Studies show that the vast majority of us occasionally have unwanted violent thoughts about injuring ourselves or others. For example, we might briefly fantasize about harm befalling the guy who just cut us off in traffic and then scared us even more when he immediately slammed on his brakes to avoid other cars. Although we don’t like to acknowledge them, about 85 percent of people do experience some type of random harmful thoughts, but they are fleeting and don’t disturb our normal lives. For people who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), however, having unwanted thoughts about hurting someone may not be able to be dismissed so easily. In fact, these thoughts can become frequent enough to become intrusive, taking over the person’s life. When this happens, the individual is dealing with Harm OCD.
Defining Harm OCDHarm OCD is a subset of classic obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The condition is characterized by having aggressive, intrusive thoughts of doing violence to someone, as well as the responses the person uses to cope with these thoughts. OCD makes the individual feel that they can’t trust their own mind. Wherein someone without OCD could have a violent thought and recognize that it is simply a thought, a person with OCD who has the Harm OCD subset worries that just having the thought is somehow meaningful. As a result, they want full assurance that they won’t act on the thought. Having these intrusive thoughts leads to engaging in compulsions and rituals to decrease the anxiety the person feels about the thought. Once they complete the ritual, they feel less anxious, but then the intrusive thought comes again, setting up endless cycles of doubt and fear.
Harm OCD SymptomsThose who suffer from Harm OCD may:
- Have aggressive thoughts or see images in their minds of violence and worry that this means they will carry them out.
- Fixate on the idea that they could inadvertently be responsible for causing harm and not realize it (for example, they may worry about running someone over by accident, and then leaving the scene because they were unaware of what they had done).
- Be terrified that they will hurt someone (or themselves) on impulse – whether intentionally or not.
- Worry they are hiding their true nature from themselves and others and that they are really a vicious, aggressive person who will act out someday because they will lose control.
- Hiding dangerous objects (kitchen knives, poisonous chemicals, medications, ropes, razor blades, and the like) so they aren’t tempted to use them to hurt someone.
- Reviewing their every action to see if they could have, or did, cause harm
- Avoiding watching the news or such things as violent movies, television shows or videos, so as to keep from triggering violent ideas.
- Spending excessive amounts of time online, researching violent crimes and ideology in an effort to know whether they have things in common with the offenders.
- Compulsive praying or carrying and using spiritual items so that they won’t lose control.
- Asking others if they think the person with Harm OCD could hurt others.
- They may also endlessly question themselves in an effort to answer, once and for all, if they are capable of injuring anyone (including themselves).