Pure o False memories

Pure-O OCD ObsessionsAs a follow-up to my previous post on Pure-O OCD, I thought it might be helpful to identify some obsessions that are commonly reported by individuals with Pure Obsessional OCD. These same obsessions may also be experienced by individuals with non-Pure-O forms of the disorder. Keep in mind that some of these symptoms are quite common (when experienced in a limited form) and may or may not represent an underlying psychological condition. If you experience symptoms like these, consult with your doctor for clarification. I am also available to conduct assessments and provide treatment if you’re located in South Florida (Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, & Miami).

Remember that most people who have Pure-O OCD actually perform compulsions. These compulsions just tend to be mental rather than behavioral in nature. Mental rituals are varied and include such activities as repeating certain words or phrases in one’s head, counting, reviewing/checking memories, intentionally thinking “positive thoughts” to counteract “negative thoughts”, pre-planning words before speaking, making mental lists of similarities between one’s own experience and others’ experiences, conducting online research to prove or disprove a fear, or repeating/restarting prayers due to distraction or worry that one’s prayers are not 100% genuine.

For some individuals, mental rituals also include complex cognitions. Complex mental rituals often begin simply with one of the following statements or questions and then take on a life of their own:

OCD Mental Rituals

  • “Why is this happening?”
  • “When will this stop?”
  • “I can’t live this way…”
  • “I need to know…”
  • “I’ll never be strong enough to face this…”
  • “I wouldn’t be having these thoughts if I didn’t secretly want this…”
  • “Maybe I need to act on these thoughts to finally be rid of them and feel closure…”
  • “It’s always going to be this way…”
  • “I can’t take the chance, because if I did…”
  • “If I could just figure this out, I would be able to move past it and it wouldn’t bother me anymore…”

Such thoughts usually begin innocently enough, but in the case of mental rituals, they become repetitive, desperate, and counterproductive. The reason these thoughts are so seductive is because they have the semblance of being helpful. People often feel that by engaging with these thoughts, they are somehow making progress in solving their own mental puzzle. In some ways, this parallels the way that chronic worriers ruminate and prepare for every possible contingency (even remote ones that other people would consider unreasonable).

With OCD, you cannot get better by “figuring it out” in your head. This won’t happen today, tomorrow, or even a year from now. OCD does not yield to insight. Overcoming OCD requires active non-avoidance and actually confronting the very things you fear.

See if you can imagine how the following obsessions might give rise to complex mental compulsions/rituals.

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