Body dysmorphia is defined as a preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance. Although body dysmorphia has been tricky for therapists to treat, the OCD and Anxiety Treatment Center shows positive results by using a technique called perceptual retraining. For those of you who might not know of this technique, don’t worry you are not alone! I previously worked at an eating disorder clinic and we witnessed body dysmorphia constantly. At this clinic, they primarily focused on the eating disorder, the thought was if you cure the eating disorder you cure the unhealthy body image issues. Here at the OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center, body dysmorphia is treated completely differently. Perceptual retraining is a technique used for individuals who are struggling with body dysmorphia. It is used for individuals to describe aspects of their bodies without judgment. This is used with the intent of restructuring thoughts away from negative judgements and comments about one’s self to more of a neutral version of speaking of one’s self. The thought behind this technique is to teach individuals to stop the constant negative perceptions of themselves. For those that may not know much about perceptual reframing, it is a technique in which an individual will look at themselves within a certain distance from a mirror and describe aspects or features of their bodies in a plain and non-judgmental way. It is so fascinating to watch individuals practice this technique. It’s easy to watch an individual practice this technique and not see the benefit. I have practiced this technique with clients and it can be awkward and sometimes feel as if nothing beneficial is happening. Slowly I have witness clients improve, and think of new neutral descriptions to say about themselves. Slowly their anxiety lessons and they get used to the change of negative information thoughts to neutral or positive ones. Often, BDD clients also report having an issue regarding looking at themselves in mirrors. These individuals frequently become consumed with viewing themselves in the mirror for hours on end: skin picking, scrutinizing, grooming, or focusing for hours on their perceived flaws (Wilhelm, Otto, Lohr & Deckersbach,1999). Perceptual retraining helps the individual to shed such a negative view of themselves, and helps the client to gain a positive relationship with mirrors as they practice saying normal phrases and looking at themselves multiple times a day. This exercise is often paired with a compassion statement with the intentions of helping those who are used to negative thoughts or saying destructive statements about themselves in front of a mirror to train the brain to be more positive about one’s self. BDD is hard to recognize, and often is comorbid. It is regularly linked with different issues such as OCD, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and social anxiety (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). I have learned so much about BDD and now feel as if I understand this difficult issue in a more comprehensive manner. I can see how individuals suffering with this issue are affected every day, and how treatment and proper therapy can really make a huge different for the lives of those who are directly so negatively impacted by this mental health issue.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (5th Edition). Washington, DC.

Wilhelm, S., Otto, M. W., Lohr, B., & Deckersbach, T. (1999). Cognitive behavior group therapy for body dysmorphic disorder: a case series. Behavior Research and Therapy, 37, 71-75


             Anxiety is the body’s evolutionary response to stress. Anxiety shoots our body into survival mode, through activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This activation has helped our species survive when a threat has been present. Our body is designed to switch off when that potential danger has passed. However, some individuals’ minds (especially those with anxiety disorders) do not switch off, and the threat remains. Their feelings and bodily sensations are heightened, and they continue stay in the fight-or-flight mode. People can only stay in that mode of panic for so long, and many people have found temporary “fixes” to the problem. Avoidance, distraction, and pushing away are commonly seen, and they feel that it takes the threat away because, at some point, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and takes control to bring the body back into a state of homeostasis.

            People with anxiety disorders get into a vicious cycle where they see certain stressors as a threat, engage in behaviors that cause temporary relief, and when they body calms down, it strengthens the belief that their initial threat is real. Individuals who live with this often wonder why they are feeling this way, and why they have so much more difficulty with certain tasks than a normal person. At this point, there are typically two ways to look at the situation. You can either put yourself down because you feel like you should be better, or you can embrace those negative thoughts/feelings/emotions. Therapy is a great guide for individuals to see and accepts these things, as well as gaining tools to behave different with intrusive thoughts.

            A study conducted by Iris Mauss, associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, found that “people who habitually accept their negative emotions, experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health."  This study goes on to explain those who commonly resist their fears end up feeling more psychologically stressed. Whether it’s OCD, Social Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or others, most of these individuals habitually avoid their negative thought/feelings/emotions/experiences.        

            I have experienced many of these things in my own life. It is hard to explain how I feel in certain moments, and it is often times terrifying. I worry so much about future things that are out of my control, and I normally respond by avoiding many situations entirely. If there are situations I cannot avoid, I normally wait until the last possible second to finish the required task/s. My anxiety goes beyond a fear of failure, uncertainty, etc. into more of a fear/phobia of fear. Because I have habituated my fears for such a long time, and reinforced my behaviors (avoidance, distraction, shutting down), I now fear even thinking about certain tasks because I know what the fear feels like. 

            Working at this clinic has helped me see how clients with anxiety disorders can gain the tools necessary to deal with basically anything. Through the use of CBT, DBT, ACT, Mindfulness, Cognitive restructuring, perceptual retraining, and much more, individuals gain an important “toolbox” of skills. Clients also get the opportunity to engage in Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy. This therapy works, and helps clients work through a hierarchy of distressful situation without neutralizing (engaging in a behavior that makes the threat go away, which reinforces that the threat is real).  By the time they graduate, the skills learned at the clinic should translate beyond the walls of therapy, and give them the confidence that they can take on anything, no matter the intensity. 

The brain is amazing, yet we know so little about how it works. There is nothing in the body more misunderstood than the mind. Billions of neurons and synapses processing serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and many other chemicals create what we know as THOUGHT. In a millisecond, our mind can consume information and come up with an interpretation. It is easy to take this process for granted. We expect that when we have a thought it makes sense and even has purpose. We hope that our thoughts all have purpose and mean something, but what if they did not. Those struggling with OCD or Anxiety Spectrum Disorders have thoughts that do not make sense and are intrusive in nature. Not only do they not make sense, they go contrary to what one values. OCD sufferers have confusion by where these thoughts originated. When this happens, the internal emotions go wild. The sympathetic nervous system activates causing a fight or flight response. This only reinforces the reaction to the thought. This response makes them wonder where these thoughts came from. OCD sufferers hate these thoughts. They would do anything not to have them. These “intrusive thoughts” over time can become the bane of their existence. They begin avoiding situations, people or even events to limit the possibility of the intrusive thoughts coming into their mind. Unfortunately, when one says, “don’t think of this or that”, you are more likely to focus on those thoughts.


Intrusive thoughts are that…Intrusive. They come and go when they want. They have no respect for anything or any one. These thoughts are putrid and never are positive. Nothing good comes from these thoughts. They do not make a person smarter nor does it change the future in a positive way. Intrusive thoughts have the ability to steal away life. Intrusive thoughts and the meaning ones places on them can consume an OCD sufferer. One misses experiences that actually matter.


Every person on this planet has intrusive thoughts. I may have once thought I could run my self or another person off the road or I may have thought I want to hurt someone. The intrusive thought could also be that I might have hit someone, left a door unlocked, may not have cleaned myself well enough, did not fully tell the truth, had a inappropriate sexual thought or a thousand other thoughts that I might not like. However, these thoughts will cause no level of distress for me. Why should they? There is no reaction, my mind moves on with little to no notice of the thought. Those with OCD and a variety of anxiety disorders will have a completely different experience. A normal “intrusive thought” will spike anxiety in an OCD sufferer, making the thought mean something. Intrusive thoughts cause so much grief that an OCD sufferer will do anything to avoid the horrible thoughts that invade the mind.


Common mistakes with intrusive thoughts are the following:

  • Trying to figure out what the intrusive thoughts mean
  • Mentally reviewing through the intrusive thought to find certainty in the situation
  • Seeking reassurance from others to help confirm you are a good person
  • Trying to logic yourself better
  • Avoiding situations to lessen the possibility of the thought coming back
  • Holding everything in and keeping the thoughts a secret


Exposure and response prevention therapy is extremely successful with intrusive thoughts. The goal is not to make the thoughts go away. The goal is to face them so the thoughts lose their value. Thoughts are just that, thoughts. Feelings are what make them into more. When an OCD sufferer begins to face intrusive thoughts, they will see, once you face them, you were never at risk.

Obsessions are thoughts, impulses and images that reoccur many times throughout a day. These obsessions can be incredibly disturbing and they are absolutely unwanted. Obsessions are not controllable by a person with OCD. Under usual circumstances, someone with OCD knows that their obsessions are unreasonable. To add to the discomfort of grotesque thoughts; obsessions are generally accompanied by emotions like uncertainty, terror, loathing and a feeling that something has to be just right. Obsessions take over a person’s day and living a normal life is impossible. Family, work, hobbies and regular tasks become secondary to powerful obsessions. As you can imagine, a person’s world will crumble around them as their obsessions become stronger with time.

We as a society need to be aware of how commonly we use the work obsession. We treat it casually and without regard for the true meaning of the word when discussing OCD.  Those of us that treat and live with OCD have a hard time when someone uses obsession casually, it takes away from the suffering we see and live.

Compulsions complete OCD. Compulsions are repeated thoughts or actions that bring down the sick feeling or anxiety brought on by obsessions. We call compulsions “neutralizing”. Neutralizing makes the obsessions go away for a brief time-period. OCD sufferers know that the relief will not last, but they would rather fulfill their compulsions than suffer with the overwhelming feeling brought on by obsessions. Please do not confuse compulsions with routine. They are not the same. OCD sufferers complete compulsions to escape pain and fear brought on by intrusive thoughts or specific situations (obsessions).

If you or someone you know is suffering in this way, please know that you are not alone. OCD is treatable. I have helped more people than one could imagine learn to manage their OCD symptoms. Find someone who can help you today. Life is too short to do otherwise.


Most people do not experience anxiety on an everyday basis. Anxiety is supposed to protect you from danger, but that is not what Generalized Anxiety Disorder also known as GAD says. With GAD, anxiety becomes a “guide” in one’s life. This is what makes a diagnosis so tricky. When you experience anxiety in a way that seems to confirm the threat is true, everything one experiences is real. Why would you feel something so intensely if there is no truth in it? GAD is a behavioral health issue. People will accept a malfunction in the body, but will quickly overlook anything that happens in the behavioral aspect of the brain. Most people with GAD describe an embarrassment that comes from sharing the topics of their fear. They hold this information close. The fears they experience usually to the very core of who they are. This makes the feelings even more intense and embarrassing. Those diagnosed with GAD feel that if someone were to find out the truth of what they think or feel, it would be devastating.


If someone had a heart condition, would you expect that person to explain why there is a need to stay in bed most of the day and isolate themselves? Obviously, the heart malfunction is the cause. However, what if anxiety makes a mind run 1000 miles an hour and only the only way to feel peace is through escaping, avoiding, reassurance and following specific safety rules? Society is less tolerant of mental behaviors than they are of physical issues. The reason being, there is tangible evidence that an ailment is not controllable unlike mental health were people will act as though it is a choice. Society is so wrong.


GAD sees what is valued most and exploits those feelings. Because of the way GAD works, it can target issues such as family, self, religion, finances and any other issue that may take a big role in one’s life. Everyone on this planet has worries and concerns, but someone experiencing GAD has a different relationship with those thoughts. A GAD brain does not regulate concerns and worries in an average way. For example, I say something to anther person that might not be kind it may only cause me a slight feeling of anxiety, 2-3. Using a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest level of anxiety. With GAD, a person may easily experience a 6-7 or even higher level of anxiety. Over time, experiencing this reaction repeatedly will teach the brain to confirm the emotions. The emotions solidify in the mind. There is truth in what they fear. If the fear were false, why would one feel these emotions so intensely? The other part is neutralizing emotions; it is a second reinforcement that what they fear has value. For example, let us say our GAD sufferer is terrified of putting a classmate out when they have the thought of asking them to go hiking. Because the anxiety gets so intense, they give up the idea of asking, they might even emotionally beat themselves up, the anxiety goes down and their fear confirmed. Interestingly enough, this emotional beat down can often give them relief. It is common to find someone with GAD has low self-esteem. This can become one of the costs or side effects of “neutralizing” their anxiety. Just because a person gets relief for beating themselves up emotionally, it does not mean it is true. In fact, if you follow a person’s life with GAD, you will see that very rarely will the issues they are worried about happen. The classmate would probably just say, yes to the invitation to go hiking. Worse case scenario they say no. Even if the fear was true or were too happen, they would have to have to deal with the consequences just like everyone else. Topics can change as new issues come up with GAD, but the feelings they experience with each topic is similar. Unfortunately, GAD is a chronic disorder. GAD will control a person throughout life or the person afflicted will control GAD. The more one fights symptoms by not accepting them as well as facing one’s fears, the more control one can get over GAD symptoms. 

Understanding the workings of OCD.

Do you ever have a passing thought that is contrary to your moral code? How do you react to these thoughts? The average person, has the thought, looks at it for a moment and then moves on to the next. The average person is not stuck on a thought worrying what it means. On the other side of the spectrum lies OCD. Someone with OCD will have the same type of thought as everyone else, but the difference is OCD sufferers will experience a fight or flight response. Adrenaline courses through their body. Their minds starts going faster. The risk seems greater. In an OCD mind, a person does not feel something for nothing. If they are having a high anxiety response, it must mean something. If I were sitting minding my own business and all of a sudden, my foot felt like it was burning in a fire, my reaction would not be to dismiss it. I would be looking at my shoe, ripping it off to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, for someone with OCD, one finds there is no fire. This is confusing.  Why would I feel something so real when it is not. The relief felt for checking is also confusing. If checking for a fire in my shoe gives relief from anxiety, then how could there not be some truth to what happened. Then they start feeling as though their foot is burning again. The anxiety rush is through the roof. They look down at their shoe. They pull it off and examine where the burning pain is. All logic goes out the room. Relief is the only focus. They get relief by seeing there is no fire. The cycle then repeats. The amount of pain experienced is so awful that to repeatedly check and verify that there is no fire is only a small price to pay to avoid the anxiety. Uncertainty is their kryptonite. The moment they create certainty that there is probably a fire in their shoe relief is there. Someone with OCD could feel this anxiety for minutes, hours, days and even longer. Spending most of their days performing mental or physical compulsions to create certainty. Interestingly enough, very often the compulsions or rituals connect to their value system. As I understand OCD, it seems like a parasite. It goes to the core of who the person is, sees what they value the most and exploits it.  With this understanding, can you imagine fear connecting to your values? When OCD hits, it is not only anxiety, it connects to what you love and care about most in this life. This only intensifies the experience. OCD sufferers are literally terrorized. A large percentage of society does not understand what OCD really is. An average person may say, "I am so OCD".  When I hear this, I want to immediately fire back... Really? So, you just had terror and fear flood your body and you need to get relief from this overwhelming moment?  Most people cannot relate. These individuals are probably dealing with perfectionism or even anal retentiveness, but not OCD. 

What does it feel like to have a Panic Attack?


At seven years old, Jon would run around his neighborhood. Mrs. Elaine had a horse property that extended 10 acres lining half the block of Jon’s street. The fencing was simple wire. Jon older brothers told him, if he touched it, death would be certain. Jon would feel terror each time he set eyes on the wire. One night as he was running home in the dark, cutting through Mrs. Elaine’s property, he felt a large gut punching jerk to his body. He was not sure what was happening. Jon felt another jolt after a few moments. Every few seconds the jolt coursed through his body. His body had wrapped around the wire and he was stuck. Jon felt the situation was out of control and did not feel he had the power to escape. Terror set in between jolts knowing it was going to occur again. Hope diminished with each jolt. After a few minutes, the pain started to decrease and Jon was able to come to his senses. He wiggled his way out of the wire. The power to the battery charging the fence exhausted, making escape possible. Walking away, Jon felt overwhelmed with fatigue. It was as though he had run a marathon.

After that, all Jon had to do was look in the direction of the fence and fear followed. His heart would drop to the floor. Then came the panic attacks. Jon would not even need to see the wire before the feeling of dread flooded his little body. Jon would start hyperventilating, his heart pounding and body sweating. Jon would feel a complete loss of control, feeling like he could die. Each panic attack would last a few minutes and then stop. The intensity of the situation would linger for hours. Jon started avoiding anything that might give him a chance to look at the fence. He stopped leaving his home preventing another panic attack. Jon’s panic attacks would happen one or two times a week and he constantly limited his life.


Panic attacks have a tendency to last 5 to 10 minutes, but for some a panic attack can last several hours. Sweating, loss of control, hyperventilating and heart pounding are experienced. Other symptoms of a panic attack are shortness of breath, choking, dizziness, nausea, shaking or even trembling. A common feature of panic attacks becoming panic disorder is the fear of having a panic attack before the onset of one. Those suffering with panic attacks will make accommodations to avoid situations that trigger panic attacks. One may become vigilant of the changes in their body to avoid the feeling happening. A panic attack can consist of all symptoms or one.


The origin of panic attacks is still somewhat of a mystery, but we do know that panic attacks can run in families. Even if one understood why panic attacks happen, it does not change the protocol for treatment. Even if Jon could be reassured that the fence would never shock him again, it would not change his panic attacks. Panic attacks can come and go in a person’s life. They can go weeks and even months to years without an attack, only to experience them again.


When society thinks of OCD, Contamination OCD is typically associated.  If our clinic took 100 people who have gone through the program, we would see five to ten struggling with contamination OCD.  It is not as common as most would think.


Before 1846, nobody knew what contamination was. Ignaz Semmelweis was the first to consider that a doctor’s hands and instruments might be dirty and could cause unnecessary death from infection, especially women giving birth. His belief that doctors should wash their hands received intense scrutiny and ridicule. Decades later, the medical community realized he was right. Once cleanliness became standard in medical practice, people started to live longer. The majority of people in the world are not interested in getting sick. In the last 25 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in cleanliness. Society spends hundreds of millions of dollars on anti-bacterial products to stay safe and clean. Our society has created a strong sentiment that we need to protect our self from germs. Many people take great effort to keep themselves protected against germs. That said, when do you know it is becoming more than just being safe?


I do not like when something gross gets on my hands. Using a scale 0-10 of distress in these moments, I would give myself at most 2 out of 10. If I do not get it off my hands, it is likely I can easily get distracted and move to something else. I may never reflect on my hands being dirty. However, someone struggling with Contamination OCD easily could feel 7 out of 10 or even higher when something gross gets on their hands. The emotion is fear and anxiety. Some describe it as the most disgusting, horrible, awful feeling. Everything inside of them will say, “This is not okay.” They cannot focus on anything until they remove the contamination. Removing the contamination may include washing hands for an extended period of time or more often than necessary. I coined a term with my clients more than a decade ago, “the OCD cuff.” This is a distinguishable line located on their wrist or mid arm. The OCD cuff is a line that is chapped, red and has irritated skin from over washing. A Contamination OCD sufferer may become hyper-vigilant of a possible threat. Assessing risk in everyone and everything is common. Avoidance becomes a way of life. A sufferer must avoid anything that could contaminate, at all costs. A Contamination OCD world gets smaller and smaller. Avoidance or decontamination is the only way to get relief. Unfortunately, this only lasts until the next threat of contamination; then it all starts again with intense fear and concern. Each time a sufferer obeys their “anxiety monster,” they make their tomorrow much more difficult to live. Contamination OCD creates fear slaves of sufferers.


There is another type of Contamination OCD. This type has no connection with getting sick or being at risk. This Contamination OCD can be a thing, a person, a place and even a thought. For example, a sufferer could see a city, a mother or even a sibling as a contaminant. It could be a person who has flaws and they fear they might become that person. Even water, they may feel they could lose their mind if they drink too much. Another example could be a sexual thought they might start to feel it is ruining them and they desire to “clean the mind.” You will see avoidance behaviors and decontamination in all types of this disorder.


It is common for sufferers to rope others into their compulsions and rituals surrounding fears. Sufferers care so much about contamination; they will get others to make accommodation for them. This might include not going into their bedroom, not touching certain items in the house, not going certain places, special products used in the home, where people can sit at the table. As you try to understand Contamination OCD, you must remember the sufferers are plagued with anxiety/terror. The anxiety is so strong it is worth giving up normal life to protect what has become the most important thing in the world. The anxiety they feel becomes confirmation and gives validity to the worry.


Family members or even acquaintances, might try to help the sufferer by trying to talk them out of what they fear. This simply feeds the OCD. Their fear is not in the same realm as a typical person worried about contamination. There is no comparison. One will not talk them out of what they fear. I tried and failed horribly in the beginning of my career. I have since learned better.



When is the last time you second-guessed something? Have you checked whether you locked the car door or front door?  Did you forget to turn the stove off or think you might have? What about the oven? Are you certain you fed the dog? You thought about it and think you might have done it, but certainty is not there. This happens to everyone. We think about it and stress levels slightly rise, however, the amount of anxiety settles within moments and we move on to the next.


Those affected with Checking OCD have a different experience in these situations. Let us paint a picture of the anxiety one with Checking OCD experiences in a way everyone can understand. Have you ever had a time where you were laying in bed and then for a moment you felt a jolt of panic that you may not have locked the front door? Would you ignore the feeling and just stay in bed or would you just check in case you might have actually forgotten to lock it? Let us say you ignore the feeling and stay in bed despite the shock of anxiety. Maybe you are exhausted and you just do not want to do it. The anxiety grows more intense. Would you have the strength to not check? The only way to make the anxiety leave is by checking the door. Finally, you check and find the door locked. You get instant relief. You might even say, “I knew I had locked it.” You then are in your bed a few moments later and suddenly a thought enters your mind. The thought says that as you checked the lock you might have not rotated the lock back. You get a flood of anxiety with the feeling you might not have locked it. The same thing happens as before, the anxiety intensifies and will not let up until you check. You know this is stupid and ridiculous, but the worry will not stop. You get out of bed after emotionally fighting going back to the door. You flip the lock. You find the door locked. You get instant relief. You are happy and you are back in bed. A few moments later, you have a moment of doubt triggered by significant anxiety. The thought is, you know you checked the lock already, but as you were checking the door as your hand was coming away, did it possibly knock the lock? You are angry about it because you know this does not make sense, but it feels so real. This thought causes you to doubt what is true. You experience the anxiety and concern. It continues to build the longer you stay in bed. Perhaps this time you stay in bed for a solid hour fighting the anxiety until you finally yield and check. You find the door locked, just as you left it. You are back in bed and within moment, it all starts again. If this has happened to you, it is likely you have Checking OCD.


Checking OCD is the anxiety a person experiences causing fear and doubt about what might have happened. They get relief by creating certainty. They verify the situation. It will then happen again. With Checking OCD, a sufferer sometimes becomes so sick of checking they will set things specifically to help create some level of certainty. Example: I will not wash my car. If I run someone over, instead of driving back to the spot where I felt it happened, I will just pull over my car and walk around to see if any dirt is gone from the person hitting the car. As I see it is not, then I know it has not happened. Another approach is avoidance. I had a neighbor who struggled with Checking OCD. She was afraid her house was going to burn down and her family would burn up. It would be her fault. Her fix was not to use the oven. For two decades, no one in her family used the oven or stove top. This way, she saves herself significant pain and misery even though she cannot cook hot food in her home. The possibility of losing her family in a fire is not worth cooking food.


Checking OCD focuses on anything you check repeatedly that is physical or mental. Checking OCD can happen a few times to checking off and on all day long. Everyone experiences uncertainty. Remember the difference is the intensity of anxiety and emotion experienced when those thoughts occur.


Have you ever had a thought enter your brain imagining harm to another person or even yourself that is so disturbing you could not focus on anything else? Have you ever had anxiety surge through your body confirming the possible intent behind the thought? Have you ever felt lost and confused as to why the thought came in your mind? Have you ever started to doubt who you are and what you are capable of doing? Have you spent significant time reviewing the thoughts in your mind to try to create a level of certainty for yourself that you are not capable of such atrocities? Only to have the horrible thought and anxiety wash over you repeatedly as the thought attacks your mind. Have you avoided situations, people, places or even things to avert the dark thoughts? Those with Harm OCD will be able to relate to these questions.


 Everyone on the planet has an occasional thought that is at odds with a personal value system. A taboo sexual thought about someone inappropriate, a child or a family member. Watching someone lean over an edge and wondering what it would be like to push him/her off the side. A thought, after seeing a knife on the counter and considering how it can hurt or even kill a loved one. These are only a few thought possibilities out of thousands that people experience every day. The difference between Harm OCD and a simple passing though lies in the intense anxiety and adrenalin experienced by Harm OCD sufferers. Most people have an intrusive thought and it passes, without scrutiny. When looking at Harm OCD, the thought turns into a completely different experience.


As I have mentioned in other posts, a person does not feel something for no reason. When thoughts and feelings come through them, there must be some level of truth. What makes Harm OCD different, interestingly, is that someone who is going to harm another person typically is not terrorized one is going to do it. They are excited, intrigued or experiencing depression, but not feeling doubt about their intentions. A Harm OCD sufferer reading this post will feel relief from their anxiety. They will get reassurance that what they are worried about is Harm OCD and it is not their true intention. The problem is that within moments, minutes, hours or even a few days, what has been read will not stick and their brain will reset as though they were never reassured. This is where the cycle of OCD continues.


Harm OCD assaults a person’s core. To imagine one could want to do dark and twisted things is terrifying. Mental compulsions are typical in this OCD type. Constantly asking for reassurance from others or clarifying their intent. When this happens, all the reassurance seeker needs are the “magic words.” The “magic words” will give them relief for a short time before the worry is back, the same or worse. Harm OCD sufferers mentally review the thoughts to make sure they do not mean what they feel. Avoidance is also a common tactic to neutralize a possible threat. “If I don’t go by knives then I don’t have to risk the possibility I could lose control, cut or murder someone.”


Harm OCD is no different from other types OCD. What a Harm OCD sufferer is worried about is not the problem. The problem is their brain. The brain is misfiring and the topic is whatever the mind decided to grab onto and exploit. An intrusive thought comes in and the brain perceives an incredible threat. The body wants to protect itself by releasing anxiety and adrenalin. The anxiety is so intense one would do anything to make it go away. A sufferer will neutralize the threat through compulsions and rituals. Once relief is established, the body gains confirmation that there was a reason for protection. The cycle starts all over again. You can tell a Harm OCD sufferer, they would never do what they are worried about, but it will not stop their brain from lying to them.


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