Harm OCD – Symptoms and Treatment


Harm OCD refers to the term used to describe the kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which manifests through unwanted and highly intrusive thoughts that relate to you wanting to harm yourself. The condition is associated with unwanted images and ideas of violence, as well as catastrophic thoughts of shouldering the responsibility for some violent acts. It also includes dealing with some distorted beliefs surrounding the thoughts you could have about self-harm.

As a result, people with this kind OCD live in constant fear of something being wrong with them and at the same time seeking certainly that they will not act on the harming intrusive thoughts. The strategies employed to feel alright or to quiet the harm thoughts they are obsessed with are called compulsions.

It is noted that harm OCD thoughts or intrusive thoughts are common in the population and account for up to 85 percent of unwanted thoughts in the non-OCD population. Even so, the frequency and the presence of these intrusive thoughts tend to be a lot more debilitating to the Harm OCD sufferers.

The thoughts, ideas, and images are so much more upsetting as they are graphic, repetitive, and they easily get in the way of a person’s daily routine.

Harm OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsions which, if you avoid, will worsen and in most cases, they trigger violent thoughts.

How does harm OCD present?

  • Fear of Irresponsible Harm

With this OCD, an individual is afraid of taking responsibility for harm to self or harm to others. They take it as a function of not taking enough responsibility. For example, one may fear that their car or bike has malfunctioned brakes and they could cause accidental death.

  • Fear of Impulsive Harm

Here the Harm OCD sufferer fears that they could be part of a violent act without any reason and without reason. Take a nonviolent colleague who has intrusive and impulsive harm thoughts and awareness of the fact that their thoughts involve stabbing the department head or the person seated next to them by strangling them with a cable hanging at the corner of their desk.

With these thoughts, the affected person worries if they could, at any point, snap and attack the person in mind. To prevent that from happening, they move from that spot, stack away the cables, put away the hot coffee, and even start chant reassuringly that they would never do that or that they are good-hearted. Unfortunately, fighting the thoughts only increases the obsessions, and the urge may never go away if not dealt with.

  • Harmful identity

Here, one worries excessively about being a sociopath secretly hence they monitor all their behaviors and thoughts to banish the thoughts of being an actual sociopath. For avoidance, afflicted individuals tend to avoid media that describe violent acts. They are also compulsive in comparing their traits to those of the serial killers. Often, it takes the form of a mental review of benign actions like saying hello to strangers and asking if their actions are polite or if they are relayed in a manipulative manner, the same way a sociopath would.

  • Fear of Harm by mental activity

With this form of OCD, an individual fears that their thoughts of harm or violence could result in harmful events. It is, also called thought-action-fusion, which is a mental confusion between actual events and thoughts. Ever had thoughts of your parent becoming sick then worry that your thoughts could actually make them sick? Do you then perform some mental ritual to banish that thought?

  • Fearing self-harm

While suicidal ideation involves the desire to harm self and formulating a plan, self-harm OCD is where an individual has unwanted, intrusive thought of committing suicide or harming themselves against their will. Examples include taking poison, jumping across the road, or shooting themselves. The result is compulsive avoidance or coming up with rituals to prevent self-harm.

  • Fears over thought contamination

In this case, the inflicted person doesn’t have any fears of acting or having unwanted thoughts yet the thoughts intrude the mind, and they feel contaminated by those thoughts, They could also be concerned that they cannot be happy as long as the thoughts recur.

Harm OCD Compulsions

  • Research
  • Hiding everyday objects
  • Checking constantly
  • Reassurance

Treating Harm OCD

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)
  • Psycho-education
  • Mindfulness skills development


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