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The Most Distressing Part of My Harm OCD

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.

A thick pall of darkness enveloped the scene, the only light being that of the flames all around me. The bonfire rose into the sky, while I stood at it’s center, my body arched backwards. A silent scream escaped my lips as my body turned a charcoal black. Like an accused witch of the Renaissance era, I burned alive.

That was the vision I saw in the latest episode of my personal Harm OCD. A rarer type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that is focused more upon obsessions than compulsions, the obsessions come in the form of thoughts, visions and urges to hurt oneself, or others. I have struggled with this disorder my entire life, but only recently was diagnosed officially with it.

For some people, the obsessions are a frequent phenomena. For myself, it comes when I am stressed, traumatizing me further. These are not imaginary instances. My brain truly believes what it is experiencing is real. The obsession stayed at the fore of my mind for 20 to 30 minutes, while I ran around, highly distressed, trying to find someone to help me. Fortunately, I was in a psych ward at the time, so nurses were never too far away.

The very nature of my Harm OCD is to take the polar opposite of my nature and turn it against me, which is why some people with Harm OCD are gentle, compassionate souls in reality. I am not in any way a violent person. I, through Harm OCD, have witnessed some horrendous acts and urges of immense violence within my mind, but I believe I am one of the last people who would ever commit such acts in reality. This makes the disorder all the more distressing.

There — to my knowledge — are no medications designed to specifically help people with Harm OCD. I take a medication to calm me down after the obsession has hit, though I must initially bear the full force of the experience, itself. I have been told Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is useful in reframing my perspective of the obsession, to remind myself it was just an element of my disorder, not something I would every truly carry out.

Explaining my experience to my family was extremely difficult. Only this week have I been able to tell my mother about my Harm OCD, after at least 35 years of experiencing it. My psychiatrist only picked up on it when an earlier episode traumatized me and I reached out for help. It makes perfect sense that people would be afraid to tell others about it, but it’s so important we do. We need not battle this alone. This is not a disorder I would wish upon anyone. Often it makes me feel like a monster. There are other people out there who share the diagnosis, however, and I am writing this to show I am one of them.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via vicspacewalker. 

Originally published: May 15, 2017
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