If you don’t know anyone who has suffered from OCD, you may not be aware that there is a lesser known form of OCD that is primarily obsessional and commonly referred to as ‘Pure O’.
The name ‘Pure O’ comes from the term ‘purely. Both Pure O OCD and traditional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder follow the same patterns of obsession and compulsion, it’s just that the rituals in Pure O are more internalised. For example, an individual with traditional OCD may alleviate their anxiety by frequently washing their hands or tapping the wall a certain amount of times whereas an individual with Pure O is more likely to scrutinise their memory for signs that they have not done or said something they did not want to do or say.
In many cases, Pure O is driven by social taboo. Sufferers are tortured by intrusive thoughts spurred by unavoidable triggers, such as things they have seen on the news or read about in articles online or in newspapers. I’ve heard of so many various themes of Pure O and the one thing that most of them have in common is that they are all things that society fears or abhors; usually sexual or violent in nature. Examples include fears and thoughts connected with psychopathy, paedophilia, incest, bestiality, AIDs, etc. The media plays a large role in determining the nature of thoughts, as often there is mass hysteria surrounding a social issue. For instance, the 1980s AIDs campaign led to an influx of OCD sufferers with fears of contracting the disease and not so distant media coverage on men such as Jimmy Saville and Ian Watkins has led to an increase in sufferers with fears of harming children.
Like traditional OCD, Pure O feeds and flourishes on the sufferer’s worst fears, changing as new things scare them, and intrusive thoughts often become false memories. ‘False memories’ are actually nothing but intrusive thoughts, but the sufferer struggles to distinguish between thoughts and intention and/or between thoughts and memories leading to intense anxiety and often an inability to function. The sufferer believes that they are capable of committing acts that they strongly believe are morally wrong and would never want to do. Often sufferers will be unable to stop scanning their memory and asking for reassurance about certain events in attempt to gain certainty that they have not done anything/will not do anything that they consider to be wrong. In moderate to severe cases of OCD, however, no amount of reassurance is enough to stop the anxiety the thought cause and, sadly, many cases of mild OCD will become more severe if left untreated.
As you have probably gathered, there is a massive amount of stigma surrounding this disorder and it’s my belief that there are multitudes of sufferers out there who are too afraid to get help due to their fear of being judged & If you are experiencing the symptoms I have listed above you are not an immoral person (as many sufferers believe themselves to be) in fact, you are quite the opposite; the reason that the thoughts affect you so much is because you are so opposed to them. It’s so important that more people become more educated about the reality of OCD so that sufferers are aware that what they are experiencing is a listed and extremely common disorder that is very treatable given time, perseverance and proper therapy and/or medication. If we learn to spot the signs of OCD in ourselves and/or others at an early stage of the disorder, it will make it much easier to treat and perhaps, one day, we can stamp it out altogether.
What if… it’s just a thought?
This post was shared by Rebecca with Anxiety United