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How does obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affect thinking?

Sheri Van Dijk
Psychiatry
With obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), certain thoughts can become overwhelming: for example, a person might have thoughts that she's going to hurt her child or other family members; that she's going to lose control of herself and go on a killing spree; that she's infected with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus or some other terminal condition and is going to pass it on to others unknowingly; and so on. These thoughts, as unrealistic as they seem, can invade a person's life and make it seem unbearable for her to go on living.

We all have strange thoughts at times. Think about a time you've been driving down the road and thought to yourself, "Maybe I should drive my car into that bridge," or waiting for the subway, thinking, "Just as the subway comes, I could throw myself off the platform." Just because these thoughts enter your mind doesn't mean you have any intention of actually acting on them. They're just thoughts. So, for many of us, when we have a thought like this, we simply acknowledge it in some way ("Wow, that was weird") and then we dismiss it. People with OCD, however, are unable to do this; instead they obsess and worry about these thoughts ("Why would I think something like that? It must mean something about me as a person that I have these kinds of thoughts").
Calming the Emotional Storm: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Manage Your Emotions and Balance Your Life

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Calming the Emotional Storm: Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills to Manage Your Emotions and Balance Your Life

When you have difficulties managing your emotions, it can feel like you’re losing control of your whole life. Anger, hurt, grief, worry, and other intense feelings can be overwhelming, and how you...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.