Please note: The information on this page should not be construed as medical advice, nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any condition. The content on this page is written by recovered OCD sufferers, not by clinicians. Read More
OCD and Violent Thoughts: How to Deal with intrusive thoughts
Most people have heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder where obsessions cause irrational thoughts, worry, and fear.
In contrast, compulsions come from a need to rid these thoughts, worries, and fears by performing rituals to alleviate the anxiety created by these obsessions. And yes, we all tend to have certain obsessive tendencies – like the unwelcome thought of checking your oven while you’re at work or going back to your car to make sure you locked it, which is natural. Still, there are a significant amount of individuals who suffer from it to the point of debilitation.
OCD comes in many forms for different individuals, whether it’s an excessive fear of germs, extreme need for order, hoarding, ruminating on conversations, body image, and the list goes on. However, not everyone is familiar with OCD and violent thoughts. You can find more information about the condition here: Harm OCD – A scary movie in your mind.
What Are Violent Thoughts?
Violent thoughts are pretty common for those who struggle with OCD, which may entail thoughts of violently harming someone or sexual violence. However, I want to stress that it is not a character flaw but an intrusive thought that involuntarily comes into one’s brain.
It can be traumatizing for the individual experiencing these violent thoughts because they have no intention of harming anyone. And though it may not be real, it feels that way to the individual experiencing them.
How Do We Deal with Violent Thoughts?
Living with intrusive, violent thoughts in one’s head can be paralyzing and not something one should have to go alone, so I’d like to offer some strategies to help you get through this experience.
If you are going it alone, I’d recommend seeing a therapist. Dealing with these intrusive, violent thoughts is very scary; therefore, finding a trusted provider who can help you sort them out is beneficial.
I imagine many individuals might feel intimidated and afraid to talk with a therapist about their violent thoughts out of fear, judgment, or being admitted into an inpatient facility, but finding the right one can make all the difference.
While experiencing violent thoughts in my twenties, I found a therapist who concentrated on OCD. And though I was initially afraid to tell her, I finally disclosed all these terrible thoughts in my brain. She didn’t look at me differently but instead mentioned that it wasn’t uncommon for individuals with OCD to have violent thoughts. She also suggested that I pick up a book called “Stop Obsessing” by Dr. Edna B. Foa, which changed my life. However, I still needed further treatment beyond the book. Here are some therapeutic methods that therapists use for treating individuals with OCD.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a method used to help individuals with perceptual disturbances or faulty thinking. This method is not limited to individuals with OCD either; it is effective for depression, substance abuse issues, and PTSD. The point of CBT is to face one’s triggers and fears and manage anxiety.
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – ERP is another form of cognitive-behavioral therapy used to treat individuals with OCD. It is essentially exposing you or challenging the triggers and fears. So, for example, if a client fears driving over a bridge, their therapist might first have them visualize the bridge, to driving down a street, to eventually driving over a bridge. This exposure process isn’t an overnight fix, and it can temporarily induce more anxiety. Still, the point of this method is to face the perceived trigger or threat through exposure because the more we avoid it, the more it cripples us.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – ACT is another form of cognitive-behavioral therapy to help individuals challenge their suppressed thoughts and fears. It’s about challenging those fears and facing them head-on. For example, if you are experiencing thoughts of harming someone, the therapist will have you play out your own story, eventually diminishing the intrusive thoughts.
Medication for Violent OCD Thoughts
Sometimes therapy alone is not enough to alleviate one’s anxiety entirely. In such cases, medication might be a consideration. So, if that is something you’re considering, it is best to discuss it with your therapist, who can provide you with resources for a prescriber.
Medication doesn’t work the same for everyone. We all have a different chemical makeup; therefore, what works for one individual might not work the same for another. In addition, medicine isn’t a cure-all, but a means to stabilize anxiety.
Ultimately, some individuals do fine with therapy alone, whereas others might need therapy and medication. What’s most important is to do what you feel is best for you and your condition.
A final word on OCD and Violent Thoughts
It helps to know that we’re not alone, so finding an OCD support group with peers suffering from similar circumstances can be very empowering.
Nowadays, there are many support groups to choose from – therapist-led, peer-led, online, or through a group forum. Most importantly, find a group you feel will work best for you.
Ultimately, experiencing OCD and violent thoughts can be a frightening experience, but those thoughts are your anxiety talking, not you. You don’t have to go it alone, and with the proper help and support, it is treatable.
If you need some support on your recovery journey, you are always welcome to join our OCD community. We have a wealth of information and support available to you. By entering our discussion forum, you can connect with others who understand what you are going through. You can also find helpful tips and advice from people who have been where you are now.
You are not alone in this fight. You can overcome your OCD and live a happy and fulfilling life with the proper treatment. I hope this article provided helpful information on treating OCD and violent thoughts. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience with us, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Thank you for reading!
- About the Author
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I am a mental health advocate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Initially, I worked as a therapist but shifted my focus and became a Certified Peer Specialist. Currently, I present at inpatient facilities through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and other organizations. I am also a mental health blogger and web content writer, where I draw upon my personal history, education, and professional experience. My work has been featured on the NAMI blog and as a regular contributor to The Mighty blog.
You can find me at Bipolar Warriors – YOU ARE NOT ALONE