The 10 Dark Truths Behind Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Author’s note: This article is based on my own personal experience with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), though some of the symptoms may be relatable to others, they cannot be generalized to everyone struggling with OCD.
1. OCD might make you think thoughts, that if you were to say out loud, could seem irrational and dangerous. Thoughts you, as a person without OCD, would never think about, let alone act out.
2. OCD might trick you into thinking these thoughts are directly a result of your own beliefs.
When intrusive thoughts come to your mind, you sometimes can’t differentiate them from your ordinary thoughts. You usually hear thoughts in your own voice, which makes one believe they are their own. With OCD, when a disturbing thought comes to your mind, it is usually said in your own voice with your own nuances. This makes OCD a sinister and convincing illness that fuels blame and anxiety.
3. OCD might make you say strange things out loud.
When trying to carry out compulsions, rituals that you use to help you get rid of your anxious thoughts, sometimes you might accidentally let yourself slip in public and begin to mutter some of your rituals out loud. For example, I will say strange words randomly because I feel myself about to think something terrible. I can’t explain this well, but as an example, I might say the word “jelly” randomly because I know that an intrusive thought is about to come into my mind and I want to distract myself to prevent it from happening.
4. OCD might make you say horrible things about yourself.
Out of the blue, I will often call myself “stupid” or an idiot. I’ll say phrases like “I deserve to die,” or, “I want to kill myself.” These are very disturbing, but often they are said impulsively, meaning sometimes I don’t think of it before I say it. In my opinion, this is most likely a reaction to prolonged stress. OCD sometimes makes you feel like an awful person, and it might be a compulsion to say something like that to justify those terrible thoughts.
5. OCD might completely go away for years at a time and then return.
Sometimes OCD can completely disappear — this happened to me. I’ve had severe symptoms for years, which have disappeared for years, only to return years later. I’m not sure exactly why this happens, but it probably correlates with stress and life events. OCD can flare up, become worse, be dormant or just very well-managed. Therefore, it is a very difficult condition to understand as it varies from person to person. People sometimes say, “You don’t have OCD because your symptoms are a lot less severe.” But we have to remember that just like with any illness, it comes in varying degrees at different times.
6. OCD might significantly reduce the quality of your life.
I think because of media portrayals, many people don’t truly understand the consequences of OCD. It’s more than just quirky little idiosyncrasies that make you into the person you are. OCD is a mental illness, and in many cases, can become an illness that affects the way in which you function in your life. Mental illnesses can affect people’s jobs, family life, relationships and eventually your own well-being.
The thoughts that you have no control could eventually become worse, which can sometimes lead to you becoming so consumed in guilt, shame and fear that you are unable to live life fully or forgive yourself for what you think. That is when suicidal thoughts might start to creep in.
7. OCD might add onto my own thoughts.
For example, I might be watching a TV show and I have an opinion of one of the characters — immediately OCD will add onto that opinion or that thought and turn it into something dreadful. I might say I don’t like this character with blonde hair and OCD will finish that sentence with, “she’s a slut,” and “she should die.” This will lead me to carry out compulsions asking for forgiveness to deal with the guilt.
8. OCD might affect you in ways that you are not even aware of.
Your overall confidence level, your anxiety levels, self-esteem or self-worth. People with OCD rarely just have OCD. Comorbidity means that people with one type of mental illness usually have other types of mental illness. For example, OCD and anxiety disorder can be paired with depression or dependency on substances.
9. Compulsions are not relaxing and they lie.
When a person with OCD completes rituals, it is often under the false belief that this will free them from the anxiety of their obsessive thoughts. This is exactly how OCD makes you think — that completing the compulsion will help you get rid of the fear and anxiety. You might think that this is a relaxing process that leads to a relaxing outcome, but that’s far from the truth. The amount of stress taken to perform the ritual can be more anxiety provoking than the thought itself.
For example, sometimes when I am praying for forgiveness for certain thoughts, halfway through the prayer I must stop and start again because something was not said in the right way, or an intrusive thought came into my mind while I was praying, making that prayer void. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not sounding convincing enough, or humble enough, so I must begin again to convince myself that the anxiety from the thought can be removed. This feeling is very temporary, lasting from a few minutes to half an hour before the next intrusive thought comes.
10. OCD might take away the most sacred things in your life, then uses them as material.
As an OCD sufferer, I can say that it usually takes things that are very personal to you: morals that you hold close to you, things that you would never want yourself to say or think. OCD takes the opportunity to turn these into an intrusive thought.
For me, my relationship with God is important, my family is important, how I think about other people is important and my reaction to tragedies is important. If I hear about people dying in an accident, OCD will no doubt make me think thoughts that insult those victims. It’s the one thing I never would want to do and that is exactly why OCD chooses to use it.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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