Originally posted. March 2020. Last updated May 2023
When most people think of OCD, they think of obsessive hand washers, they think of neat freaks and germaphobes. While these are stereotypically among the most common forms of “overt” OCD, OCD also has a secret, lesser-known twin, “Pure O” OCD.
“Pure O” means to say that the symptoms are “purely obsessional”, that is, that they are purely in the mind. In reality, many Pure O sufferers demonstrate symptoms very similar to those seen in “classic” OCD, but as the compulsion is “covert”, so many people don’t see it.
For example, someone with an obsession with germs will wash their hands frequently, whereas someone who fears they may be gay may try to avoid members of the same sex for fear of being attracted to their same-sex friends. Someone who thinks stepping on gaps between floor tiles will cause future misfortunes may take huge leaps to ensure that they only stand on whole floor tiles, whereas someone who worries they may strangle their partner may sleep in another room, and so on.
It is important to note also that someone who is genuinely homosexual will not worry about or question their desire for members of the same sex. They may feel guilt and shame for having these desires (just as someone with homosexual OCD might), but they will not worry about what it means to have them. If you are in any doubt, please speak with a trained clinician who can help you determine your thought processes more clearly, but please do also understand that it is absolutely 100% okay to be gay. Being gay does not mean you have a mental health disorder, the difference between your sexuality and a painful mental health disorder is how you feel about it!
For me, my obsessions revolved around stabbing someone, my future husband in particular. I remember the afternoon I was slicing up an apple as a snack when suddenly…
“Oh my god!” I gasped and put the knife down, I recoiled in horror and hid behind the bed. “Oh my god! Oh my god! I.. I thought about.. ” I said with tears falling freely down my face, when Matt found me, I was clutching the side of the bed for support.
“I thought about stabbing you, in the heart. Oh god Matt, you can’t marry me! I’m a psycho! I’ll end up killing you!”
That was the beginning of eighteen very hard months for me. I tried to live with the knives around but eventually I threw them away, fearful that I would end up harming Matt or me. I haven’t had kitchen knives in my home since.
Looking back, we should have called the wedding off more or less then and there. Ashamed of now telling anyone that we won’t be getting married (at least, not for a while), I went ahead with our big day. I spent a lot of the time in a heightened state of anxiety, frightened that I was going to butcher our guests with the cake knife. Our photographer took a photo of me crying at what everyone thought was a sweet moment. In fact, I was having a mini nervous breakdown. On our honeymoon, I spent fourteen days worrying that I would jump on the train track. Wherever there was danger, my brain wanted to worry about it and eventually I had enough.
“Have you heard of OCD before?” the doctor asks me.
“Like handwashing and stuff?”, I ask and I look at him quizzically – I wasn’t visiting the facilities nearly enough for that!
“Well yes but… there are many forms of OCD” he continues. “I think you have something called Pure O OCD, or Purely Obsessional OCD. I’d like to refer you to speak with a psychiatrist, if that’s okay?”
I think my eyebrows left my forehead. A psychiatrist?! Was it that serious?! I went home and did a Google search for “thoughts of stabbing”. Sure enough, Pure O and “Harm OCD” came up. I alternated between crying and laughing for a while – his was all just part of my anxiety!
I wasn’t seen by a psychiatrist, but rather a psychiatric nurse. He nodded and agreed with much of what I was saying and referred me for six sessions of “CBT therapy”. I smiled, there were presently only two forms of CBT that I knew of – one involves motorbikes, and the other? Not so much.
Turning up to my first session, I was met by a voluptuous Eastern European lady who was to be my therapist. As I cried about my thoughts and the nature of my obsessions, she seemed unmoved, unphased and not at all bothered. Instead, she just nodded.
“I cannot promise you that you will not do it, because a small number of people do do it, but I think you are a very good person and you will find you will not worry so much if you do your homework” she smiled reassuringly, “real killers don’t worry so much about these thoughts.”
By the the time I finished my therapy, I was able to dismiss my thoughts as little more than “brain farts”. Occasionally my brain lets out something really foul and I do need to leave the room for a while when it happens, but usually they’re fairly manageable.
I’m still loathed to have knives in my kitchen now, but I am a lot more confident than I used to be. We have kitchen scissors now, and I’m more of a risk to myself with a saw (because of my clumsiness!) than I think I am to anyone else. I’ve used kitchen knives a few times on vacation but I’m still uneasy about having them in my home. Anxiety is not something that you recover from, but I firmly believe that with support, therapy and maybe medication, you absolutely can get better. Better is not cured though, please don’t ever hold onto the false hope like I did. Anxiety never goes, you just get better at managing it.
And as for Matt and I? We’re still very much together, still very much in love, and perhaps most importantly of all, still very much alive.
Remember, if you’re struggling to cope, please, please do seek professional help. Don’t suffer in silence like I did.
That’s it from me for this post! Do you struggle with intrusive thoughts? How did you manage them? Why not give this post a like, share your thoughts in the comments or click here for more posts from me!
Until next time!
Stay safe & have fun,