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Emotional Response to Thoughts

Clients often ask me “Why am I having these thoughts?” Research has shown that people with and without OCD have similar thought content; however, individuals with OCD have a strong emotional response to their negative thoughts, which causes them problems. For instance, someone without OCD who suddenly thinks, “What if I drove my car over this bridge?” will view the thought as odd or ridiculous and quickly move on. They will not become emotionally upset or view the thought as meaningful. Their brain effectively identifies this thought as insignificant and disregards it. On the other hand, a person with OCD will view the thought as being threatening and important. He or she will have a spike in physical discomfort (e.g., pounding heart, sweating) and will believe the thought is sound and meaningful. Thus they will change their behavior to protect themselves from the thought and try to make sure that what they have imagined does not actually occur (e.g., avoid bridges, drive very slowly, want another person in the car at all times).

The problem in OCD is not the triggering thought (possible danger, health hazard), but rather the person’s response to it. Compulsions interfere with your brain’s ability to desensitize you to the obsession. Suppressing or avoiding thoughts only makes them return more often and with greater intensity.

Exposure response prevention treatment will teach you how to confront your intrusive thoughts and eliminate the compulsions associated with your thoughts. OCD IS treatable. 

Contact a qualified mental health provider today.