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Dr Isobel Heyman, Vice Chair
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Daniel Nabarro

OCD Action : Intrusive Thoughts(Print)

One of the most painful elements of OCD are the intrusive thoughts that many people with OCD experience.

These involuntary thoughts or images become obsessions. The main features of intrusive obsessive thoughts are that they are automatic, frequent, upsetting or distressing, and difficult to control or get rid of. 

These can manifest themselves as mental rituals such as repeating words or phrases, counting, or saying a prayer. Not all types of intrustive thoughts are listed here. The main features are that they are repetitive and stereotyped actions the person feels forced to perform. People can have compulsions without having obsessional thoughts but, very often, these two occur together.  Carrying out a compulsion reduces the person's anxiety and makes the urge to perform the compulsion again stronger each time.                                                             

Almost everybody experiences the type of thoughts that people with OCD have (eg, wanting to double-check the front door or the gas). However, most people are able to dismiss these thoughts. People with OCD cannot ignore unpleasant thoughts and pay undue attention to them. This means that the thoughts become more frequent and distressing and, over time, they can affect all areas of a person's life, often their job and their family and social life. A person with OCD can, however, appear to function perfectly normally despite being greatly distressed. This often makes it possible for people with OCD to hide their OCD (because of this, OCD has often been called the 'secretive disorder'). It is important to remember that severity of OCD differs markedly between people but each person's distress is very real. People with OCD are not 'mad' or dangerous and do not carry out their unpleasant thoughts. Most people with OCD know that their thoughts are excessive or irrational but the anxiety they feel makes the thoughts difficult to ignore.

Some useful information on this can be found in the links below.

Some of the sites may be of a personal nature (designed by people with OCD, etc., or their friends or families).  Other sites might offer solutions or services.  For information on OCD in Children and Young People, please click here.

OCD Action is not responsible for the content of these sites and no responsibility can be taken for the content or any action taken by anyone based on information or advice given on these sites.

If any questions do arise, please contact us by clicking here.

When epidemics Collide: OCD Fear of Aids/HIV  by Fred Penzel
Let He Who Is Without Sin-OCD Religious Obsessions  by Fred Penzel
How Do I Know I'm Not Really Gay?  by Fred Penzel
Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt  by Steven Phillipson, Ph.D., and Gene Gold
Overriding obsession BBC

Do you have a question about this information?  Ask OCD Action.

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All material on this website is for personal use only. For professional use, please contact OCD Action for permission. No part of this website can be reproduced without permission.
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