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What If?

If you have OCD, the question of 'what if?' pops up in your brain quite a bit. So often that we become unaware of the chatter it's creating in the background. The last post, 'The Other OCD', briefly mentioned some of the thoughts that people with OCD experience. The list is far from comprehensive.

A common reaction to the intrusive thoughts (obsessions) mentioned in the previous post is, "what if I'm the exception and I'm really a bad person?", "what if I'm one of the few people that feels horrible about these thoughts but I don't really have OCD?", "what if I secretly like having the thoughts?", "what if I seek help and the therapist reports me to the police?" 

An example of a very common intrusive thought is "what if I were to harm someone?". It's an intrusive thought that isn't an OCD thought, it's a human thought. All people, those with OCD and those without OCD, have intrusive thoughts even that thought. The difference is that this thought typically doesn't get more than an, "oh, that was strange...what was I going to get for lunch" response from the brain of a person without OCD. For those of us with OCD what can happen is the thought will get stuck in our head (thus the reason it's called an obsession) because of the anxiety, fear, and/or guilt that it produces.

The presence of the bad feelings that you experience would, for most people, be a strong indication that the bad thought goes against what you value; your internal moral compass. However OCD will trick you into trying to think your way out of the 'problem' created by the existence of the bad thought. Well, there is no problem and there's no need to think your way out of anything; that method only feeds OCD and makes the thought more intense and occur more frequently. It's so easy to buy into the pattern of trying to think your way out of the 'problem' because of the bad feelings that you are experiencing because of the thought. OCD wants you to believe that this thought represents a real 'problem' and that you need to do something about it. The irony is that not responding to the thought takes away OCD's power.

Intrusive thoughts don't belong to OCD. They are part of being a human being with a working brain. Intrusive thoughts turn into obsessions when they occur again and again and again in the brain. You can't control what you think but you can control how you respond to the thoughts.

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