Pure O: Living in Endless Fear

Have you ever heard your friends saying that “they were so OCD” ? Or watched any reality shows where they present OCD as a kind of cleaning obsession or as the fear of germs?

The answer is probably yes.

But the reality is that OCD is much more complex than that – it’s just like the boggart in the Harry Potter series, it can have a lot of different faces and every single person who’s suffering from OCD will experience it in their own way. Some of us need to repeatedly check if we’ve locked the door, some of us must clean our homes multiple times a day – but there’re people out there who’re being tortured by a much less known form of OCD, called Pure O.

What is Pure O?

Purely obsessional OCD – or simply, Pure O – means that you’re haunted by intrusive and uncontrollable thoughts, but these are usually not accompanied by any compulsions.

Now, this was a definition from a psychology book that I was reading and there are a lot of articles on the internet that speak about Pure O from a scientific point of view, so in this post I’ll write more about my feelings and what Pure O means to me: a total terror.

I’ve been suffering from it ever since I was a small child, but then it got out of control when I was at junior high.

What does Pure O feels like?

Most of the people have intrusive thoughts: but those who do not suffer from OCD may not even notice them. And Pure O usually starts with one of these crazy thoughts, such as:

– what if I’m sexually attracted to my relatives?
– what if I’ll harm one of my loved ones?
– what if I push someone off the roof?
– what if I push someone onto the tube tracks?
– what if I am a bad person?
– what if I confess a crime that I did not commit?
– what if I put my cat into the microwave?
– what if I jump off the roof?

And after the first intrusive thoughts, it’ll get worse and worse, so you may even be able to explain yourself that you’re not a bad person and that you do not want to act on your thoughts – but OCD is like a monster and this monster is doing amazingly well at giving the benefit of doubt to its victims, so it’ll just carry on with:

– what if I actually want to do the things that came into my mind?

If you do not know that you’re suffering from Pure O, this question will be extremely difficult to answer: you’ll doubt yourself and you’ll never be sure whether you actually want to commit all the horrible crimes your intrusive thoughts have been suggesting to you. While those who know that they have Pure O may be slight luckier: it’s not me, it’s just Pure O, I’m not a bad person and of course I do not want to do any of that crazy stuff. But then the final attack:

– what if…I do not even have OCD, what if I just believe that I have it, but the truth is that I’m a horrible person?

So as you can see, Pure O is able to provide you with an endless list of “what if” questions. Creativity is a very good thing, but when it comes to this terrifying disorder, it’s actually a huge advantage if a person is not too creative – because the more creative you are, the more opportunities you have to invent more and more “what if” questions (with the help of our Pure O monster).

At this point, you may ask yourself: how can one get rid of Pure O?

I’ll be honest with you: at the moment, I will not be able to give you a complete answer to this question, because I’m working on it myself, however I can give you a list of ideas that actually helped me:

1. Seek professional help

Okay, this may sound clichée and I know you could probably find this one on every single OCD related website, but I do think this is extremely important.

Why?

The answer is simple: Pure O is characterized by doubt. I used to think that I was totally crazy and dangerous and I was scared to talk about my feelings because I thought I’d end up in a psychiatric hospital and I’d spend the rest of my life there. But then I went to a therapist and that’s where I learnt that intrusive thoughts are actually pretty common and a lot of people have them – obviously, it didn’t stop me from having major panic attacks every time an intrusive thought came into my mind, but then it’d been a huge help. (I shouldn’t even mention the useful techniques that I’ve learnt during my therapy – that’ll be a topic for a future article 🙂 )

2. Tell your family and friends

I know this is a difficult one, because a Pure O sufferer would normally ask themselves a question: what if they think that I’m totally insane?

And that’s a valid point, I used to think the same. But then, believe me: my loved ones reacted to it much better than I’d have ever expected. Earlier, I’ve mentioned that a lot of people have intrusive thoughts (according to studies, and psychologists), so I’m pretty sure that there’s someone among your friends who’ll understand the way you feel. Of course it’s important to find the right person with whom you can share your experiences, because let’s be honest: there are the kind of people who’d make the whole thing worse by their comments, but according to my experience, it’s really worth taking the risk.

3. Stop avoiding!

Yes, I know it’s difficult to face your fears, but the sooner the better. Hiding kitchen knives and scissors (in order to avoid any potentially dangerous situation, such as harming someone that you do not want to) may seem to be a good idea, but it’s not a long term solution.

4. Do some research!

Reading more about OCD will make you understand it more – “know your yourself, know yourself and you shall win a hundred battles without loss”.

I’ve read hundreds of articles about OCD (if we think about it more, OCD may actually be my obsession……:) ). And it did help me a lot. My blog is pretty new and I’ll be posting on a regular basis so in the upcoming weeks, I’ll share with you the best articles and books that I’ve found about Pure O.

I hope this article will help some of my readers – and please do not hesitate to share your experiences in the comment section!

Further Reading

Mark Wester

13 thoughts on “Pure O: Living in Endless Fear

  1. When I was a kid I needed to check the locks and lights repeatedly before going to bed. That faded away when I went to college (only one lock there). Now my OCD is all O but medicated now too. On the Tourette Facebook page we just had a big conversation about mental tics v. OCD. Most attributed recurring thoughts to TS but there were several OCD holdouts. I started the debate by asking about ear worms. Do you get songs lodged in your head in a fashion where it becomes disruptive?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah that sounds way too familiar to me. I could not stop checking the locks. In the last couple of years my OCD got a lot better, a few years back i would not have been able to write about it. Nowadays, it is much easier but it’s always in the background – especially Pure O, I am not sure if i will ever be able to get rid of it. I will check out this Facebook group, it sounds pretty interesting.
      Yes, there are a few songs that get stuck in my head – kind of earworm – and it can become disruptive. Do you think it has something to do with OCD?

      Liked by 1 person

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