Awhile ago I wrote about pure O OCD. This is one form of OCD that fascinates me a little more than the others simply because it seems a little odd. Pure O- OCD? So just obsessions? Then how is it still classified as OCD? Wouldn’t it just be “OD”?
In my understanding (which, granted, is pretty limited to hearing some stories from people in group sessions), those with Pure O have intense obsessions but don’t necessarily feel the need to follow through with physical compulsions. I think this clarification is important to discuss. For one, can a recurring obsession eventually be qualified as a compulsion? Maybe you check things on the Internet to see if your thoughts and obsessions have validity. Or maybe something happens and you think of that one thing over and over and over again. Is that a compulsion now rather than obsession? Can a compulsion be mental?
I think compulsions can definitely be mental. Those of us with OCD are extremely skilled at hiding our compulsions, so having mental compulsions is the ultimate cover up– engaging in compulsions without even outwardly doing anything!
Personally, when my contamination obsessions were more intense, I would think through scenarios and try to convince myself for or against various possibilities. Like, does a wash machine cycle really kill germs or viruses? Would I need to bleach? Use high temperatures? Both? What are the statistics on how much bacteria is left on underwear after washing and drying? Thoughts like these would cycle through my mind over and over again. Sometimes I would try to answer these questions in my mind on my own, other times I would do Internet searches (just a side note, you can usually find anything you are looking for on an Internet search, as well as another site claiming the exact opposite). So, before engaging in physical compulsions (like washing with hot water or with bleach), I would have these mental compulsions resulting from the obsession of “having to clean XY or Z completely.”
I think it can be hard for us to accept and acknowledge mental compulsions. Why? Well, for one, we usually don’t want to do so. Mental compulsions can be so much harder to fight. They are much sneakier than the outward, physical compulsions. They live inside our own brain and can initially seem like normal thoughts. How do we fight our own minds and our own thoughts?
Well, one way we can fight them is by not seeking reassurance. Sometimes that means we don’t ask someone we trust to tell us what we want to hear: “Does this chicken look cooked enough?” “How long does the flu virus live?” “Is it possible to get such and such diseases in this way?” Other times that means that we don’t seek reassurance from the Internet or other sources. Don’t do those searches. Just be uncomfortable. Resist the compulsion and be willing to live in uncertainty.
Overall, be aware of any mental compulsions that pop up. Instead of over analyzing and trying to decide why they are there, focus on fighting them by doing the opposite of what the OCD wants you to do. It can be hard to stop thinking about something, so instead, confront it. Dr. Reid Wilson’s book “Stopping the Noise in Your Head” has some great tips on how to do this and why it’s important. I definitely recommend checking out that book if you think you have mental compulsions or pure O-OCD.