This article was originally written for and published on Story of the Mind, a great mental health blog that you can find here.
There are so many lies my OCD tells me daily. They all add to distress that obsessions cause, disguising themselves as truths. If I can combat OCD’s lies, it makes dealing with OCD easier. OCD still can convince me but I’m starting to notice when it’s lying to me. OCD is just trying to make things worse. Here are nine of the lies OCD tells me.
1. Your thoughts are dangerous.
OCD tells me that thinking things is dangerous. It makes me dangerous and it makes me bad. Everyone has intrusive thoughts, they are normal in the population 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, the response just gives them too much power over me. This is because I’m so horrified of them and so concerned about being bad, it makes the obsessions that much more powerful.
2. Saying your thoughts out loud makes them true.
Depression feels like a dementor but OCD feels like Lord Voldemort but as always, the rational Hermione Granger needs to save the day. “Fear of the name only increases the fear of the thing itself”. I’m not great at this, there are still some obsessions I can’t voice out loud but more are coming out – it’s sort of an exposure exercise in itself. It doesn’t matter if I say it, it doesn’t mean it’s true. My psychologist flat out 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, it didn’t matter, it was just something she said, something that had no power. It didn’t mean that she would do that. It didn’t mean she would win the lottery. I didn’t believe that she would and neither did she. Words don’t have the power to make something true.
3. You should be able to control your thoughts.
No one can control if they think about upsetting things, this just happens sometimes. 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 about exactly that.
4. You need to know exactly what is happening.
I feel like this is a rather big aspect of OCD – the intolerance of uncertainty. OCD makes me think ‘What if?’ all the time. OCD makes me believe I have to be certain that nothing bad will happen, that I will not do anything bad. It tells me I have to compulsively repeat phrases to make sure for certain that nothing can happen. This isn’t true, it certainly doesn’t make anything less or more likely. One thing is for certain though, I need to learn to be ok with the unknown.
5. You need to analyse my every move & interaction. You might have done something bad and you can’t remember it.
OCD tells me that I have to go over everything I do to make sure nothing bad has happened and that I haven’t done anything wrong. It doesn’t matter how many times I go over things in my head, it doesn’t change what happened. I just trick myself into not believing my memories. This is probably another compulsion to be honest and the longer it continues, the more power OCD gets, feeding off the intolerance of uncertainty.
6. You shouldn’t have bad thoughts. Bad thoughts make you a bad person.
Good people have bad thoughts, 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 see them as wrong and that’s not me and 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. But this doesn’t mean that getting over OCD will mean being ok with being bad, it means recognising that they might be there sometimes but it doesn’t mean anything and it certainly doesn’t make you bad.
7. Thinking something makes it more likely to happen. It makes you responsible.
This is one that I know for certain on an intellectual level but struggle to convince myself of emotionally. Something might happen, anything is possible, but thinking it doesn’t make you responsible if it does happen. My thoughts cannot control the outcomes of the world.
8. That you deserve to be hated.
This is a really powerful lie that OCD tells me. OCD tells me that I deserve to be alone, I deserve to be hurt because I am bad. OCD tells me that I need to isolate myself to protect others from my ways. This IS NOT TRUE OCD! I do not deserve that. I believe no one deserves that and I need to learn to include myself in this.
9. 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.
If this article has triggered you in any way, please contact the following services:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
If you’re experiencing a crisis, call emergency services.