The thing about OCD is that , for the most part, it is invisible.
Someone may see results of OCD. For instance, you might see someone washing their hands more than once. You may see someone straiten something over and over again or touch things as they go by them. You may think to yourself, “huh. That’s odd”. But the worst part of OCD is what is going on in that person’s head while they are doing these things.
What people also don’t realize is that there are many facets of OCD. When you hear the term OCD you probably think of the stereotypical symptoms or the most common. Germ conscious, constant washing of hands, counting, straightening things, or constantly checking things to see if they are locked/turned off. But there is another form of OCD called pure obsessional OCD or PURE-O.
Someone who has Pure-O may not even know they have it because it is mostly in their mind. The person may have unwanted or inappropriate thoughts or questions pop into their head at any time. Subsequently they might come to the conclusion that they are sick or dirty or crazy or even evil.
Some common obsessions in PURE-O
• thoughts about harming oneself or others;
• thoughts about abhorrent sexual activity, such as pedophilia or incest;
• persistent doubt about one’s sexual orientation;
• anti-religious thoughts
• persistent doubt about one’s romantic partner;
• thoughts about normally unnoticed somatic functions, such as blinking, swallowing, or breathing.
Now with these thoughts, the constant fear of the negative consequences of these thoughts one might form compulsions as a way to neutralize them. The compulsions might be purely mental, so again they are invisible to someone near by. They might take the form of repeating a prayer or a phrase until they felt safe or the thought went away. Or it could be a physical compulsion like turning the light off 10 times so that the “bad” thing doesn’t happen.
The person knows that these things don’t make sense. They know it is not logical but they can not stop themselves out of fear. This condition causes tons of anxiety, stress, and often confusion. They might often wonder about their sanity or think that it may be safer to stay away from people. Most Pure-O sufferers suffer in silence because sharing is too hard.
OCD and Pure-O are serious and very real conditions that are so miss-understood by society. The term OCD is often flippantly used to describe someone who has some “tendencies” but not the actual condition. Everyone has little things they have to do to feel comfortable, but that does not mean they have OCD.
To further understand Pure-O, please check out these articles that go into a little more detail of how it works.