Do you have wild, dark thoughts? Heard about ‘pure O’ and convinced that you have this disorder?
The internet will lead you to believe that 'pure O' is a diagnosis where you have a special type of OCD without the compulsions. You have just the obsessions.
But ’Pure O’ is not an actual psychological diagnosis. It’s just an internet-created idea.
That's not to say you don't have a serious issue.
Of course it is entirely possible to have just wild dark thoughts by themselves. It's just that it's not OCD. Rather you’d be amongst the millions of people out there who suffer from what is called ‘intrusive thinking’.
Intrusive thinking is more connected to anxiety and depression than OCD. And a round of cognitive behavioural therapy could really help.
Most people who think they have pure O simply have the same obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), compulsions included, that all other OCD sufferers have.
Pure O is more often than not just regular OCD in disguise. It’s just that people don’t realise that compulsions don’t have to be obvious or manifest physically.
Compulsions can also be subtle or mental. But how do subtle or mental (also called ‘cognitive’) compulsions work?
Well let’s go back to basics and remind ourselves of the difference between obsessions and compulsions when it comes to OCD.
Obsessions are repetitive thoughts that are distressing. They look like a flash of an unpleasant image, or a voice in your head telling you to do something.
Compulsions are repetitive actions. They are something you can’t stop yourself from doing again and again.
A classic and clichéd example is a distressing obsessive thought about dangerous germs that will kill you compelling you to wash your hands.
But let's say that when you have obsessive thoughts about germs you then always get out your phone and do obsessive research on germs.
Or you go through a mental checklist in your head (do I have my hand sanitiser, am I standing well away from everyone, am I standing in the most aerated place in the room, am I as far away from other people as possible).
Or you do a 'test' to see if you'll 'die' by forcing yourself to touch something dirty.
These are repetitive actions! They are forms of compulsion as much as hand washing.
It is true that those who identify as having ‘pure O’ often have really overwhelming obsessions that relate to themes of sex, religion, good and evil, violence, and breaking social norms.
This can look like:
Why is it that when you have such dark and strong obsessions your compulsions are more hidden? There is not clear research yet.
One could hypothesise, however, the shame that the obsession comes with leads to secret compulsions.
For example, if your obsessive thought is you running naked down the street grabbing people’s genitals, you’d likely have a shame reaction. Whereas if your obsession was the thought that taking the wrong route to work meant something bad would happen at the office, this is not so socially frowned on. Most people take the same route daily and know another route can be stressful.
Therapy can really help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often a good place to start. It helps you retrain your brain to move from dark thinking to balanced, helpful thinking.
Ready to stop having your life ruined by obsessions and compulsions? Use our easy booking tool to find an OCD specialist now.