Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) usually involves both obsessions and compulsions. Today’s blog describes and gives examples of obsessions. The obsessions of people with OCD are frequent, distressing, and interfere with life. Obsessions are thoughts, urges, or images that arrive in your brain–unexpected and uninvited. They disturb you and grab your attention. And when they occur, people are highly motivated to rid themselves of the obsession.
  • Obsessions are often quite disconnected from what you are doing. For example, you might be balancing your checkbook and suddenly have an obsessive thought about how you may have forgotten to lock the door. You struggle to stay focused on the checkbook but have a growing, powerful urge to check the lock.
  • Obsessions are potent interrupters. They barge in and take over your mind. You might be driving your car and suddenly an urge to slam your car into the car in front of you takes over your mind. You wonder what’s wrong with your brain and worry that you might actually give in to your impulse and cause an accident. You fear you might be crazy.
  • Obsessions disturb, embarrass, anger, upset, worry, or disgust the afflicted. They are not welcome thoughts, brilliant ideas, or gentle reminders. You walk into your house of worship and unexpectedly wonder if you are sexually attracted to one of the religious statues. Your mind conjures up a vivid image of throwing your body into the arms of the stone figure. You doubt your sanity.
  • Obsessions keep on coming back. You might want to stop obsessing, but you can’t. The more you push back and try to suppress an obsession the more it seems to return.

You may find it interesting to know that some research suggests that people without OCD have various thoughts and images enter their minds that are virtually indistinguishable from those that greatly upset people who have OCD. Thus, people who don’t suffer from OCD, may occasionally have thoughts of running their cars into another car, have an inappropriate sexual thought, or experience an image of having forgotten to lock up the house.

What’s the difference? Through no fault of their own, OCD sufferers take the obsessional thoughts, images, and urges far more seriously than other people do. They assume that the mere fact that they have disturbing thoughts means that there’s something wrong with them and that they may act on them in horrible ways. They see thoughts as equivalent to actions.  

In future blogs we’ll cover the topic of compulsions and still later we’ll give you some ideas about what to do with both of them. In the meantime, work on reminding yourself of something very important: “Thoughts are just thoughts.” Nothing more.