When OCD Makes You Obsessively Think About Dying by Suicide
Article updated July 15, 2019
Editor’s note: If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here. To find help visit International OCD Foundation’s website.
My obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is displayed through many of my daily routines and actions, many of which lead to people classing me as a “neat freak” or superstitious. But the clearly-seen OCD routines I perform are not what I want to talk about today. So many articles I read about OCD describe how one may have to make sure the time they leave their house is divisible by 10, or that they must tap the door frame before entering a room. I perform many tasks around this myself, and these articles help me understand my own compulsions. However, they are not the singular thing that needs to be discussed, and I would like to address what many leave undiscussed.
“Suicidal OCD” — a type of harm OCD — is described as having unwanted, intrusive thoughts and/or images of dying or self-injury. Unlike those who are suicidal, the vast majority of people with suicidal OCD are afraid of dying by suicide, but not all — this may be due to other mental conditions influencing this feeling and not the OCD. Essentially, suicidal OCD is when you have intrusive thoughts about your own death, about severely hurting yourself, or both.
I had these thoughts for well over a year before I realized what it might be — I was under the impression that it may just be due to my overactive imagination. Then I read an article on The Mighty about this unspoken form of OCD, and my eyes were opened to how this may be due to my already-known OCD.
“Suicidal OCD” is individual to many people, but mine comes in the form of seeing or thinking about how the place where I am could be the last place I see. Every time I drive to and from the station, I find myself among thoughts of crashing into a nearby tree. Every time I walk to college, I am surrounded by thoughts of a car riding the pavement and driving into me. Every time I pick up a knife to cook, I cannot help but think about that knife falling out of my hand and into my chest.
I do not want these thoughts, and although at times I wish to no longer be alive, these thoughts are intrusive and unwanted and leave me fearing for my life every time I leave my house. They have led me to zone out and crash my bike, although thankfully not to the end my OCD pictured. The aftermath of these thoughts is the scariest, however, despite the intensity of some of the thoughts.
Many people who have “suicidal OCD” have mental compulsions over the more well-known physical ones. For me, this consists of repetitive counting, seeking reassurance that a situation is safe or drowning out the thoughts with more positive ones. However, some people who have this form of OCD also have physical compulsions, and this is what I want to portray to you today.
In order to calm my intrusive thoughts, in order to let myself believe I will live today, I am led to hurting myself in order to compromise with my head. I have found that when I have these thoughts, causing pain to myself slows the thoughts and can free me from them. This is not the only factor that influences my self-harm, but is most certainly one of them.
If you experience “suicidal OCD” and feel like you are being led down this route of self-harm, I highly advise you see your GP or another professional who can help reduce your symptoms of OCD before it reaches this stage.
I hope, from reading this, you are able to see you are not alone in this. This form of OCD, although not commonly talked about, is far more common than you may first think. Stay strong; you are not alone.
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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Getty Images photo via MarinaZg