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Are OCD Thoughts Real Or Not?

Are OCD Thoughts Real Or Not

Sometimes people have the ignorant belief that OCD intrusive thoughts are not real.

They rarely understand the irrationality of these thoughts. Unfortunately, OCD thoughts are as real as they come.

People living with OCD have a hard time judging between what is real and what their mind plays out as real.

Overcoming OCD can be an arduous task, as it’s challenging to detach from these obsessions and compulsions.

Are OCD Thoughts Real Or Just Illusion?

OCD thoughts are as real as they come, however, this depends on the individual.

Some people believe these thoughts are real, while others know they are not realistic.

However, these thoughts and obsessions are distressing, that it’s difficult to distinguish between the real and unreal. It is usually difficult to detach from.

This condition is more common in women than men with onset in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood around the age of 19.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder occurs in two phases, the obsession phase is characterized by recurrent and persistent thoughts, sounds, images, and ideas.

In this phase, people living with OCD have typical obsessions that include fear associated with concern for the following;

  • Distressing thoughts, sounds and images
  • Fear of uttering insults or insecurities
  • Fear of losing or discarding something of high value
  • Extreme care and interest for precision and orderliness
  • Fear and anxiety of getting infected by people, objects, surfaces, or environment

Compulsions are responses to obsessions. These are repetitive behaviors that people with OCD feel compelled to perform because of their thoughts.

Compulsions are a constant repetition of activities because of obsessions.

These are sometimes so excessive that they fill up the patient’s day and disrupt the normal routine. Examples of compulsions are;

  • Repeated cleaning, toileting, showering and even washing because of fear of contamination.
  • Typical arrangement of things, particularly with extreme precision
  • Constantly seeking reassurance and approval because of insecurities
  • Hoarding of items for fear of losing or discarding them.

OCD can become so distressing and debilitating for people living with it and can lead to anxiety disorders and depression.

These obsessions and compulsions are so tenacious that they practically become a part of the individual’s life. But it can be treated.

What Are OCD Thoughts?

OCD is a mental health condition characterized by obsessive-compulsive behaviors and repetitive thoughts.

People with OCD have recurring thoughts, images, ideas, and feelings that make them want to do something repeatedly.

They often feel unable to control these sensations and experience discomfort, fear, doubts when things don’t go a certain way.

These thoughts and behaviors can be so distressing that they disrupt daily life.

Although many people without OCD may sometimes have distressing thoughts that are not necessarily obsessions, the difference lies in the patterns of thoughts and the realistic effects.

For people with OCD, some know their obsessions are not real while others believe these thoughts are realistic.

Regardless of how real or unreal these thoughts are, people with OCD find it difficult to disengage obsessive thoughts and stop their compulsive actions.

This is because these thoughts are so persistent and behaviors are rigid that they feel great discomfort and distress when they cannot perform specific behaviors.

There are different OCD, some of which include;

  • Repetitive behaviors of concern with checking, they feel the need or urge to constantly check for problems. For example;
  • Checking appliances or gadgets for damage, leaks or breaks.
  • Checking emails, messages or chats for fear of mistakes
  • Fear of infections and contamination, this involves a continual and overwhelming need to wash and clean because they feel that every surface and object they touch or come in contact with is contaminated.
  • Orderliness is another form of OCD where the individual feels the need to arrange things in a certain way.

Examples Of OCD Intrusive Thoughts

OCD comes with various unwanted thoughts, sensations, and memories. Examples of some of these intrusive obsessions include;

OCD and unwanted thoughts

This is the most common occurrence of OCD. Different statements come to your mind, ranging from simple sentences to highly charged words or warnings.

For instance, you may have thoughts of being contaminated with sweat from people after being in a crowded space.

OCD and unwanted images

Images and visual presentations of intrusive thoughts are more prevalent to visual thinkers.

If you are a visually perceptive person, you are more likely to experience extremely vivid representations of your thoughts.

They may play out in your mind like static images or mini-movies.

OCD and unwanted sensations

Do you sometimes notice a distinct sensation in your body? One that feels foreign?

Unwanted feelings from OCD can be sudden and so out of place that it causes you to take a pause and worry about its meaning.

For example, a sudden drop in or surge of adrenaline in your heartbeat while you are relaxing, reading or watching TV.

OCD and unwanted ideas

“What if’s”, questions are common to every individual, but perhaps they are more prevalent with OCD.

Your brain makes up various scenarios that show up.

For instance, you are in a queue at the bus station and suddenly feel this urge or idea to push someone close by into the oncoming train.

OCD and unwanted memories

OCD can be quite sneaky sometimes that it replays actual events of what has previously happened.

In situations like this, your OCD restructures your past, making it seem bigger of a deal than it really is/was.

OCD and unwanted urges and Impulses

Not every intrusive thought is visual or verbal, some are physical. You may feel sudden impulses to act a certain way, different from your personality and values.

For example, a sudden urge to pilfer or steal from someone around.

What Is It Like To Have OCD Thoughts?

OCD can wreak havoc on every aspect of your life.

These thoughts can become so crippling that they control every part of your life, making you unable to make rational decisions that are not associated with your obsessions and compulsions.

For instance, rather than focusing on work, family, relationships, academics, health, recreation, and friends, you end up spending all your time and energy on your compulsions. 

Sometimes, you may know these behaviors are illogical, but this does not convince your brain enough to stop and seek reality.

Regardless of how irrational these scenarios are, they are quite impossible to control.

For instance, a typical case of someone living with OCD adapted from an actual patient’s story include;

Clean up your room after a long, tiring day. Although you’d prefer to procrastinate, your mind convinces you to clean up.

You tidy things up and then a thought pops up again

“Something bad is going to happen unless you get it right” You panic, your mind is in distress, then you decide to keep trying until you get it done perfectly. 

Here, the intrusive thoughts begin with “something bad is going to happen unless you get the cleaning right.”

The obsession becomes “you really have to get it right.” Your thoughts and obsession coincide and become very distressful.

How To Treat And Overcome OCD Intrusive Thoughts

It is possible to treat and overcome OCD intrusive thoughts, however, a diagnosis is required. Criteria for a diagnosis are;

  • Presence of prevailing obsession or compulsions, either separately or together.
  • Time-consuming obsessions or compulsions with significant distress that affect overall well-being and functionality
  • OCD Symptoms that do not arise from substance or medication
  • OCD symptoms not linked to other health issues

Types of treatment include;

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

This is physiotherapy that involves exposure therapy to change the way a person feels, thinks, and behaves towards their condition.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy first teaches you to identify, reevaluate, and reassess your beliefs about the condition.

Then you reassess the consequences and not engage in compulsive behaviors.

Your therapist encourages you to;

  • Examine all evidence that support and opposes your obsession
  • Identify your triggers
  • Develop less debilitating responses to intrusive thoughts and obsessions

Exposure and response prevention

Exposure enlightens you of your triggers, the situations, objects, and people that seem to have such an effect on you.

Next, you are put through a process called habituation that leads to a decrease in anxiety. Your response over time resists performing compulsive behaviors.


A certain type of antidepressant is available to manage OCD. Your dosage may vary depending on your symptoms and degree of OCD.

Consistency is key, as some people may not notice improvement immediately until after 2 to 3 months of treatment.

Although OCD may sometimes occur with mild effects, it is usually best to not ignore your symptoms, as it can eventually become severe.

OCD is not an infectious condition. People living with OCD can still carry out their normal lifestyle. Be understanding and help them get treatment as soon as possible.


Medicalnewstoday: What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Treatmyocd: How It Feels to Have OCD: Why OCD Thoughts Feel Real

Psychiatry: What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

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