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
How Suicidal OCD Impacts Lives
When we think of OCD, the first thing that comes to mind is often compulsions like hand-washing or checking locks multiple times. However, there is another side to OCD – that can lead people to have intrusive thoughts of suicide.
This condition is called suicidal OCD, and it impacts the lives of those who suffer from it in devastating ways. This article will discuss what suicidal OCD is, how it differs from other types of OCD, and how to get help if you are struggling with it.
What is suicidal OCD?
A well-known fact about OCD is that it includes numerous subtypes with different symptoms. Thus, suicidal OCD is a subtype of OCD that leads those diagnosed to experience intrusive thoughts about suicide. These thoughts can be highly concerning and cause a great deal of anxiety.
People with this condition often worry that they will act on their thoughts and harm themselves. Thus, because they struggle with the idea that they could be capable or even want to hurt themselves in this way, individuals with suicidal OCD experience significant distress when faced with these obsessions.
Ironically, people with this subtype of OCD will not commit suicide. They direct their compulsions to protect themselves from any possible self-harm rather than harming themselves.
For instance, an OCD sufferer can be standing on the verge of a balcony and have an intrusive thought about jumping. That unexpected urge scares the individual every time they happen to be on a balcony.
In other words, those intrusive thoughts are terrifying to the extent that the individual believes that it is possible to act on them without realizing it. Therefore, the impact of suicidal OCD can be hazardous and significantly impact the quality of those who suffer from it.
What are the most common suicidal OCD symptoms?
Suicidal obsessions can range from mild to severe and intense, depending on the individual case. Some of the main symptoms of suicidal OCD include but are not limited to:
• Having intrusive thoughts about harming or killing yourself.
• Experiencing mental images and impulses related to suicide.
• Fearing that you might act on your suicidal thoughts or urges.
• Feeling like you’re a danger to yourself or others because of your thoughts or obsessions.
• Abstaining from going to places or holding objects that might induce those thoughts.
• Avoiding things that remind you of suicide or death.
• Feeling ashamed, guilty, or scared about your thoughts.
As we can see, those intrusive thoughts can be highly concerning, especially if you experience them often.
Thus, one of the most common compulsions that you might encounter is re-reviewing your thoughts and finding the reason why they came to your mind in the first place. Another possible compulsion includes asking your close ones whether they have ever experienced similar thoughts at some point.
The reason behind those questions is that you hope for a positive answer which will make you feel more normal. Moreover, trying to get rid of dangerous utensils in your home or working space might again be another way for you to feel more safe and secure from the intrusive thoughts that come to your mind.
Is there a difference between suicidal OCD and suicidal ideation?
Yes, there is a big difference between those conditions. The main distinction between the two is that people with suicidal OCD have intrusive thoughts about suicide and other related scenarios, but they don’t want to kill themselves.
As we already made it clear, these thoughts are so frightening for them that it makes them even more opposed to harming themselves than non-OCD sufferers. On the other hand, suicidal ideation is found in bipolar disorder, people with other mental illnesses, or even people with no mental diagnosis.
Suicidal ideation means that the individual has been thinking about or planning their death in some way or another. However, this condition is divided into two types – passive and active. The former refers to frequent thoughts that individual wishes that they could die.
Nonetheless, there are usually no attempts to perform an act of self-harm. The latter relates to actively searching for ways to harm oneself. Therefore, individuals suffering from suicidal ideation often research how to commit suicide quickly. For instance, they might try to figure out how to access lethal substances or other ways to commit suicide.
As we can see from the above examples, suicidal OCD and suicidal ideation are two different conditions. Suicidal ideation can turn out to be seriously dangerous for those who experience it because it can harm them. For this reason, it requires consultation with specialists who will be able to identify the main logic behind the specific case and offer adequate treatment.
What is the connection between suicidal OCD and depression?
Even though suicidal OCD and depression are two different disorders, there is also a link between them. Namely, many of those diagnosed with OCD, in this case, suicidal OCD, suffer from depression.
OCD is an anxiety disorder that can Leed to depression. However, both conditions negatively impact individuals by affecting their daily tasks and obligations. According to statistics, around 65% of people with OCD have experienced symptoms of depression at least once in their life. On the other hand, individuals suffering from depression are not as likely to have OCD.
According to further research, scientists have found that genetics play a significant role in OCD and depression. The brain of the individuals diagnosed with this disorder makes and uses the hormone serotonin differently from the general population’s brains.
Therefore, when there is a specific imbalance in serotonin in the brain, the individual acts and feels differently due to changes in brain chemistry. Precisely the same changes experience those diagnosed with OCD and depression.
Around 35% of people with OCD have not reported any depression symptoms during their life. Therefore, it is practical to assume that the consequent depression symptoms that individuals with OCD experience are several factors.
For instance, having OCD in the first place might contribute to further stress in the daily life of those who suffer from it. Consequently, those individuals are highly at risk for developing some depression symptoms. Furthermore, we already noted that OCD causes a general imbalance in the individual’s brain. Once having that imbalance, this individual is more likely to develop depression in the future.
How to overcome suicidal OCD and stop suicidal intrusive thoughts?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to deal with suicidal OCD may vary depending on the individual. Having frequent intrusive thoughts that makes you feel ashamed and scared at the same time is not a joke. Therefore, exploring more ways to help you cope with the condition would be of great use. Here are some tips that are worth considering:
- Firstly, it is essential to understand that suicidal OCD is OCD. Treatment will involve using the same methods as other types of OCD.
- Talking openly and honestly about your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or therapist can help explore why you are having these thoughts. Thus, it will be easier for you to address them and become aware of them.
- Identify your intrusive thoughts and accept them as part of how your brain works. Do not try to suppress them, as further complicate your situation. The more aware you are of your possible reactions, the easier to cope with them.
- Remind yourself that your thoughts are not part of reality; thoughts come and go for everyone.
- Do not allow your thoughts to exhaust you. In reality, there are many situations you prefer to ignore instead of letting them consume your energy. It is highly advisable to use the same approach with intrusive thoughts.
- Think intuitively about what might help you in this situation. For example, doing more research and trying different methods will most likely reward you with success. After all, we know best what is happening inside of us.
Many individuals are embarrassed to confess they have intrusive thoughts, and they may even feel guilty about it. Thus, they try to cope with their feelings alone, keeping them hidden from those around them.
However, chatting with someone you trust about your feelings may be immensely useful. You could gain a new perspective on your circumstance by being open and transparent about how you feel and what you’re going through.
For some people, discussing with a stranger is more accessible than chatting with someone they know. Furthermore, therapy may be a reasonable option in this situation too. There are numerous kinds of treatment accessible, both individually and in groups. Ensure you do your research and consider all of your alternatives.
What is an effective suicidal OCD treatment?
Since suicidal OCD is a subtype of OCD, its treatment plan should include typical methods for treating OCD. For example, exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy may play a beneficial role in the treatment process.
This type of therapy aims at making the individual aware of their thoughts and accept them rather than trying to escape from them. It is proven that when the individual faces those intrusions and does not engage in their compulsion by running away or hiding, they learn a healthier way of reacting to them.
For instance, your therapist might create a plan to track your intrusive thoughts and expose you to them. Let’s review the earlier example of your fear of eventually jumping from the balcony. When visiting your therapist’s office, both of you might go to the balcony so that you will experience the intrusive thoughts of jumping.
Your therapist’s role is to make you feel more comfortable with those unwanted thoughts. The end aim would be that you will be able to face your intrusive thoughts. Thus, you will train yourself to be more comfortable with your urges by simply responding differently to them.
How to support a close one who might suffer from suicidal OCD?
If you have a loved one who has OCD, you may support them by talking to them and advising them to get help. Discuss your loved one’s feelings openly and honestly without any judgment. As you would expect, confessing suicidal thoughts may be a challenging and traumatic experience.
Telling your loved one to “stop thinking about it,” “think positive things,” or even “get over it” may make them feel even more insecure. Therefore, make sure your loved one knows you realize how challenging this situation must be for them.
In case your close one has any worries about talking to a professional about their potential condition, there are a few helpful tips that can help you persuade them:
- Explain to them that the consultation is confidential and that the therapist is there to assist them in finding the best solution for their condition. You might also offer to accompany them so that things go more smoothly.
- Some aspects of OCD treatment might be challenging. They may become irritated, weary, nervous, or sad throughout therapy. Ask your close one’s therapist a few questions about what you can do to help them through this tough time.
- Your close one may believe that things will never get better, especially if therapy involves a lot of sessions or medication. In this situation, you can remind them that treatment works for almost all individuals with OCD.
- Find particular literature with success stories about people who managed their OCD symptoms. Your close one might find it beneficial to read about people with OCD symptoms under control.
- Advise your friend or relative to visit OCD forums and talk with real people battling the condition. This way, they might find it helpful and encouraging to start their healing journey.
Supporting someone with OCD can be frustrating and upsetting at times. Make sure you take time to look after yourself too. You may find it helpful to share experiences, ask questions and get support from other people in the same situation on various forums and hotlines online.
If you are reading this, chances are that you or someone you know is struggling with OCD. This condition can be extremely challenging to live with, and managing it can seem impossible at times. However, please do not lose hope – there is help available, and recovery is possible. People living with OCD can lead happy and fulfilling lives with the proper support and treatment.
I hope this article can be of some help to you or a close one in need. You may share your comments and experiences below. I would love to hear from you.
-Thank you for reading
This is not medical advice. If you are struggling with suicidal OCD, please reach out for professional help. There are many resources available to you, and there is hope for recovery. Remember, you are not alone.
- About the Author
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Hello, I am Jonas Eriksson. I suffered from severe OCD for many years and have now recovered. My OCD is related to an autoimmune disorder called Autoimmune basal ganglia disorder. Sadly I was undiagnosed for 27 years. The inflammation put my brain to be in a state of constant terror. By sharing helpful information, I hope someone will get motivated to seek treatment and learn more about OCD and related disorders.