A Typical Case of Harm OCD

James writes:

Might not be the correct place to ask this, but does this look OCD-ish to you? I’ve always suffered from being a worrier as my Mum puts it. Ive been scared of getting someone pregnant from swimming near them for over 2 years despite knowing chlorine kills semen. I’ve been scared of wetting the bed before that, it’s just who I am.

But these have never been as scary as this to me. So about late September I started getting issues with my eyes, and this along with a relationship with a girl not working out led to some kind of depression.

And it was around this time I acquired a curiosity that I may be a psychopath. I like violent video games, the Walking Dead and have a dark sense of humor. This curiosity made me very nervous. I began to look online a lot at of tests and kept checking with friends and relatives to see if I was a psychopath. It was just something I kept looking up. Considering it was 4 months ago, I can’t quite remember the extent of the worries, but it was getting really scary. I asked loads of questions on forums, and it managed to keep me calm whenever I felt I was worrying to much.

It was about November 10th were I got an intrusive thought/urge of hurting my mother with a knife. I was not angry with my Mum or anything – it was just something that happened. One minute I was cutting up biscuits to take through to my family and the next I was in shock. I managed to serve up the biscuits in the lounge with the knife in an attempt to prove to myself I wouldn’t do such a thing. Is that a thing in OCD, normally people with OCD would be scared of knifes not use one to prove their a psychopath? Anyway I swiftly ran upstairs and felt the most scared I have ever felt ever in tears and upset by the fact I was thinking like this.

I discovered it may be OCD, and I told my mum all about it; she claimed it was normal. The thought never really occurred much, maybe as I was exposed to knifes and my family when washing up every night after that. However, the fear still remained strong. There was a period of time after that where I was so scared I felt I was in a dream almost detached from reality. The fear changed/adapted, and I began to obsess that I was a school shooter. Thoughts like, “I used to kill ants as a child, so that must mean I’m psycho because psychopaths are cruel to animals when they are young” and “School shooters like video games just like me”.

I looked at Wiki articles on mental illness associated with the school shooters and took online tests multiple times on separate occasions, and no matter the results, the anxiety would only go for sometime, and soon after, I was yet again convinced I was a homicidal maniac.

I would make myself be extremely nice to people. I have this thing were I check taps and stuff and do typically OCD actions to make myself feel like I have OCD, reinforcing that I’m OCD and not psycho. One of my most effective ways of getting rid of anxiety was looking at posts like this on my phone to read over when I got scared (I’ve read this loads).

Recently I have got back in to playing somewhat violent games and TV, but I still get slightly uncomfortable. January was when it got worse. I got convinced I wanted to do it. Similar to the case on the homicide above, I was convinced I wanted to do it. Let me make this clear.

I never planned to do a school shooting, and I have never bought a gun. I was really scared by that. How do I know that it is OCD and not me actually wanting to do it? I have been depressed recently possibly due to OCD. How do I know that it’s not that and that I’m actually homicidal? My doctor suggested it was anxiety. Any answers will make me happy, so go ahead. Finally thank you for your posts and such – they’re really really helpful.

EPGAH writes:

I have OCD myself, and my brain is wired differently. I think in scenarios. You might even say I plan too far ahead.

I think that’s all your brain is doing, “What if I did this?”
Something like the cartoon of Dragon’s Lair, if you’re old enough to remember that, or if not, just think of it as looking ahead in chess. It’s not so much you WANT to do that, it’s your brain is saying “What IF I did this?”

I work as an OCD counselor and see clients very much like this (but often not with this theme) almost every day, and EPGAH is 100% correct. This guy does not even want to do any of these things! Not only that, but no part of him wants to do any of these things! A general rule in psychology is “Intrusive thoughts do not represent real desires.”

So this guy is not having violent fantasies at all! He’s probably not even angry. And actually the Harm OCD’ers (that’s what he has OCD with the Harm theme) are actually the most gentle, meek, kind and nice OCD’ers of them all! This guy is suffering what I would call “irrational fears.” Why has he latched onto this theme? Because at the moment, this is biggest fear! That’s all this is – his biggest fear. It’s 100% fear and 0% anything else.

Also, if you really want to make sure someone doesn’t attack you, go hang around with one of these Harm O’ers. Not only are they generally very nice, but Harm O’ers are in the category of humans who are least likely to carry out a violent act!

Whether these people ever act on these thoughts is controversial. Some say they never do, but others say there have been a few cases. Generally they do not act on the really nasty stuff, but sometimes they act on the milder fears.

One guy had Harm O about turning his bicycle into pedestrians and cars along the side of the road. He would actually start to do it, but before he could actually do it, he would simply crash his bike.

Another man had a fear of throwing the car into reverse while driving fast down the road. Well one day he was driving along and he just did it – he threw his car into reverse!

There is an OCD theme called ROCD or Relationship OCD where the person is going round and round about whether they love their significant other (SO) anymore. It could be a spouse or a lover. There is also Gay OCD or Homosexual OCD where completely straight people fear they are either turning gay or are really gay. Bizarrely enough, there is even Straight OCD, where gay people are terrified that they are turning straight or that they are straight! I have actually seen a couple of cases of this!

The thing with OCD is that when they get really deep into it, they can become convinced that the obsession is true, even though it is 100% not true.

I have heard of Gay OCD cases where the person becomes so convinced they are gay that they actually go out and have gay sex. They usually only do this a handful of times. Of course, that doesn’t settle matters at all and in fact it tends to make them dramatically worse, even suicidal. It’s not a good idea.

I have also heard of ROCD cases where they become so convinced that they do not love their spouse or lover that they break up their marriage or end the relationship. Of course, this resolves nothing and often makes them worse.

I have personally never heard of anyone acting on a Harm OCD obsession and committing a violent act, but many of them are convinced they are going to do violent things. Some even start thinking that they have to do violent things. “I am going to have to do this violent thing,” is how the thought goes. Sometimes the OCD will egg them on and try to get them to commit the violent act and keep upping the ante on them when it doesn’t work.

Commonly, the violent urges are so strong that they say they have to “sit on their hands” to keep from lashing out and striking people. It feels as if their limbs have gone on autopilot.

The strange thing is that as weird and terrifying as Harm OCD gets, in general, they never act on any of these violent thoughts. In other words, these people are harmless, even laughably harmless.

It is often said that Harm OCD’ers never act on these thoughts, but some clinicians say there have been some cases of people acting on harm obsessions. But then again, if you take a random sample of people walking down any busy street, a certain percentage of them are going to commit a serious violent act the future, probably even in the near future. You could calculate the risk that any average person would do such a thing and come up with an odds figure of what the odds are that any given person will commit a serious violent act in the future or near future. We could assign that risk to all of us, as we are all part of the random population.

The bizarre thing though is that no one is less likely to commit a serious and irrational violent act in the future or near future than someone with Harm OCD! In other words, the illness is preposterous.

Lately there are a lot of people with the pedophile theme, Pedophile OCD or POCD. In almost all cases, these people are 0% pedophilic and have no more interest in children than you, me or anyone else. These are people who are worrying about being something that they are not!

Although it is said that POCD’ers never act on their thoughts, I have in fact met one woman who did so. She did sexual things with her 3 year old son. I do not think they were very serious, and he will probably never remember it anyway.

Somehow she got caught and was arrested and charged with child molestation. However, mental health intervened and I do not know how it happened, but charges were dropped on the demand that she be monitored by clinicians as long as the illness was present. She presently has a whole team working with her. She has not done this act any more times.

Curiously, she did not do this act for a sexual reason at all. In fact, she did it for another reason altogether which I do not have time to go into now.

1 Comment

Filed under Anxiety Disorders, Mental Illness, OCD, Psychology, Psychopathology

One response to “A Typical Case of Harm OCD

  1. j michaels

    I’m sorry Mr lindsay really really sorry.
    I have some questions and i just can’t answer them myself. I need your help

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