Obsessive Compulsive

by  |  August 9th, 2016 |  0 Comments |  Print


Lavois Tina was a teenager when she started to notice features of her OCD. She would worry a lot that she might be responsible for hurting people by something she did or didn’t do. She would spend a lot of time going over in her mind to check whether she had hurt anyone, or whether she had made a mistake which could lead to anyone getting hurt. Tina had a number of rituals which helped to calm her. One of these was to tap her fingers on things an even number of times – she would do this until it felt ‘right’. Tina got to the point where she was spending up to six hours a day on her behaviours or going through things in her mind.


Frank would experience many different kinds of obsessions. When he was around people he loved he would have vivid intrusive images of doing harm to them. He thought of himself as a peaceful man so he found this extremely upsetting, and it scared him to think that he might act on the images. Frank would also become obsessed by the idea that he was contaminated by germs, particularly from shared items at work, and would feel unclean. He would spend over two hours each day washing his hands and arms until he was satisfied that he was clean.

What is OCD?

A diagnosis of OCD is given when specific symptoms are present most days for the last 2 successive weeks, and must cause significant distress or interference with other activities.

  • Obsessions
    • Obsessions are recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses
    • These are experienced as intrusive and unwanted, and tend to provoke anxiety
    • The response to the obsessions is to try to suppress them, or neutralise them with some other thought or action
  • Compulsions
    • Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental actions that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession
    • The compulsions are aimed at reducing anxiety or mental distress

Obsessive & Intrusive thoughts

Unintended and unwanted thoughts are a common feature of being human. Our brains are constantly thinking – we can’t help it! Some of our thoughts are deliberate – for example if you lose your keys and deliberately think back to where you last had them. Other thoughts are automatic – for example you can allow your mind to ‘free associate’ to the following words: tiger, color, book. Just notice what other thoughts or images come to mind.

Obsessions in OCD tend to follow common themes. Some of the most common obsessions are:

Losing control Contamination Sexual
Impulse to harm self By bodily fluids Unwanted sexual thoughts or images
Impulse to harm someone else By a chemical Sexual obsessions about children
Impulse to shout something obscene By germs or disease Sexual obsessions about homosexuality
Harm Religion Perfectionism
Being responsible for something awful (e.g. fire, accident) Worry about offending God Need to know or remember
Fear about hurting others by not being careful enough Concern about morality Concern with exactness or preciseness

Human beings not only have thoughts, they also have thoughts-about-having-thoughts. In OCD it is often these thoughts-about-thoughts’ that lead to a strong emotional reaction.

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