Updated: Jul 9, 2022
A person diagnosed with OCD has a very unique relationship with their own thoughts. They are intolerant of certain thoughts and feel they have to control them.
A person with OCD has an insight that their thinking is somehow irrational, although in the moment when they experience intrusions they believe that it is likely that something horrible will happen to them. They tend to overestimate the danger of what might possibly happen. For instance a person might be unable to touch a door handle in a public space thinking that if they get germs they will get very sick or even die. The fear of contamination might also relate to obsessions that they might contaminate others around them. A person might think that if they get germs onto their clothes and their loved one hugs them, the germs will be transferred to them. That could mean that their family member will be sick and they have caused it with germs. A person might be ridden with tremendous guilt.
A person with OCD also has a belief that they have power and must prevent danger coming to other people. Whether it is a danger from germs or harm coming to them in any other way somehow a person with OCD feels responsible to prevent it. A person often goes to great lengths, e.g. avoiding touching a parcel delivered to home, changing clothes each time they come home from outside and spending a lot of time showering or washing their hands, calling friends and family ensuring they are safe.
In addition to that, a person suffering from OCD might have intrusions about harming other people. These intrusions can evoke tremendous guilt and fear. A person might even avoid their family members in order to ‘keep them safe’. These attempts to protect others are a reflection of an inflated sense of responsibility for other people. It is not only that they overestimate the danger but also feel responsible for preventing it from happening.
OCD tenets: intolerance of certain thoughts, overestimation of danger, inflated sense of responsibility, thoughts monitoring and control
Another aspect of a unique relationship with thoughts is that a person with OCD is intolerant of some of their thoughts. They have an urge to monitor and control some of their thoughts. They are convinced that only by having a bad thought it means something negative about them. It's almost as if ‘thinking’ means the same as ‘doing’. They have a false view that their thoughts mean something about them and that will have disastrous consequences. Thoughts can become obsessional especially if they are embedded in the person's value system. For instance, if family is one of the significant values in a person’s life, their obsessive thoughts might be related to harm coming to their family. People with OCD realise that their fears are irrational and excessive, however they cannot help it. Just because they have an understanding it does not translate into an emotional belief that this is true.