OCD Center of Los Angeles California
OCD Center of Los Angeles

Harm OCD: Symptoms and Treatment

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

    

Harm OCD is a common variant of OCD

Harm OCD is a common variant of OCD, and is very treatable with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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 my 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 Harm OCD testanywhere 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: Checking

  • 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

  • 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.

Reassurance Seeking

  • 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 Rituals

  • 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 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 Harm OCD testtechnique 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.

·I will suddenly snap and violently attack:

oMy significant other or ex

oMy child (especially common in Postpartum OCD)

oMy nephew/niece/godchild

oA disabled or ill person

oA baby

oA 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 harm thoughts 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 control of my sanity and commit suicide.

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208 Comments to Harm OCD: Symptoms and Treatment

  1. 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.

  2. Andrew on February 22nd, 2012
  3. Thanks for the feedback, Andrew and I’m happy the article resonated with you! I’m working on section two (treatment for Harm OCD) right now and hopefully we’ll get it online soon.

  4. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 23rd, 2012
  5. 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!

  6. Janet Singer on February 25th, 2012
  7. 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!

  8. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 26th, 2012
  9. 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!

  10. Tania on March 7th, 2012
  11. 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 ocd, it is treatable with cbt and the hard work pays off.

  12. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 7th, 2012
  13. 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.

  14. P.Nuts on March 7th, 2012
  15. 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!

  16. Christina on March 13th, 2012
  17. Christina, thanks for your comment and I’m glad you connected with the article.

    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. This can be learned with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You can learn more about treatment for OCD using CBT at http://www.ocdla.com/cognitivebehavioraltherapy.html

    If you’re in California, you could ask your parents about doing online treatment 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.

  18. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 14th, 2012
  19. 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.

  20. Taylor on March 14th, 2012
  21. Taylor,

    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.

  22. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 15th, 2012
  23. P.nuts,

    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.

  24. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 15th, 2012
  25. 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

  26. Mo on March 19th, 2012
  27. Hi Mo,

    Post-partum 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, post-partum ocd is best treated with cognitive behavioral therapy from an ocd specialist.

  28. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 24th, 2012
  29. 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.

  30. Amanda on April 12th, 2012
  31. This article was great at reafirming what i hadnt heard for a long time, and giving me peace of mind. your the best!!!!!

  32. Michelle Cory on April 30th, 2012
  33. 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 if you haven’t already. Feel free to email me if you need help locating treatment options.

  34. OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 1st, 2012
  35. Thanks for the feedback, Michelle! Keep standing up to your ocd!

  36. OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 1st, 2012
  37. 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?

  38. alexis on May 10th, 2012
  39. 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.

  40. OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 11th, 2012
  41. 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

  42. Brett on May 12th, 2012
  43. 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.

  44. OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 12th, 2012
  45. 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 :)

  46. Lisa on May 17th, 2012
  47. Lisa, thanks for your comment and I’m happy the article touched home for you. It’s really unfortunate that so many women struggle with this form of ocd during or after pregnancy, 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.

  48. OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 17th, 2012
  49. 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.

  50. Alicia on July 6th, 2012
  51. 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.

  52. Alicia on July 6th, 2012
  53. Alicia, thanks for your comments and I’m happy the article resonated with you. Many women with Harm OCD tell me 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.

    Feel free to contact me if you need help locating an ocd specialist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

  54. OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 6th, 2012
  55. 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.

  56. John on August 24th, 2012
  57. 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.

    If you want to email me your location, I might be able to suggest where you could get treatment from an ocd specialist. Your Harm OCD is very treatable.

  58. OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 9th, 2012
  59. 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

  60. Amber on September 9th, 2012
  61. 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.

  62. OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 10th, 2012
  63. 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,
    Tina

  64. Tina on October 7th, 2012
  65. 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?
    PM

  66. PM on October 7th, 2012
  67. 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.

  68. Alex on October 7th, 2012
  69. Hi Tina, thanks for the comment and I’m happy the article was helpful for you! Since you are not in the U.S. you might consider doing therapy online via skype with one of our therapists at the OCD Center of LA. Here’s a link to more information on that: http://www.ocdla.com/telephone-online-therapy-ocd-anxiety.html

    There are some cbt-for-ocd therapists in London, I just don’t know any of them personally. You might be able to find someone through ocduk.org.

  70. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 8th, 2012
  71. 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.

  72. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 8th, 2012
  73. 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 http://www.ocdla.com/blog/harm-ocd-treatment-mindfulness-1560.

  74. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 8th, 2012
  75. 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.

  76. Alex on October 9th, 2012
  77. 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?

  78. Deepak on October 10th, 2012
  79. 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.

  80. TB on October 17th, 2012
  81. 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. There is 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.

  82. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 18th, 2012
  83. 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. This fear 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. I recommend Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer and Freedom From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson as good starters.

  84. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 18th, 2012
  85. 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 gesture\movement 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?

    PM

  86. PM on October 18th, 2012
  87. 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 http://www.ocfoundation.org/findproviders.aspx

  88. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 19th, 2012
  89. 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 gesture\movement 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?”

    —I hear these questions every day. They are reassurance-seeking questions designed to avoid discomfort, and they fuel the obsessions and make the ocd worse. My recommendation is that you engage in cbt for your ocd and that it includes specific exposure w/ response prevention for your fear of snapping.

  90. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 19th, 2012
  91. 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!

  92. Erika on October 20th, 2012
  93. Hi Erika, sounds like you’ve been through some pretty traumatic experiences trying to get help. The intrusive thoughts of harming your 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 cognitive behavioral therapy 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.

  94. OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 24th, 2012
  95. 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.

  96. Gabby on October 29th, 2012
  97. 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 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.

  98. OCD Center of Los Angeles on November 2nd, 2012
  99. 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

  100. Julian on November 8th, 2012
  101. 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 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, starting at http://www.ocdla.com/blog/sexual-orientation-hocd-gay-ocd-treatment-1010. 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.

  102. OCD Center of Los Angeles on November 8th, 2012
  103. 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.

    Thanks again!

  104. Karl on November 26th, 2012
  105. Hi Karl, thanks for commenting! Very happy to hear the article was helpful for you.

  106. OCD Center of Los Angeles on November 27th, 2012
  107. 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!

    Julian

  108. Julian on November 29th, 2012
  109. 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.

    -Nick

  110. Nicholas on December 10th, 2012
  111. 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.

  112. Sabrina on December 13th, 2012
  113. 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???

  114. Courtney on December 13th, 2012
  115. 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.

  116. Sabrina on December 14th, 2012
  117. 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.

  118. OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 20th, 2012
  119. Hi Sabrina,

    Thank you for sending 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 at http://www.ocdla.com/postpartum-ocd.html.

    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.

  120. OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 20th, 2012
  121. Hi Courtney,

    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 related to 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.

  122. OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 20th, 2012
  123. 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 at http://www.ocdla.com/blog/ocd-thought-action-fusion-1790.

  124. OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 20th, 2012
  125. 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.

  126. Ngaifong on December 26th, 2012
  127. Hi Ngaifong,

    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 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.

  128. OCD Center of Los Angeles on December 30th, 2012
  129. 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.

  130. Jennifer on January 17th, 2013
  131. Hi Jennifer,

    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.

    Take care.

  132. OCD Center of Los Angeles on January 20th, 2013
  133. 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.

  134. Henry Morales on February 6th, 2013
  135. Hi Henry,

    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) for OCD 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.

    Take care.

  136. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 6th, 2013
  137. 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.
    PM

  138. PM on February 11th, 2013
  139. PM,

    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.

  140. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 12th, 2013
  141. 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?

  142. smile on February 18th, 2013
  143. 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.
    PM

  144. PM on February 19th, 2013
  145. PM,

    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.

    Take care.

  146. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 19th, 2013
  147. Hi Smile,

    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) for OCD. This is the treatment that has been shown to be the most effective this condition.

    Take care.

  148. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 22nd, 2013
  149. 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.

  150. PM on February 27th, 2013
  151. Hi PM,

    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 know this is difficult, but this is the only way to effectively respond to these kinds of thoughts.

  152. OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 27th, 2013
  153. 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 psychologist\psychiatrist 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.

  154. PM on February 27th, 2013
  155. 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.

  156. Nicky on March 7th, 2013
  157. Hi Nicky,

    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. In other words, if you didn’t have OCD, would you babysit this weekend? If the answer is yes, then you should babysit.

  158. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 12th, 2013
  159. 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??
    Thank you,
    M.

  160. Maria on March 14th, 2013
  161. 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?
    PM

  162. PM on March 28th, 2013
  163. Hi Maria,

    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. To help you develop your ability to accept the presence of these types of unwanted thoughts, I encourage you to read Kimberley Quinlan’s article Mindfulness for OCD and Anxiety. Take care.

  164. OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 30th, 2013
  165. 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!

  166. Jenna on March 31st, 2013
  167. Hi Jenna,

    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.

  168. OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 1st, 2013
  169. 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

  170. Jeff on April 25th, 2013
  171. 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 Harm OCD 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.

  172. OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 26th, 2013
  173. That feeling\urge 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.
    Thanks
    PM

  174. PM on May 7th, 2013
  175. 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.

    I encourage you to read one of our earlier articles, Reassurance Seeking in OCD and Anxiety. Take care.

  176. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 7th, 2013
  177. 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!

  178. Elishka on May 23rd, 2013
  179. Hi Elishka,

    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). Take care.

  180. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on May 27th, 2013
  181. 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!

  182. Jeff on June 1st, 2013
  183. Hi Jeff,

    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.

  184. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 4th, 2013
  185. 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.

  186. Jessie on June 7th, 2013
  187. Hi Jessie,

    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.

    Take care.

  188. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 10th, 2013
  189. 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.

  190. Jessie on June 10th, 2013
  191. Jessie,

    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).

  192. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 16th, 2013
  193. Can ocd make you worry about getting schizophrenia?

  194. Janie on June 17th, 2013
  195. Hi Janie,

    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.

  196. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 18th, 2013
  197. 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?

  198. Jeff on June 23rd, 2013
  199. Hi Jeff,

    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.

  200. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 24th, 2013
  201. 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.

  202. btwmn on June 28th, 2013
  203. Hi btwmn,

    Thank you for your comment – glad we could be of service.

  204. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 30th, 2013
  205. 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.

  206. Dan on July 2nd, 2013
  207. Hi Dan,

    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.

  208. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 2nd, 2013
  209. Hi,

    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!!

  210. Veronica on July 5th, 2013
  211. Hi Veronica,

    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.

  212. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 5th, 2013
  213. Can ocd make you think your hearing noises or people talk when your only hearing natural noises? This gives me anxiety

  214. Janie on July 7th, 2013
  215. 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 these conditions are not even remotely the same.

  216. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 9th, 2013
  217. 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.

  218. OCD Suffer on July 9th, 2013
  219. 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?

  220. Jaryd M on July 9th, 2013
  221. Hi Jaryd,

    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.

  222. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 10th, 2013
  223. 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 thoughts – some are weird, some are boring, some are funny, some are (fill in the blank), etc.

  224. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 10th, 2013
  225. 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

  226. Jeff on July 11th, 2013
  227. Hi Jeff,

    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.

    Take care.

  228. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 13th, 2013
  229. Can ocd ever turn into schizophrenia? I’m worried thanks for your reply!

  230. Jeff on July 14th, 2013
  231. Jeff,

    OCD neither causes nor in any way leads to Schizophrenia.

  232. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 16th, 2013
  233. 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.
    maria-Greece

  234. maria on July 20th, 2013
  235. Hi Maria,

    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. Just because something bad has happened doesn’t mean you were involved. A lot of bad things happen every day!

  236. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 24th, 2013
  237. 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

  238. Rachael on July 24th, 2013
  239. Hi Rachael,

    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.

  240. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 24th, 2013
  241. 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.

  242. Anon11 on August 9th, 2013
  243. Hello,
    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…
    OK, So
    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…

  244. Jim on August 9th, 2013
  245. Hi Jim,

    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. You can read more about the four different types of compulsions in part four of our series on Harm OCD here.

    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!

  246. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 11th, 2013
  247. Hi Anon11,

    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). I encourage you to read the rest of our multi-part series on Harm OCD treatment starting here. These articles will give you an idea of what to expect from effective treatment for Harm OCD.

  248. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 11th, 2013
  249. 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.

  250. Rachael on August 13th, 2013
  251. Hi Rachael,

    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 (because reassurance-seeking never works for long).

    I encourage you to read our article titled Reassurance Seeking in OCD and Anxiety. It will help you to better understand reassurance seeking. You may also want to read part four of our series on Harm OCD which discusses reassurance seeking as a compulsion.

    I also encourage you to accept that you 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.

  252. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 14th, 2013
  253. 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.

  254. Jason Hwang on August 21st, 2013
  255. Thank you for your kind words Jason – we always appreciate hearing that our work is helpful. Take care.

  256. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 21st, 2013
  257. 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

  258. Laura on August 27th, 2013
  259. Hi 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) 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.

  260. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 27th, 2013
  261. Hello all,

    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

  262. veki on September 2nd, 2013
  263. 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!

  264. TiredOfTheseThoughts on September 12th, 2013
  265. 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

  266. Jeff on September 17th, 2013
  267. 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.

    Regards!

  268. Niko on September 22nd, 2013
  269. Hi Veki,

    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.

  270. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 30th, 2013
  271. 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). Finally, I encourage you to either seek Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or take medications that are helpful with OCD.

  272. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 30th, 2013
  273. Hi Jeff,

    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.

  274. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 30th, 2013
  275. Hi Niko,

    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.

  276. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on September 30th, 2013
  277. Hi Tom

    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.
    Thanks!

  278. TiredOfTheseThoughts on September 30th, 2013
  279. 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.

  280. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 2nd, 2013
  281. 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?

  282. Christian on October 10th, 2013
  283. Hi Tom

    Thanks a lot for your reply. Really appreciate a lot :)

    God bless
    TiredOfTheseThoughts

  284. TiredOfTheseThoughts on October 11th, 2013
  285. Thank you TiredOfTheseThoughts – I’m glad our articles are helpful for you.

  286. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 15th, 2013
  287. Hi Christian,

    I do not know of any OCD specialists in the Dallas area. You can try the International OCD Foundation at http://www.ocfoundation.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 http://www.ocdla.com .

  288. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 15th, 2013
  289. 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.

  290. safee on October 20th, 2013
  291. Hi Safee,

    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 Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

  292. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on October 21st, 2013
  293. 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.

  294. safee on October 24th, 2013
  295. 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.

  296. ke on November 7th, 2013
  297. Safee,

    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.

  298. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on November 12th, 2013
  299. Hi ke,

    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 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (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.

    Take care.

  300. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on November 12th, 2013
  301. 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.

  302. Rob on January 21st, 2014
  303. 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

  304. Elishka on February 3rd, 2014
  305. Hi Rob,

    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. You can read about it here.

  306. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 4th, 2014
  307. 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 to many clients around the world. If you would like to discuss this option, please contact us via our website at http://www.ocdla.com.

  308. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 5th, 2014
  309. 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.

  310. Elishka on February 5th, 2014
  311. Elishka,

    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.

  312. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 6th, 2014
  313. 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 :(

  314. Gaby on February 6th, 2014
  315. Hi Gaby,

    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.

  316. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 7th, 2014
  317. 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

  318. Gaby on February 7th, 2014
  319. Glad to help Gaby.

  320. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 8th, 2014
  321. 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…..

  322. Gaby on February 10th, 2014
  323. 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.

  324. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 10th, 2014
  325. Can ocd trick u making you think that you laugh at the thoughts but you didn’t?

  326. Gaby on February 14th, 2014
  327. 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

  328. Brenda on February 20th, 2014
  329. Hi Gaby,

    OCD can trick you into believing anything.

  330. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 27th, 2014
  331. Hi Brenda,

    Everything you write sounds like textbook Harm OCD. I encourage you to seek treatment with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

  332. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on February 27th, 2014
  333. 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

  334. NW on March 2nd, 2014
  335. 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:/

  336. Trista on March 4th, 2014
  337. Thank you for your reply :) can’t stand ocd thoughts is so confusing and is so complicate to live with :/

  338. Gaby on March 5th, 2014
  339. 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!

  340. Matthew on March 6th, 2014
  341. NW,

    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.

  342. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 7th, 2014
  343. Hi Trista,

    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.

  344. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 7th, 2014
  345. Matthew,

    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.

  346. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 7th, 2014
  347. 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

  348. Gaby on March 28th, 2014
  349. Hi Gaby,

    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.

  350. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on March 31st, 2014
  351. 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.

  352. Gaby on April 24th, 2014
  353. 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 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for OCD.

  354. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 25th, 2014
  355. 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.

  356. Carl on April 25th, 2014
  357. Carl,

    Thanks for your question. In Harm OCD, there is no effective difference between thoughts, urges and impulses – they are all very common symptoms.

  358. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 25th, 2014
  359. 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!

  360. V. on April 26th, 2014
  361. Hi V.,

    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

  362. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 26th, 2014
  363. i have harm ocd i have disturbing thoughts of sexually abusing my child i want your advice

  364. madeleine on April 28th, 2014
  365. Hi Madeleine,

    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). We can provide you with this treatment via webcam using these techniques.

  366. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on April 28th, 2014
  367. 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?

  368. Elishka on May 19th, 2014
  369. 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?

  370. Brando on May 23rd, 2014
  371. 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.
    Plz reply!

  372. Nicole on May 30th, 2014
  373. Elishka,

    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.

  374. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 2nd, 2014
  375. Hi Brando,

    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.

  376. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 2nd, 2014
  377. Hi Nicole,

    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. You can find resources at http://www.ocfoundation.org.

  378. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 2nd, 2014
  379. 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.

  380. patricia on June 5th, 2014
  381. Hi Patricia,

    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) specifically for OCD. This will be the best way for you to lesrn how to more effectively manage these thoughts.

  382. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on June 17th, 2014
  383. 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.

  384. Joe on June 30th, 2014
  385. Hi Joe,

    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.

  386. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 1st, 2014
  387. Hello Tom,

    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,
    Brian

  388. Brian on July 2nd, 2014
  389. Hi Brian,

    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.

  390. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 2nd, 2014
  391. Hello Tom,

    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.

    Brian

  392. Brian on July 3rd, 2014
  393. Hi Brian,

    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.

  394. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on July 8th, 2014
  395. 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 person\mom for tinkling that like they feel so real like If I did say those nasty word pls help

  396. Gaby on July 17th, 2014
  397. Hello,

    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.

    Z

  398. Z on July 18th, 2014
  399. 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!

  400. V. on July 23rd, 2014
  401. Gaby,

    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.

  402. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 5th, 2014
  403. Hi Z.,

    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.

  404. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 5th, 2014
  405. Hi V.,

    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.

  406. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 5th, 2014
  407. Thank u so much for your comment

  408. Gaby on August 6th, 2014
  409. 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.

  410. Raymond on August 17th, 2014
  411. Hi Raymond,

    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.

  412. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 19th, 2014
  413. Dear Sir,

    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.

    Thanks.

  414. Sunita on August 26th, 2014
  415. Hi Sunita,

    If your son is interested in online treatment, please ask him to contact us via our website at http://www.ocdla.com.

  416. Tom Corboy, MFT ~ OCD Center of Los Angeles on August 26th, 2014

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