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Why OCD Treatment Involved Holding a Knife to My Therapist's Back

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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.

I was standing in the kitchen, grabbing a butter knife from the drawer. My mom was standing behind me, and I had the sudden thought to fling the knife backward and into her head. Every time I picked up a knife, I had the thought of stabbing a loved one.

It got to the point where I avoided knives at all costs. For the longest time, I had no idea why I had these thoughts, and it terrified me that I might actually act on them one day. It wasn’t only knives; driving a car, I would have the thought of hitting a pedestrian.

These were the two main thoughts that petrified me, but I dealt with many random ones daily. Most of these thoughts would be of harming other people, or myself, and it wasn’t until in a partial hospitalization program for my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that I learned these were intrusive thoughts.

To combat these thoughts, I did a plethora of exposures, which all made me carry out the thought with which I struggled. It started out slow with just having a butter knife in my room, several feet from me, and then escalated to me holding a sharp chef’s knife to a behavioral specialist’s back and walking down the hallway saying “ I might kill you.” While this sounds extreme, and it was, I was able to conquer my intrusive thought over knives and proved to myself it was just a thought.

To combat the thought of hitting a pedestrian with a car, it started with me sitting in the driver’s seat of the car and holding the wheel without the ignition on. Eventually, I got up to driving in a parking lot with a behavioral specialist running in front of the car. Again, while this was an extreme process, it was effective and proved to my brain that I was in control.

If you experience intrusive thoughts, I want to tell you what I had to learn to defeat my intrusive thoughts. It is just a thought. You do not have to act on this thought. This thought does not make you a bad person, nor dictate who you are. You are in control and have the power to overcome these thoughts. Something that helped me with my intrusive thoughts was the fact that everyone has intrusive thoughts. The difference between a person with OCD and without, is that a person with OCD becomes obsessive over it, then the thought becomes distressing, so they might have to do a compulsion to stop or undo the thought.

My partial hospitalization program changed my life and gave me the tools and abilities to live normally. I still have intrusive thoughts, but know how to handle them. They are no longer distressing, nor do I have to do a compulsion to combat them. It was the hardest work I have ever done, but it was really worth it. For anyone who is dealing with intrusive thoughts, it can get better with work and time. I believe in you and wish you all the best. You are not alone, and you are in control.

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Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Originally published: December 16, 2017
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