Asking how to stop OCD thoughts is similar to asking, “Does OCD go away?” To the latter, we often reply, “Well, do you go away?” That’s because the cognitive style commonly labeled as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) does not disappear, but you can learn to better manage it, thereby overcoming the “disorder” aspect and eliminating negative behaviors. Similarly, you may not be able to stop obsessive-compulsive thoughts outright, but you can learn to better manage them. Here’s how.
What Causes OCD?
At PCH, we approach an obsessive-compulsive diagnosis with the outlook that it’s caused by a complex combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. While we do not regard an obsessive-compulsive cognitive style as inherently tied to one root cause, we have found that a history of trauma, anxiety, or depression also commonly plays an underlying role in an OCD diagnosis.
When you’re talking about something as multifaceted as an obsessive-compulsive cognitive style, that also means a more dynamic, hands-on approach to treatment, and therapy becomes necessary for healing. If that sounds overwhelming, you can find hope from the perspective that having OCD is not your or anyone’s fault. You are not responsible for your genetic makeup, and you didn’t ask to be exposed to trauma.
If you’re struggling with obsessive-compulsive thoughts, remember it isn’t your fault. Instead, that’s a sign you’re ready to take the first steps toward healing.
Where Do OCD Thoughts Come From?
While there’s no easy answer to the question of where OCD thoughts come from, we have a reasonably clear idea of how to recognize obsessive-compulsive thought patterns. They start with intrusive, unwanted thoughts. Again, these intrusive, unwanted thoughts are not your fault. In fact, they’re completely normal!
Intrusive and unwanted thoughts are universal, a part of the human experience, and we all experience them from time to time. With the average person experiencing up to 4,000 thoughts each day, it’s no surprise that some of them are random, strange, grotesque, or even unpleasant. You can acknowledge these thoughts without feeling shame or guilt, knowing that we all experience them during daily life.
The Differences Between Intrusive and Obsessive-Compulsive Thoughts
What then differentiates an intrusive or unwanted thought from an obsessive-compulsive thought pattern? While the content of the two may be the same, the primary differences are:
- Obsessive-compulsive thoughts occur more frequently than intrusive thoughts
- Obsessive-compulsive thoughts last longer than intrusive thoughts
- Obsessive-compulsive thoughts are more distressing than intrusive thoughts
At the same time, how an individual diagnosed with OCD responds to those thought patterns diverges from how most people react to intrusive or unwanted thoughts. Specifically, an individual diagnosed with OCD:
- Interprets obsessive-compulsive thoughts as being more important than other people consider intrusive thoughts
- Is less willing to have their thoughts and puts significant effort into trying to fight or manipulate them than a person experiencing intrusive thoughts
In combination, these two responses indicate that you or someone you care about may be living with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. One of the best ways to move forward with treatment is to quit trying to stop the thoughts.
Why Do Intrusive Thoughts Feel Real?
Are you struggling with the feeling that daily intrusive thoughts may become real possibilities or even ones that you may act on? Intrusive thoughts become obsessive when an individual repeatedly and unquestionably acknowledges them as:
- Absolutely true
- A fact or statement of reality
- A rule to be followed at all times
- A threat that needs removal
- Something important and all-consuming
When this happens, we confuse what our mind says about reality with reality itself until the thoughts themselves feel more real than the world around us.
The First Step to ‘Stopping’ OCD Thoughts
Obsessive-compulsive thought patterns can quickly spiral into a never-ending attempt of figuring out how to get rid of OCD thoughts, even to the extent that the individual’s thoughts become the focus of the compulsion or obsession. One of the primary ways to treat OCD thoughts is to quit trying to stop the thoughts themselves. Frequently, this step alone requires emotional healing and some level of therapy before attempting to confront the thoughts themselves. If you set out with the goal of conquering OCD thoughts, those same thoughts of conquering can conquer you.
The Upsides of an Obsessive-Compulsive Cognitive Style
When the same mental energy that drives OCD can be refocused and harnessed, it actually offers potential benefits, both personally and professionally. A tidy house is never a bad thing. Grooming becomes second nature, and close attention to detail is critical to success in engineering, anaesthesiology, aviation, and more. At PCH, our approach to treatment allows individuals to bring out the best of these natural traits while chipping away at the behaviors and thought patterns that negatively impact quality of life.
Quit Trying to Stop the Thoughts at PCH
At PCH, we support a department dedicated to OCD treatment with both outpatient and residential recovery paths that happen at your own pace. Get in touch with our caring OCD specialists to discover the next steps with a complimentary consultation today.