Hello dear Brave one! Over the course of the next several months, we will be putting a spotlight on the various forms of OCD and related anxiety disorders we treat. This will include commonly reported symptoms and difficulties within each subtype of OCD/anxiety disorder. It would be near impossible to list every symptom associated with each of these disorders, so we recommend reaching out to a mental health provider for a comprehensive assessment.

Here is this week’s spotlight on Harm OCD:


Harm OCD is characterized by recurrent and persistent intrusive (unwanted) thoughts, urges or images about harming yourself or others along with compulsive, repetitive behaviors or mental acts aimed at reducing anxiety/distress or preventing a feared outcome from happening, all of which cause distress and impairment in functioning.

Common obsessions (thoughts):

-Repetitive intrusive thoughts and/or images of stabbing/punching/cutting/choking/harming yourself/others

-Excessive fear you might drive off the road into oncoming traffic or off a bridge

-Excessive fear you are a serial killer or sociopath

-Excessive fear you will one day snap and lose control

-Excessive fear of sleepwalking and hurting someone in your sleep

-Excessive fear of smothering your baby (see future spotlight on postpartum OCD)

-Excessive fear that you share similarities with someone who has killed/harmed others (we grew up in the same town and both like ice cream, therefore I must be a killer)

-Repetitive intrusive images of dead/bloody bodies, cemeteries, skeletons

-Repetitive intrusive mini movies of stabbing/punching/cutting/choking/harming yourself or others

-Excessive fear you have permanently emotionally harmed someone else

-Excessive fear you might push someone into traffic/in front of a train

-Excessive fear you will/have stolen things

Common emotions:

-Excessive guilt and shame

-Excessive fear/anxiety

-Discomfort and anger at having these thoughts

Common core fears:

-Being a bad person/going to Hell

-Going to jail and missing out on the rest of your life

-Feeling responsible and regret for the rest of your life

-Being socially rejected and alone, losing people you love, being looked at as a bad person

Common compulsions (behaviors):

-Ruminating about preventing harm at all costs

-Replaying situations/memories to figure out if you caused harm (mental reviewing)

-Avoiding driving, being in crowds, using knives, holding your hands in fists, interacting with pets/babies/vulnerable people

-Researching sociopaths/serial killers

-Comparing yourself to “good” or “bad” people

-Replacing a “bad” thought with a “good” thought

-Checking the news, arrest warrants

-Checking your own body for signs of harm, checking others for signs of harm, checking your car for signs of running someone over, driving around in circles

-Reassurance-seeking, self-reassurance

-Suppressing normal anger/frustration for fear that it will/has harmed someone else


-Barricading yourself in your bedroom at night to prevent harming someone in your sleep


**Please note: themes help us get more information out to individuals suffering with OCD, but anything can become obsessive and/or compulsive and themes can overlap. It’s also important to remember that the content of OCD is not important, it’s all the same mechanisms responding to different triggers. We recommend working with a therapist trained in ERP.


Stay Brave! -The OCD MN Team