Obsessive compulsive disorder tells lies which disguise themselves as truths.
These lies add to the distress that obsessions cause, but once we are able to realise they aren't true, it makes dealing with OCD much easier.
Here are some of the lies OCD tells:
Your thoughts are dangerous
OCD tells me that thinking things is dangerous. Everyone has intrusive thoughts but most people just brush them off. They might think, "that's a bit weird" and go on with their day. The difference is the response. The more I react, the more power the OCD gets. My thoughts aren't unusual, but the response gives them too much power over me. This is because I'm so horrified by them and concerned about being bad so it makes the obsessions that much more powerful.
Saying your thoughts out loud makes them true
Ultimately, fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself. Talking about obsessions doesn't make them real or more likely to happen. I'm not great at this - there are still some obsessions I can't voice out loud – sometimes it's an exposure exercise in itself.
Just because I say it, it doesn't mean it's true. A psychologist once told me – "I'm going to drive a car into a school" and "I'm going to win the lottery". The first one scared me. She could say it with ease. It didn't make it true though; it didn't mean that she would do that. Words don't have the power to make something true.
You should be able to control your thoughts
No one can control whether they think about upsetting things. But we can learn to control our reaction to these thoughts. The greater the reaction to the thought, the more power it gets and it becomes harder for it to pass. It would be fabulous if I could just decide to stop thinking about something but it's a bit like the thought experiment about the pink elephant. Saying you cannot think about a pink elephant makes you think exactly that.
Bad thoughts make you a bad person
Good people have bad thoughts, and OCD doesn't make me a bad person. It's our actions and our morals that determine our character. Being concerned about having bad thoughts shows that you aren't really bad.
People who do bad things on purpose don't usually see them as wrong, but that's not me. I've never done something evil in my life and I don't intend to. The thoughts are just there. They're a bit like weeds in the garden. You didn't plant them but they seem to growing anyway.
This doesn't mean that getting over OCD will mean being okay with being bad - it means recognising that the thoughts might be there sometimes but it certainly doesn't make you bad.
You don't even have OCD
This is just another lie. OCD tells me that it's not OCD, and that I really am bad. OCD tells me that I have to do something about these thoughts otherwise it is not OCD. This gives OCD more power. I'm not making excuses for being bad. OCD is a real thing.
I have been diagnosed and it doesn't make me bad. This is just another 'What if?' that the OCD keeps saying. It's OCD talking; it's not me.
Veronica is a participant in Young Faces of Mental Illness, a collaboration with SANE and batyr supporting young adults to share their stories. The project is supported by the Future Generation Global Investment Company.
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