Try Our OCD Self-Help Program

Try our OCD Self-Help Course

Still Feeling Anxious? Swipe Up

Do Violent Intrusive Thoughts Mean You Have OCD?

You just gave birth to the baby girl you have dreamed about for years. You love your newborn; however, you suffer from OCD. Usually, your OCD symptoms consist of a fear that you have forgotten to turn off the oven and lock the door (obsessions), and an urge to triple check that you have turned off the oven and locked the door (compulsions) before leaving the house or going to bed. However, since the birth of your daughter, you have been experiencing violent intrusive OCD thoughts that simply will not go away.

These thoughts center on the fear that you will somehow harm your baby. You are deathly afraid that you will end up gravely injuring or killing your baby. The mere thought of hurting your baby terrifies you, but you cannot stop the urge to do something to her – something terrible. You don’t think you would ever harm your baby girl, but the urges are so strong that maybe you would if the opportunity arose. This is an example of violent intrusive OCD thoughts. According to a 2017 study, nearly 50% of new parents experience violent intrusive thoughts like the ones above.

Contrary to popular belief, OCD can involve a wide variety of obsessions or intrusive thoughts – even upsetting, disturbing and violent ones. The truth is OCD can be paralyzing, painful, distressing, infuriating, confusing, and debilitating. However, it is especially upsetting when the thoughts are not only intrusive and annoying but also pathological. Morbid obsessions involve violent, scary, and aggressive thoughts that will not go away. These thoughts may include injuring, killing, raping, and/or emotionally or physically harming someone (including yourself) or something.

So, is it possible to have violent intrusive OCD thoughts? Absolutely.

Content

I Have OCD and Intrusive Thoughts – Does That Make Me Crazy?

The exact number of people who struggle with violent OCD thoughts, is still unclear, however, it is likely more common than you may think (about 2% of people with OCD). Most people, who seek OCD treatment for their violent intrusive thoughts, enter the treatment process assuming they are somehow “insane” – when they are not. The truth is it is normal to be concerned about these “types” of disturbing thoughts. It is also normal to wonder what kind of person you are to have such morbid thoughts.

OCD can be perplexing by itself, but when you add in violent thoughts, it can cause you to question why you would have such thoughts if you did not want to or plan to execute them. It is also common to wonder if having these thoughts makes you a sociopath and/or a depraved individual. Being unable to ease your doubts can trigger stress and anxiety – two key components in OCD.

While OCD is listed in the DSM-5 as a “mental health condition,” it does not mean you are “insane.” It just means you have a condition, similar to any other condition (i.e., lupus, diabetes, asthma, etc.), that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

And, even if you cannot get violent intrusive thoughts out of your mind, that does not mean you are “crazy.” OCD support groups can provide you with the support you need to confront your violent intrusive OCD thoughts. Support groups can also connect you with other people, who are experiencing similar thoughts. In other words, a support group can provide you with a sense of “family” (people, who understand what you have been through, and where you want to go in life).

Can Violent Intrusive OCD Thoughts Cause Anxiety?

No, violent intrusive OCD thoughts do not cause anxiety – at least not directly.

These thoughts, although highly upsetting and disturbing, are just that – thoughts. And, these thoughts do not directly cause anxiety. Rather, it is your perception of these thoughts that causes stress, anxiety, and OCD symptoms. In other words, it is the way you perceive your violent intrusive OCD thoughts that indirectly causes anxiety.

Thus, the only way to effectively manage or reduce these violent intrusive OCD thoughts is to shun them when they enter your mind (violent intrusive thoughts). Keep in mind that most people, who have violent intrusive thoughts, do not have a history of aggression or violence. And, they typically do not engage in aggressive or homicidal behaviors.

Even though OCD can interject troubling thoughts into your mind, it is not the actual thoughts that cause the distress, rather, it is the meaning behind these thoughts and how you cope with them that determines if you will experience anxiety from them. Ironically, your compulsions (performed to reduce your stress and anxiety) could worsen your anxiety, and thereby, your violent intrusive OCD thoughts.

Understand that compulsions are tricky. In other words, compulsions make you believe that they are easing your stress and anxiety, when, in actuality, this respite is only temporary. Realistically, compulsions may appear to be valid solutions for your distress – at least initially. However, over time, these compulsions can turn into a significant problem. At first, you may engage in compulsive behaviors a few minutes a day, but over time, this can turn into hours at a time.

Keep in mind, however, that it is common for people with OCD to try to run away from or avoid their intrusive thoughts, especially if they are disturbing or violent, so they do not feel compelled to act on them (compulsions). However, running away from or avoiding intrusive thoughts only exacerbates the problem and heightens your fear that something “bad” is going to happen. Thus, intrusive thoughts that are violent or aggressive can cause you to avoid the people, places, and things that trigger them.

For instance, if you have OCD and cannot stop thinking about stabbing your best friend because he betrayed you, you may try to prevent this vision from coming true by avoiding your friend, hiding all of the knives in your home, and/or rarely leaving your home. Unfortunately, however, many times, it is impossible to “outrun” these thoughts or fears without OCD treatment. An OCD therapist can help you confront your fears and these violent intrusive thoughts, so they lose control over you and your life.

What Do Violent Intrusive OCD Thoughts Usually Involve?

Violent intrusive thoughts can involve both mental images and urges to “act,” such as thoughts of hurting, killing, stabbing, shooting, maiming, strangling, and/or abusing oneself and/or other people. These upsetting thoughts can even apply to one’s loved ones, friends, pets, and/or acquaintances or strangers.

If you have OCD, you may envision yourself using knives, guns, forks, pens or pencils, scissors, broken glasses or bottles, ice picks, letter openers, tools, a vehicle, hands, toxins, etc., to inflict discomfort or pain onto another being. When the violent intrusive thoughts center on oneself, they may include urges to run in front of a train, deliberately crash his or her car, jump off a balcony or building, run into oncoming traffic, etc.

Some people with OCD may have visions or thoughts of running over pedestrians with their cars, getting into physical fights (i.e., bar fights), and/or destroying their property or other people’s properties. Other people with OCD may have thoughts of “snapping” and going off on people in public places. For instance, one of my clients had OCD thoughts of running his car off a cliff.

These violent intrusive thoughts can be so terrifying that causes the person having them to fear being alone, with children or elderly people, and/or with those who are physically weak or disabled.

As a result, these individuals tend to avoid people, places, or things that could trigger these upsetting thoughts, such as cars, work, daycares, trains, boats, bars, planes, children, pets, elderly people, disabled individuals, crowded spaces, public places, schools, malls and stores, nursing homes, etc. These violent intrusive thoughts can also extend into the sexual arena – i.e., thoughts of raping, sexually abusing, and/or sexually assaulting other people.

Did you know, our our self-help course has helped thousands of OCD sufferers better manage their symptoms?

"My OCD is finally manageable"

Jennifer S

Can Mothers Have Intrusive OCD Thoughts Towards Their Children?

Yes, they can.

Mothers, especially those suffering from severe postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, may experience repeated agitation, hallucinations, delusions, extreme fears of harming or killing their babies, and/or disturbing thoughts of acting violently towards their newborns, infants, toddlers, or young children. Postpartum depression can also cause mothers to think about physically and/or sexually abusing their children.

What is it Like to Have Violent Intrusive OCD Thoughts?

People, who struggle with violent intrusive OCD thoughts, may experience the following ruminations:

  • “I must be having these disturbing thoughts because I’m a nutcase, who subconsciously wants to do these things. What if I lose control and actually “act” on these thoughts? If I “act” on these thoughts and I end up hurting, raping or killing someone, I will be sent to prison for life.

    I will never get to see my partner, friends, pets, and/or family again. Both my loved ones and the other person’s friends and family will suffer – all because of my actions. The guilt and shame will be too much for me to bear and I’ll either end up killing myself or going to prison for the rest of my life.”

  • “I am a terrible person. My mom is elderly and disabled, and I can’t stop thinking about how much work it takes to care for her. I keep having violent thoughts about poisoning her so I don’t have to deal with her. These worrisome thoughts center on getting rid of my mom so I don’t have to take care of her and her many needs. These thoughts are not only extremely upsetting but also continuous. I try to distract myself or put these violent thoughts out of my mind, but they keep coming back.

    I love my mom and do not want to hurt her, so I have been asking family members to check up on or care for her. And, I have been staying away from her. But my mom does not understand why I am staying away. She does not know I have OCD. I feel guilty, which is increasing my violent thoughts. I hate hurting my mom’s feelings but I would rather it be her feelings instead of her life.”

  • “I hate myself. I hate my life. I keep having thoughts of slitting my wrist. Everyone would be better off without me. Yes, it would probably hurt a lot and make my friends and loved ones sad – at first. But then they would realize, just like me, that life is better off without me in it. I hate living like this. Even going to the grocery store triggers me because there are razors there.

    The “voices” in my head are telling me to purchase a pack of razors so I can slit my wrist. My mind is telling me that I want to die. But I really want to live. It is just that these disturbing thoughts are confusing me. Thankfully, I have resisted the urge to purchase the razors and I have removed all the knives and sharp objects from my home. I just want these suicidal thoughts to go away.”

How Are Violent Intrusive OCD Thoughts Typically Treated?

In the past, OCD sufferers, who sought OCD treatment via psychotherapy, were told that the violent intrusive thoughts stemmed from a subconscious desire to engage in certain behaviors or “act” on these thoughts. In other words, therapists surmised that these individuals really wanted to do violent things to themselves or others – which is where the thoughts were coming from. However, this was and is not true. This mentality, however, made things worse for these individuals.

Unfortunately, this mentality still exists in the clinical world of psychology and psychiatry. For instance, I once had a client with OCD, who started experiencing postpartum psychosis, following the birth of her youngest child. She was having upsetting visions, thoughts, and urges about smothering her newborn. As a result, she refused to be around her baby. She also refused to take care of her other three young children.

Her husband encouraged her to seek treatment for her violent intrusive thoughts, which is how she ended up in my office. However, because she was having thoughts about harming her baby, DCS (Department of Children’s Services) was notified, and an investigation was initiated. A DCS case manager determined that it was best to temporarily remove the children (the newborn and the other children) from the home until my client, the mother, finished OCD treatment.

Once, my client finished the treatment process and was on the road to recovery, the children, including her baby, were returned to her because she no longer had thoughts of harming or killing her baby. But regardless of the “type” of intrusive thoughts (obsessions), OCD treatment typically involves helping indivduals understand and accept that these thoughts are illogical or unrealistic.

In other words, there is a little-to-no chance these individuals will “act” on these thoughts, vision, and/or urges to harm themselves or others. Thus, people, who suffer from violent intrusive OCD thoughts, may benefit from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

ERP can help OCD sufferers systematically (step-by-step) address their violent intrusive thoughts. It also tends to be direct in its approach. With ERP, people, who are experiencing morbid obsessions, are “exposed” to triggers, fears, and violent intrusive thoughts in a variety of ways. This may involve completing homework assignments, exposure tasks, and journal entries during therapy sessions and at home.

What do ACT, ERP, and CBT have in common? They do not offer any reassurance. Reassurance is an enemy, not an ally. More specifically, these therapies are not designed to dismiss, ignore, or “calm” your worries. Rather, the goal is to help you confront your troubling thoughts, visions, urges, and fears. In other words, they are meant to trigger your stress and anxiety, so you can deal with them. Once you can properly deal with your stress and anxiety, your violent intrusive thoughts will lessen or disappear altogether.

Treatment for violent intrusive OCD thoughts usually involves a hierarchy system, starting with the least distressing fear or thought and moving towards more upsetting ones, as each fear or thought is addressed and resolved. OCD treatments for these “types” of thoughts may be self-directed (home-based) or outpatient (in-person), depending on your needs, preferences, and availability.

Homework assignments may be assigned weekly (i.e., 4-12 assignments, per week). The majority of people with violent intrusive OCD thoughts usually attend therapy sessions once or twice a week for about 45 minutes.

During the sessions, OCD sufferers and their therapists review previous homework assignments and discuss anything that has happened in their clients’ lives between sessions. During this time, therapists also provide their clients with in-session tasks, exercises, and techniques to practice. And, at the end of the sessions, new homework assignments are assigned for the next session.

During ERP therapy, a therapist may “expose” you to your violent intrusive OCD thoughts through movies, videos, books, websites, articles, etc., to help you become immune to or unaffected by them. Once you have worked through your fears, your stress and anxiety will diminish, and the disturbing thoughts will ease up or disappear.

Your therapist may also ask you to write your thoughts down in a daily journal. Remember, the goal of these “types” of OCD treatments is to accept that these thoughts are unlikely to manifest into actions (ACT), “expose” you to your fears, or help you confront these unpleasant thoughts (ERP), and alter how you view these thoughts (CBT).

For instance, a young woman seeks treatment because she is having violent intrusive OCD thoughts of harming her pregnant best friend because she is unable to have a child of her own. She loves her best friend and does not want to hurt her, but her jealousy and these violent thoughts are making her feel as if she must do this to ease her anxiety and stress. She can’t get these thoughts out of her mind, regardless of how hard she tries to.”

Treatment, in this case, may consist of spending more time (not less time) with her best friend. The goal is for her to confront her fear, so it loses power over her. Thus, the woman’s therapist may instruct her to plan a baby shower, help her best friend shop for the baby, and/or become her birthing coach.

The hope is that with more “exposure” to her pregnant best friend, she will become accepting of the pregnancy and upcoming baby. The purpose of this multi-treatment approach is to help the woman change the way she views her best friend’s pregnancy and baby, so she no longer has distressing thoughts about it.

Is There Any Other Way to Address Violent Intrusive OCD Thoughts?

Yes, there is!

A variety of self-help tools can help you get a grasp on your annoying OCD thoughts, such as:

  • Relaxation Techniques – Relaxation techniques (i.e., hypnosis, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, exercise, etc.) may help reduce or stop violent intrusive OCD thoughts.
  • Exercising – While moving is beneficial for overall health, it can also help reduce painful or troublesome OCD thoughts. Some benefits of exercise include a lower “bad” cholesterol level, a decreased risk of heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and diabetes, and fewer or milder OCD symptoms.
  • Mindfulness MeditationMindfulness meditation involves increased self-awareness when it comes to sensations, sounds, images or visions, thoughts, and emotions. When it comes to OCD, mindfulness meditation can help “expose” you to your violent intrusive thoughts – so you can be free of them.
  • Online OCD Treatment ProgramOnline OCD treatment programs can help you determine if you are suffering from OCD, so you can get the appropriate help for it. Impulse Therapy offers an OCD assessment, expert content, 60-minute audio-therapy sessions, over 100+ mindfulness meditations, and healthy coping skills to help banish those violent intrusive OCD thoughts.

Our self-help OCD therapy course has helped 1000s of OCD sufferers since 2018.

"My OCD is finally manageable"

Jennifer S

Author

DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

Share Post