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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

If you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you know what it feels like to have recurrent intrusive negative thoughts. These thoughts come out of nowhere, make you anxious and make you do things to undo their effect.

They make you feel guilty- guilty for just having these thoughts! When you say to yourself – ‘how can I think like this?’, ‘why am I thinking like this?’,  ‘I am bad because I have such bad thoughts!’, you are feeling guilty for having intrusive thoughts.

This guilt then leads to anxiety – ‘What will happen now that I have had this thought?’ ‘Will there be a punishment?’, ‘Since I have had this thought, maybe something will go wrong.’ ‘I need to do something to stop the effect of this thought’.

So, you perform a specific action a number of times that helps you feel like you’ve apologized for the thought, or have undone its effect.

It almost seems natural for guilt to come in when you have such thoughts. However, maybe this guilt is misleading. You are probably feeling guilty for something that you are not responsible for.

Now, what does this mean?

If you think about it – these bad, uncomfortable or scary thoughts are technically called ‘intrusive’ thoughts.

What really is an Intrusive Thought?

intrusive thoughts in OCD

A quick google search will tell you that intrusive thoughts are thoughts that involuntarily enter your mind against your will. They are thoughts that you don’t want, which is why they ‘intrude’ into your consciousness.

Having understood that intrusive thoughts are thoughts that you don’t want, let’s go back to the feeling of guilt that these thoughts give rise to.

What Makes You Feel Guilty When You Experience Thoughts That You Don’t Want?

Mostly, you will find that the guilt is due to the ‘content’ of the thought. Content is what the thought is about, such as religion, sex, violence etc. You feel guilty because you had a negative thought about religion, or a violent thought

However, what you miss out on is the “process” of the thought.

What Is The 'Process' Of Thought In Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Process of a thought in OCD

Read this carefully, since it could be slightly difficult to understand.

Process of thought is about how the thought comes into your mind, and how you respond to the thought.

To understand this better, think of a general thought you might have – about completing a project, going to buy groceries, or telling your friend that you’re disappointed with what he said yesterday.

Now compare this with an intrusive thought.

For a minute, relax, and think –

Both thoughts come to your mind. But can you sense a difference between the two?

The difference is in the way these thoughts come to your mind, and in your response to both kinds of thoughts.

When you have a general thought, it seems to be part of the natural flow of thoughts. There is some intention involved in it. Yes, you intend to complete that project since it is due. You need to talk to that friend to sort things out. Your mind accepts the thought as being in line with, or consistent with the rest of your behavior, and overall personality.

On the contrary, when you have an intrusive thought, your mind doesn’t accept it. The thought seems to stick out like a sore thumb and is not compatible with the rest of your behavior or intentions. For example, having the thought ‘a violent event will happen’ when you are driving or studying doesn’t fit with your intention, desire, or behavior. On the contrary, you don’t in the least want such an event to happen.

In a way, the intrusive thoughts are not really ‘you’. They almost come in against your will. And when they come in, you don’t support them. They are not part of your intention. They are not really ‘you’.

If you consider the process of thoughts, you will realize that you actually don’t need to feel guilty about having intrusive thoughts.

Guilt comes in when we intentionally do something that turns out to be unhealthy or hurtful. Here, the thoughts intrude into your mind. They literally ‘intrude’… your mind doesn’t want them.  Hence, there is no real need for guilt. You don’t need to question your integrity and morality when these thoughts come. Instead, treat the thought like a cloud – it will come and go. Even if it comes to your mind more than other thoughts, it still doesn’t mean that intrusive thought is ‘you’.

This distinction between a thought and an intrusive thought is difficult to make I know, however, it does become easier with time. What matters is, making this distinction and truly realizing what these two types of thoughts are will relieve you of much of the guilt that you feel.

Feel free to write in with your questions. We would be glad to help in whatever way we can.


Trying To Get Rid Of Your Intrusive Thoughts?

Counseling can be a great tool for you to manage and overcome your intrusive thoughts and lead a happy, stress-free life.

We are here for you.

About the Author

This article was written by Malini Krishnan, Counselor at Inner Space. This post was consulted & approved by professional therapists practicing online therapy and counseling. 

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  1. Hi Michael

    Thank you for sharing your experience. We can only imagine how tough this might be to handle. We wish you the best.
    And yes more and more help is available now for this.

    Take care!

    Warm Regards
    The Inner Space Team

  2. Michael Williams

    Hi I have the driving ocd but now it’s escalated to being driven or on a bus I think my magical thinking will cause an accident even when I’m out walking I’m checking back down the road to make sure everyone is safe it can take me up to 2 plus hours to cover a distance which should only take 20 minutes max. I also imagine that ive been hit by a vehicle and even though I know I haven’t I ruminate about it for hours afterwards as if ive really been hit . Anyway I’ll leave it there for now this doesn’t allow you enough time to tell all. This is my third attempt to comment. So please stay positive there’s so much help out there these days when I was a young man I thought I was the only one who had these thoughts, So God bless you all. And don’t ever give up . Michael.

  3. Hi Rohan,

    Thank you for reading our blog on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and sharing your thoughts about it.
    Feel free to sign up for our newsletter for more interesting articles by our psychologists.

    Warm Regards
    The Inner Space Team

  4. In this article intrusive thought also include intrusive idea, instrusive image,instrusive urge also or particular instrusive thoughts

  5. Hi Angella,

    Thank you for writing to us. These feelings might be tough to deal with but we really hope things get better for you.
    We have sent you the details about booking an appointment via email.

    Please feel free to revert.
    Thank you

    Warm Regards
    The Inner Space Team

  6. Hey.
    I have been suffering from OCD for about 1 year and I am under treatment. At times I am able to control my thoughts and at times I dont have them. But sometimes they take in their control (the intrusive thoughts) and make me feel like an extremely awful and terrible person for having these thoughts. They come in whenever I feel happy and mostly concentrate on the person that I love the most. I even have had suicidal thoughts but because of the treatment I dont have them now. I know this is OCD and this is what it is. I wont be able to get rid of them and I know that I have to accept the fact that I have such thoughts and it is not me who is thinking. But even after all that I am not able to get rid of this guilt and I feel broken and dead inside

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