People with OCD can get stuck on a variety of intrusive thoughts, images, or urges, also known as obsessions, that are often disturbing or anxiety-provoking. These obsessions can interfere with daily life and cause significant distress. Some common obsessions in OCD include:
- Fear of contamination or germs
- Fear of losing control and causing harm to oneself or others
- Intrusive thoughts about sex or morality
- Repeated doubts about having performed a task correctly
- Excessive concern about symmetry or order
- Unwanted aggressive or violent thoughts
It’s important to note that having intrusive thoughts or worries is a common experience and does not necessarily mean that someone has OCD. The hallmark of OCD is the presence of both obsessions and compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to perform in order to reduce anxiety or prevent harm, despite recognizing that the behaviors are excessive or unreasonable.
Fear of harm
Fear of harm can lead to a variety of negative thoughts and beliefs, particularly in individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Some common negative thoughts related to fear of harm include:
- “I might harm someone.”
- “I might cause an accident.”
- “I might spread germs or contamination.”
- “I might start a fire.”
- “I might forget to lock the door and someone will break in.”
- “I might forget to turn off the stove and cause a fire.”
- “I might cause harm by not washing my hands enough.”
- “I might be responsible for a terrible outcome.”
- “I might harm myself or others without intending to.”
- “I can’t trust my own thoughts or actions.”
These negative thoughts can cause significant anxiety and lead to compulsive behaviors, such as excessive hand-washing or checking, in an attempt to reduce the fear of harm.
Reframing your thoughts
Reframing negative thoughts to more supportive or positive thoughts can help reduce anxiety and increase feelings of well-being. Here are some strategies for reframing negative thoughts related to fear of harm:
- Challenge the thought: Ask yourself if the thought is based in reality and what evidence supports or disproves it. Challenge overly-negative or unrealistic thoughts and try to come up with alternative, more balanced perspectives.
- Focus on the present moment: Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, try to bring your attention to the present moment and focus on what is happening right now. This can help reduce anxiety and increase feelings of safety.
- Practice gratitude: Focus on what is going well in your life and what you are grateful for. This can help shift your focus away from negative thoughts and increase positive emotions.
- Use positive self-talk: Replace negative self-talk with more supportive, positive messages. For example, instead of saying “I’m never going to be able to handle this,” try saying “I can handle this one step at a time.”
- Identify strengths and coping skills: Reflect on past experiences where you successfully coped with challenges or stressful situations. Remind yourself of your strengths and that you have the resources to manage difficult situations.
It’s important to remember that reframing negative thoughts takes time and practice, but can be a valuable tool for managing anxiety and improving mental well-being.
Let’s reframe the negative thoughts
- “I might harm someone.” -> “I care about others.”
- “I might cause an accident.” -> “I am cautious and trust my intentions.”
- “I might spread germs or contamination.” -> “I take care of my health and the health of others by practicing good hygiene.”
- “I might start a fire.” -> “I am responsible.”
- “I might forget to lock the door and someone will break in.” -> “I trust my memory.”
- “I might forget to turn off the stove and cause a fire.” -> “I am mindful and will double-check appliances before leaving my home.”
- “I might cause harm by not washing my hands enough.” -> “I am mindful of good hygiene practices.”
- “I might be responsible for a terrible outcome.” -> “I have control over my actions and will take necessary precautions to prevent negative outcomes.”
- “I might harm myself or others without intending to.” -> “I am mindful of my actions and will take steps to ensure safety.”
- “I can’t trust my own thoughts or actions.” -> “I have made good decisions in the past and I am capable of doing so again.”
Reframing negative thoughts in a more supportive and positive way can help reduce anxiety and increase feelings of safety and control.