Are Pure "O"'s?
Some people who suffer from OCD are referred to as being pure "O's", meaning that they mainly or solely seem to suffer from Obsessions. But some professionals will see part of these obsessions as compulsions which are performed on a cerebral level only. These mental rituals as you wish, mean a person will for example check their thoughts, count their thoughts, their thoughts will have to feel "Just right", like you see with Compulsions.
So a ritual/compulsions can be executed mentally and like the physical ones, are trying to relieve the anxiety. The Obsession itself is what happens on a mental level which actually tends to trigger the anxiety, often starting the entire OCD- cycle.
So 1 is upsetting because they take away the persons feeling of control while the other mental/physical rituals try to create that control we all want so badly.
PERSONAL STORY: Read a Personal Story on Obsessions.
What It Is Like To Have Obsessions.
EXAMPLE. Here is an example which is probably not scientifically, but here goes anyway. Tell yourself to not think about a Red Ball.
I mean really tell yourself that thinking about a Red Ball is not okay, so you can't think about it. Not only that, visualize that Red Ball you aren't allowed to think about.
No Red Ball, no Red Ball, no Red Ball..... Okay, now go look inside your mind, you will probably find that "Red Ball" is found all over the place. Probably, if you keep doing this for long enough, a red color in your surrounding might be enough to think about a... Red Ball.
Bad bad bad, I said don't think about a Red Ball.
But now imagine that this thought you are not allowed to have or rather that you don't want to have is beyond your control and is really stressful in content. That what you are thinking of is not a red ball, but instead you taking that knife you see before you and stabbing your loved-one or you molesting your children.
Would you think it's just a thought, or would you try and find out the whys of you having these thoughts and try to alleviate the anxiety they provoke?
Everyone has distressing thoughts.
It is said that most humans have distressing thoughts that can be of a violent and/or sexual nature, but they simply don't seem to make much of an impact. They don't tend to stick in the person's mind, but more importantly, the person can dispel them as being just a thought.
So why does this "normal" thinking process affect people with OCD differently?
It is what you do with the Thoughts/Images which is important and people with OCD who have these types of obsessions can't dispel them as easily. They have a constant feeling of:
"What if I do this?"
"What if these thoughts are for real?"
"What if these thoughts say something about who I am as a person?"
Part of them knows very well this is just a thought, but the OCD part continues with its relentless doubting. So they try to find out the whys of these thoughts or maybe start to hide all the knives in the house.
Soon enough they will realize that reasoning doesn't help and avoiding isn't a real option either. The only relief, although temporary, is found in performing mental and/or physical rituals which will actually reenforce the initial obsession (Look at the OCD- cycle for more information concerning the reenforcing process.).
Once the obsession occurs, the mind will try and find a solution to these absurd thoughts. The sufferer wants to find an answer as to why they have them and how to prevent having them, thinking that the key is out there somewhere if they just look for it long enough.
But there is no such key. Reasoning with your OCD, finding a logical answer to what is going through your mind is not the solution.
Stop Marking Your Obsessions.
Actually, trying to find this answer to your obsessions just puts emphasis on them. As if you are marking this thought you don't want to have with some brightly colored paint, thus making your mind much more aware of its existence. However small the trigger may be, your mind will make the connection to it and find that "thought" in no time because you marked it with the color of fear. Fighting/Reasoning with your Obsessions in this case means feeding the power of the thought.
Like with the example "don't think of a Red Ball", does reminding yourself to not have the thought or looking for answers in a way do exactly what you are trying to avoid, which is repeat this thought you don't want to have. You literally are engraving it deeper and deeper into your mind and associating more and more things to it. The result... a multitude of triggers and constant anxiety.
So How Can You Deal With These Obsessions?
So then what is the solution that can give "real" solace?
You can't reason with them and you avoiding things won't work either.
Well, for starters you should go see a professional psychologist because while there are things you can do for yourself, they will structure your efforts so they will work for you even more efficiently.
But there are a few things you could try. Part of the answer lays in very persistently and repeatedly ignoring the thought in order to rob it of it's power and to desensitize yourself.
By ignoring is meant that next time it is making you anxious and you want to try and reason it away or neutralize it, let it come to you instead.
Some people said this made them literally get bored by their thoughts. A technique is to actually write the obsessions down, so maybe you can see them for what they are.
So much easier said than done, I know...
But no 1 ever said this would be easy but this is part of the real key to regaining some of your freedom.
Don't forget, this is an Anxiety Disorder, nothing will be really simple, every step you take to fight the OCD will be a direct confrontation with your anxiety.
This is the technique known as CBT or BT, where in gradual steps, anxiety is confronted and the person is desensitized.
While the pain of OCD is relentless and seems ever lasting, is the pain of facing the anxiety through guided therapy adding to you having more and more freedom.
VIOLENT and/or SEXUAL OBSESSIONS.
So many of the Obsessions seem to be about inhibitions, about what's right and what's wrong.
Resulting in continuous doubt about whether they will make the Right choice. Wondering if their thoughts will result in them doing harm to another person or themselves or act in an ethically repulsing way.
1 reason why most people can interact socially and freely is because they have some build- in rules. They are what tell us what we can and can not do and make us feel somewhat in control of how we interact and thus make us feel "safe" in a social environment.
Violent and/or Sexual Obsessions will be more intensely triggered while interacting, the more the person means to them or the larger the crowd.
Although, even when by themselves they have a grip on the person.
Obsessing about hurting yourself causes less tension.
There is no guilt involved in that, and guilt is yet another term that you could relate to OCD since it is about feeling responsible.
But when these fears involve the well- being of others the thought of loosing control is much worse.
People with OCD seek control more than anything else, losing control in a social setting is the ultimate fear, since this means you wouldn't be able to hide and might hurt innocent people.
But these are "just" thoughts. I say Just because although their devastating impact, they still are not real.
Every person with OCD knows this somewhere inside of them, but the "what- if's" that are so typical to OCD, disrupt this self- knowledge.
This is the very persuasive OCD talking, not you as a person.
Someone that has this type of Obsessions will on a day to day basis be confronted with images and thoughts that often very vividly show them what would happen when or if we would lose this self- control. At times as accurately as in movies can they see how they hurt their loved- 1's. They seem unable to believe in the safety given by inhibitions, the certainty of knowing you won't hurt or abuse your children and so on. They live in constant doubt and must fight a constant battle to rid themselves of these obsessions. They are appalled by their own thoughts and will not understand why they think them and see themselves as being bad people.
The "What If" Obsessions.
EXAMPLE. As an example I would like you, the non- sufferer, to think of when you have just been told something really sad or serious..... How for some reason just during such situations, you can feel this urge to smile.
Not because you want to, but because you are afraid to.
This is what we all know as nervously smiling/giggling/laughing.
I think we have all felt this fear that it would really be awkward or "wrong" to even just smile right then. This pressure of the un- written yet widely accepted rule of not smiling or laughing in such a situation, makes you so afraid of not being able to remain serious and the greater the stress the greater the fear your inhibitions might not work for you.
What if you can't control that smile... What if... now that a light version of what OCD is.
These are a type of Obsessions which are at the basis of many OCD actions and thoughts, they are the continuous doubting so typical for people with OCD.
Most people can put doubts aside and turn the "What If" into a possible "I will see".
But for someone with OCD, this simply phrase: "What If" turns every action into doubt.
By saying this you turn certainty into doubt and unlikely or impossible into possible.
"I switched the stove off. But what if I haven't and the house burns down?"
"I closed the door. What if I haven't and someone breaks in?"
"I didn't hurt someone while driving home. But what if I did and I didn't even check?"
This creates a tension that disables the person from moving on to the next thing, they will worry and check, re-perform the action, rethink the situation while there is never the desired feeling of control and certainty. Just more What If's.
Does Someone Act On Their Obsessions?
The answer to whether someone with OCD will act on these obsessions is simple: definitely NO.
Their thoughts don't determine who they are. However petrifying these thoughts may be, they are not them. These thoughts will however take away a person's self- esteem, making them belief they are bad people while trying to fight against this and trying hard to see the truth, being that they would never hurt anyone.
These obsessions are so in contrast with their personal value's making them incredibly painful.
Seems the more deeply they believe in certain ethical/human values, the greater the pressure becomes in trusting their capacities to not act in a shocking way or in a way that will be directly opposing to their personal beliefs.
Having to fight against those doubts whether or not you will hurt someone is exhausting and scary. What is keeping them from going crazy is the knowledge that someone with OCD does NOT act out on her/his thoughts.
People with such thoughts aren't their thoughts, but they do have OCD.
How to react when someone tells you they are having such thoughts.
Start by listening.
Use your common sense and know that if this involves Violent and/or Sexual Obsessions, this person you have known or loved has never done any harm. If they haven't before, why would they now? So listen to them don't be scared, don't judge, don't try and figure this out for them.
Next thing is to find more information about OCD, in case you found this site while doing just that you are taking the first steps to help.
If the person is already seeing a therapist, you might consider going along a couple of times so they can help you understand this better, this is if the person doesn't mind this of course. No use in going along if this is taking away the feeling of comfort and intimacy/trust they have with their therapist.
Let the person know that you realize that their thoughts are not them and that you trust them. If you have questions, ask them. Caring means you want to understand, and understanding is found in informing yourself with facts and trying to hear what they are going through, take the time to do this.
In case this is happening to a younger person comfort them, do no try and reason with them to make them stop.
Letting someone know they are understood is so important and easy to do.
Especially for a kid, who might not be able to really see this as being part of a condition, it is important to be taken seriously and have someone tell them they are not a bad person.
Here too it is important to find adequate professional help, the earlier the child is treated the better.
1 last thing I would like to repeat, these people are not their thoughts..... understanding this is
crucial into really being able to help them.
They do not want these thought any more than you do, they go through much distress and pain and would only want 1 thing and that is for them to go away. Inform yourselves and give them a surrounding of support and understanding where they will find a consistent back- up system/environment where they will feel safe to make the changes that are so hard and needed for them to get their lives back.