Have you ever had an intrusive, morally repugnant thought pop into your head? Intrusive means the thought was uninvited. Slapping a random toddler in a store, shouting an obscenity in church, jumping in front of a bus, stabbing a girlfriend, or hurling an insult at a waiter go against your morals. When these kinds of thoughts occur, most of us can simply shake them off. They come out of the blue and we might, quite literally, shake our heads and go on. We might think, “That was weird,” but we don’t give it a second thought and go about our day not even remembering the thought. We don’t feel we’ve committed a sin. We don’t have anything to confess. We recognize the experience doesn’t mean anything other than a weird thought popped into our awareness. We have no fear that we will shout an obscenity in church or slap a toddler or do any of the other countless acts that people think.
People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, on the other hand, can experience these occurrences emotionally as anxiety, fear, dread, disgust, or feel depressed. The feelings can be so intense they seem like an impulse. The result may be self-condemnation, “What kind of a person am I to have these thoughts?” “What does God think of me?” “Am I going to burn in hell?” “Do I need to confess this to my pastor or priest?” “Do I need to see a counselor or a psychiatrist for help?” “Do I need medication?” “Am I crazy?” Victims of intrusive, obsessive thoughts begin to withdraw from family and friends fearing they will act out the very thing they fear. Fortunately, cognitive behavior therapy can reduce or eliminate intrusive thoughts.
Many people feel some relief knowing that somebody understands. Learning that other people have experienced the same unwanted intrusive thoughts provides encouragement. For people of faith, it’s a huge relief to know that God knows they have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and they are not responsible for their intrusive thoughts. We primarily focus on exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring (learning how to process these thoughts when they occur) in order to beat back OCD and the accompanying intrusive thoughts. Learn more about exposure and cognitive behavior therapy on this website and blog.
David Barnhart, EdD
Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor