You read the title right: everyone has intrusive thoughts.

Individuals with OCD often feel alone, weird, and crazy due to experiencing intrusive, unwanted thoughts. The truth is everyone gets unwanted, intrusive thoughts, even people without OCD. In the book Exposure Therapy for Anxiety by Jonathan S. Abramowitz, Brett J. Deacon, and Stephen P.H. Whiteside, they have a full page dedicated to intrusive thoughts reported by individuals without an anxiety disorder. Here are some examples:

  • Thought of running car off road/into traffic
  • Image of hurting or killing a loved one
  • Thought of catching diseases from various places such as a toilet
  • Impulse to say something nasty or inappropriate to someone
  • Thought that I left door unlocked
  • Thought that I left an appliance on and cause a fire
  • Thought of sexually molesting young children
  • Thought of poking a baby’s soft spot
  • Thought that is contrary to my moral and religious beliefs
  • Thought of “unnatural” sexual acts

And these are just a few examples.

Intrusive thoughts are not the problem.

With ERP, we learn that intrusive thoughts are not the problem. It’s our reaction to our intrusive thoughts that can be problematic. People without OCD are able to recognize that these are just thoughts; they don’t mean anything and we can’t control what we think (only how we act). People with OCD typically apply meaning to these thoughts and respond with avoidance or compulsive behaviors, which give these thoughts/images/impulses power.

When we can learn to not react to these thoughts/images/impulses, they no longer control our lives.