The unspoken cause

In 10 years of suffering with OCD, not once did I ever hear about the cause behind it.

From my point-of-view, the focus in the media and in public perception is on the tidying, the compulsive hand-washing, the hoarding… nobody ever mentions the thoughts. It is no doubt the reason behind the vast misunderstanding of the mental illness, the reason people will not be aware what they are suffering from and ultimately the reason people will not seek help.

Intrusive Thoughts


“If your view of situations is unbalanced, then your emotional reaction will be unbalanced (exaggerated or inappropriate). For example, many people experience intrusive thoughts just like the kind you experience, but they are not bothered by them. The reason is that those people do not interpret such thoughts to be meaningful or to be signalling harm, danger, or something that requires action on their part. Thus, they can easily dismiss them.”

People with OCD however will misinterpret the same thoughts.

Same thought, Different reaction


“Neema has a thought of swerving into the next lane whilst driving. She thinks, “What an odd thought for someone like me to have! I’m not the kind of person who would harm anyone.” But Ravi, having the same thought thinks, “Oh my gosh, why did I have that thought? Maybe I am a murderer at heart! What if I act on it? I can’t have this thought again because what if having it makes me do it? I am a terrible person for having this thought. I don’t really want to drive if I’m in danger of harming people.”

Neema is calm about the thought, where as Ravi is anxious and fearful about it. Whereas Neema is likely to continue on with her daily activities without any concerns about the thought, Ravi is likely to become increasingly concerned about having it. He may shift through all his prior experiences, looking for information that matches the idea that he may be murderous at heart. The more he does this, the less confident he becomes that he is not murderous. The more he thinks about the thought, the more likely he is to think about it whilst driving. This will begin to confirm his worst expectations about what the thought could mean. Ravi may then begin to avoid driving or to try to neutralise the thought by thinking a “good” thought or by some other strategy. Avoidance of the thought keeps Ravi from experiencing his obsession and from risking acting on the thought, and thinking a “good” thought helps relieve the distress he feels. Thus Ravi will use these strategies more and more often.”

(Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts, p8)

A vicious cycle and a downwards spiral has begun.

The difference is in the interpretation.

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