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Pure ‘O’ OCD and ‘False Memory’ Intrusive Thoughts

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


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  1. I have been suffering on and Off for 7 years with this! I have been to many many Mental Health specialists and was diagnosed with ADHD and “BPD” although I feel my diagnosis of BPD isn’t correct! this post has changed my life, I can relate to this post in every sense! from the horrible intrusive thoughts to the worry and fear that I would do such disgusting and abhorrent things! I’ve cried many tears and have had a vicious cycle of this, my trigger seems to be impacted and more prevelant after drinking alcohol and the next day I fear that I’ve done horrible things to people or been racist and I have to ask friends and family constantly about what if I did that, where was I etc. at some points I have even felt suicidal because the memories feel so real and if I had actually done these things I would not want to live! even when reassured I cant seemingly accept it and I frustrate people because I always feel like the thoughts have happened and it’s became my reality. my anxiety tends to change! this is such a crippling and horrible thing and my heart bleeds for anyone suffering with such things! great insight, great article! and for once my mind can rest even if it’s just for a few minutes a day! knowing that “Pure O Ocd” is real and I am not alone.

    • – just wanted to say the Obsessing about “what if’s” become constant throughout the day and last for days and weeks at a time! and then I start to feel better and then the cycle repeats itself.

  2. This illness has destroyed my life. It has pushed me to the brink of suicide. This illness is the most insidious and soul destroying thing I could ever go through. I’m at my wits end and I don’t know else to do, I’ve tried everything. Help! Please

    • Your are NOT alone. I relate to everything you wrote. I’m also really desperate but I find that no matter how horrific the day has been, there has usually been a moment of respite – tonight I managed to read two chapters of a book I love, despite being interrupted by horrible and frightening thoughts every page or so. It sucks but I don’t want to die, so I’m hoping that some days will be better, that I may find a decent counsellor, for now I’m alive and it helps to know IT IS JUST AN ILLNESS. THERE IS A REALITY OUT THERE WHERE I MANAGE TO GET INTO SOMETIMES. Please keep going, I send you big hugs, courage!

  3. My name is Gary and I am 15 and I think that I have this I have had constant thoughts of thinking these horrible things that I think i did and every time I remember this thing it completely kills me I always ask myself how I could’ve done this and that I don’t deserve to live for it it has made me completely self loathing but it never made sense to me why I didn’t think about the thing even years after when I supposedly did it in my head which was as a child cause I surely would’ve thought about it right after I did it but the memory only came up a few months ago and it has been coming up in my head more frequently throughout the day and when I read this I broke down into tears because it describes everything perfectly but I’m still trying to decide if it is just me rationalising for being the scum of the earth

    • Hi Gary, I suffer with the exact same thing. Surely if I did what my brain tells me I did I would’ve thought about it every day up until now, not 3 years later. This post has helped me massively and I’ve booked to speak to my doctor.

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