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Bad Thoughts and OCD: Should I Be Worried?

Should you worry about bad thoughts and OCD? Find out what you should do about recurring bad thoughts whether or not you have OCD, here at HealthyPlace.

Bad thoughts and OCD can be scary but having them doesn’t make you a bad person. Left unchecked, however, OCD can have real-life consequences. For instance, although you are unlikely to act on the negative thoughts, you may develop subtle ways of coping with them, such as avoiding triggering situations or self-medicating to escape. You may also become depressed or overly anxious because of how OCD and bad thoughts affect your life. There is another way, however.

Bad Thoughts and OCD: Will I Act on Bad Thoughts?

OCD often presents as a stream of unpleasant thoughts you can’t get out of your mind. These thoughts often involve inappropriate sexual feelings or thoughts about hurting those around you. While these thoughts can be scary, there is no evidence to suggest that you will act on them – people with OCD rarely do. In fact, those with OCD are usually the least likely of all people to inflict harm on others.

If you have OCD in this form, you may have bad thoughts about family members or loved ones. These thoughts are usually extreme and out of character, but they can be triggered by stressful periods in your life. For instance, if you have just had a baby you might envision driving your car off the road with your baby in the backseat; if you have experienced a bereavement, you might have bad thoughts about God and OCD that undermine your faith. These thoughts can be extremely unpleasant and upsetting. They can often make you feel that you are mad or bad – but this isn’t the case. You are simply unwell ("I Think Bad Thoughts: What Can I Do?").

Overcoming Bad Thoughts in OCD

OCD and recurring bad thoughts are one and the same. You cannot overcome the intrusive thoughts without treating the underlying cause – the OCD itself. OCD is a recognized disorder that medical professionals know how to manage. Unlike several decades ago, there is widespread understanding of OCD and the impact it can have on a person’s life, so you don’t need to feel shame or stigma.  

Even if OCD has taken a terrible hold over your life, the good news is that there are various treatment options available.

  • Medication: Your doctor can prescribe SSRIs to treat the symptoms of OCD, especially if the symptoms are making you feel depressed. Your doctor may also suggest anti-anxiety medications to help you manage your response to the obsessive thoughts.
  • Behavioral treatment: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a form of psychotherapy that has been found to be highly effective in treating OCD. It can help you tackle intrusive thoughts and find additional coping strategies.
  • Lifestyle changes: Your doctor may suggest you make positive lifestyle changes, such as attending a support group or a finding a creative outlet for your anxiety.

It’s important to note that OCD cannot be overcome alone. It has become far more recognized and treatable, but you still shouldn’t try to treat your OCD without the help and support of a mental health professional.

That said, there are some self-help books out there which are incredibly useful, many of which focus on the CBT model. If you’re someone who finds reading facts and real-life stories useful, finding blogs and books written by other people with the disorder may be helpful. Below, you will find some recommended reading.

Recommended Reading

Adam, D. (2015). The Man Who Couldn't Stop. London, UK: Picador.

Brosnan, L. (2007). Overcoming: An Introduction to Coping with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. London, UK: Robinson.

Challacombe, F., Dr. (2011). Break Free from OCD: Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with CBT. Chatham, UK: Vermilion.

Gordon, B. (2017). Mad Girl. London, UK: Headline.

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2018, December 11). Bad Thoughts and OCD: Should I Be Worried?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/positivity/bad-thoughts-and-ocd-should-i-be-worried

Last Updated: June 20, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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