Understanding Racist OCD: A Guide to Recognizing and Overcoming this Complex Condition
Racist OCD is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that involves the fear, avoidance, and/or compulsions related to race. The condition is often misunderstood and can be difficult to recognize and manage. In this article, we will provide an overview of what racist OCD is, what its symptoms and causes are, and the available treatment options for it. We will also discuss how to recognize racist OCD in others, and offer advice on how to help someone with this condition. Lastly, we will explore the role of racism in racist OCD, and the impact it can have on a person’s mental health.
What is Racist OCD?
Racist OCD is a type of OCD that involves an intense fear, avoidance, and/or race-related compulsions. This condition can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as avoiding certain racial groups, or uncontrollable thoughts about race. These thoughts and behaviors can be extremely upsetting and life-altering.
A person with racist OCD may struggle with intrusive thoughts, fears, urges, and feelings that they are a “bad person” or internalize negative beliefs about a particular race. These intrusive thoughts, fears, urges, and feelings can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, and/or depression. People with racist OCD may also be unable to control their behaviors, leading to the avoidance of groups of people or race-related activities.
Symptoms of Racist OCD
The symptoms of racist OCD tend to vary from person-to-person.
However, some common symptoms include:
- Uncontrollable or intrusive thoughts about race
- Avoidance of people or activities related to race
- Compulsive behaviors related to race
- Feelings of guilt, shame, or fear related to race
- Intrusive thoughts or beliefs that one is a “bad person” or has internalized negative beliefs about race
- Fear of using a racial slur
- Fear of accidentally or purposefully causing emotional harm to people of color
- Fear of inability to determine if one’s thoughts are racist
- Fear or thoughts of being “perceived” as racist
- Fear of being harmed because of one’s race or skin color
- Fear of being around or of touching people of color
- Fear of being related to a person of color
- Thoughts that people of color are “evil” or “out to get me”
- Thoughts of harming people of color
- Thoughts of racist stereotypes
- Refusal to leave one’s home or going to certain places out of a fear of being attacked because of one’s race
Note: Racist OCD symptoms can also manifest in other conditions, such as depression, social anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thus, it is important to consult a mental health professional if you believe you have this condition.
Causes of Racist OCD
The exact cause of racist OCD is unknown at this time, however, the general consensus is that this type of OCD may be triggered by trauma or stressful situations. It is also possible that certain biological factors, such as genetics, or a brain chemistry imbalance may play a role in racist OCD. Moreover, certain environmental factors, such as exposure to racism or discrimination, may trigger the onset of this type of OCD.
Coping Strategies for Racist OCD
Like other types of OCD, racist OCD can cope with their symptoms in a variety of ways, such as:
- Mindfulness meditation and self-acceptance – Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present, and accepting your thoughts and feelings – without judgment. This type of meditation can help reduce race-related intrusive thoughts, fears, urges, and feelings, thereby increasing one’s self-acceptance.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT is a type of “talk therapy” that can help individuals identify and change unhealthy thought processes and behaviors that are contributing to their emotional distress. Thus, this type of therapy helps people with racist OCD better manage their symptoms, and reduce the stress and anxiety causing their race-related obsessions and/or compulsions.
- Exposure-response and prevention (ERP) therapy – ERP therapy is a form of CBT that involves gradually exposing a person to a feared situation, thought, fear, urge, or feeling, and learning how to resist the temptation to respond to them with rituals or routines (compulsions). Thus, ERP therapy helps people with racist OCD confront their fears, and learn how to effectively manage their symptoms.
Treatment Options for Racist OCD
There are several OCD treatment options available for people with racist OCD, such as psychotherapy, medications, natural remedies, and self-help tools, like Impulse Therapy, an online OCD recovery treatment program.
OCD therapies, like CBT and ERP therapy can help people with racist OCD identify and change the faulty thought process and repetitive behaviors that appear to be contributing to their emotional distress. When therapy alone is ineffective, medication(s), like selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants, may be prescribed to reduce racist OCD symptoms.
Alternative treatments and natural remedies, like CBD, crystals, vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, art therapy, music therapy, lifestyle changes, and hypnotherapy/hypnosis are also viable OCD treatment options.
These holistic practices can be used with or without a formal racist OCD treatment plan. Keep in mind that OCD treatments should be tailored to meet the OCD sufferers specific needs. It is important to speak with a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment, if you suspect that you are struggling with racist OCD.
How to Recognize Racist OCD in Others
What are the signs of racist OCD?
Recognizing the signs of racist OCD in others can be challenging, primarily because this type of OCD can manifest in a variety of ways. Still, there are some common signs that someone you know or have met is struggling with racist OCD.
These signs include the following:
- Uncontrollable or intrusive race-related thoughts, fears, urges, feelings, and/or repetitive behaviors designed to alleviate this obsession
- Avoidance of certain races or race-related activities
- Race-related compulsive behaviors or rituals or routines
- Feelings of guilt and shame, or fear related to race
- A belief that one is a “bad person” if they have race-related thoughts, fears, urges, or feelings, or if they have internalized negative beliefs about a particular race
Note: If you think that someone may be struggling with racist OCD, it is important to speak with them about it, and encourage them to seek OCD help.
How to Help Someone with Racist OCD
There are many ways you can help someone with racist OCD, such as: listening to them when they share their feelings, fears, doubts, and concerns with you, and being supportive when they need you the most. Truth be told, it can be hard to really understand this condition because it is rarely spoken about in mixed company, however, it is important to let the person you suspect of having this type of OCD know that you are there for them. At the same time, it is also important to encourage the individual to seek OCD help for it.
Recognizing racist OCD can be challenging and treatment can be complex, but it can be successfully managed with the right tools, resources, treatment, and support. Therefore, it is important to be patient and understanding when someone with racist OCD talks to you about their feelings, beliefs, fears, thoughts, or urges. It is equally important to avoid trying to “fix” the problem. And, instead, offer your support and understanding.
What this person does not need is criticism or judgment because that will only make the situation worse. Remember, a person with racist OCD does not want to have the condition. In other words, they do not want to have negative and distressing thoughts, feelings, urges, fears, or beliefs about another race. This type of OCD, like other types of OCD, is involuntary and unwanted.
And, people with this condition are unlikely to ever act on these thoughts, feelings, urges, beliefs, or fears, so you and others have nothing to worry about. So, your main role is to be supportive – a shoulder to cry on when things get tough and someone to celebrate when you accomplish a milestone in your OCD recovery journey. In some cases, you may also be able to help the OCD sufferer challenge their beliefs on race, but only do this if the other person appears to be open to questioning why they feel the way they do.
Understanding the Role of Racism in Racist OCD
Racism is a hard topic to tackle, especially because of the historical events that occurred all over the world, and continue today. Everyone, even the nicest person, has biases. However, most people are able to control or dismiss their biases, so they do not morph into discrimination or full-blown racism. Racism is hurtful. It makes the affected group(s) feel undervalued and unimportant.
People who experience racism tend to feel resentful, angry, anxious, and/or depressed, primarily because they do not receive the same consideration, and sometimes rights, as other people. People on both sides, people who have negative thoughts about a particular race, and people on the other end, may feel extreme anxiety. Racists may feel anxiety because of their unpleasant and negative thoughts and fears towards innocent people of another race. People who experience racism also may feel anxiety because of a fear that they will be harmed in some way simply because of their race or the color of their skin.
Both groups may develop some type of OCD. Researchers suggest that people who have experienced racism or discrimination may be more likely to develop this condition. However, racism can also be a catalyst for intrusive race-related thoughts and/or compulsions. People who experience stress and anxiety because of their negative thoughts towards a particular race may develop racist OCD, especially if these thoughts and fears are constant, unwanted, and life-altering.
On the flipside, people on the receiving end of these thoughts and fears may also develop racist OCD (but opposite of people who are upset about their negative thoughts towards a racial group) or harm OCD, or a fear that something bad is going to happen to them or someone they love strictly because of their race. The affected racial group may engage in avoidance behaviors out of fear that someone of another racial group may hurt or kill them. People with racist OCD may also engage in avoidance behaviors by staying away from the racial group they are having thoughts, fears, beliefs, feelings, or urges towards.
Both groups may also seek reassurance – for the people with racist OCD this will likely come in the form of reassuring them that they are not racist, while the affected group may seek reassurance that nothing bad will happen to them because of their race. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the role racism plays in racist OCD, and how it is a major source of emotional distress for these individuals. Because this type of OCD is complex and somewhat confusing, it can be hard to treat and manage. So, it is extremely important to be aware of the role that racism can play in this condition, and be an ally to those who are struggling with it.
The Impact of Racist OCD on Mental Health
Racist OCD can have a significant impact on mental health. This condition can cause high levels of stress and anxiety, and interfere with daily activities. People with racist OCD may also experience feelings of race-related guilt, shame, and fear. Moreover, racist OCD can lead to social isolation and social anxiety, causing these individuals to avoid certain racial groups or race-related activities out of fear – fear of being discriminated against or fear having racist thoughts, fears, urges, or feelings. This can also lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
What is It Like to Have Racist OCD?
Having racist OCD can be tough – emotionally and mentally. For most people with this type of OCD, having these thoughts, fears, or urges feels lousy. It causes these individuals to question who they are regardless of if you are the OCD sufferer or the racial group those thoughts and feelings are centered on. However, the best way to understand what it feels like to have racist OCD is to hear from people who have the condition.
Listed below are real-life accounts of people who are struggling with racist OCD:
“Do you guys ever struggle with racist OCD thoughts? My therapist is Asian, and I keep having intrusive thoughts of saying racist things to her to make her hate me. I have been so sad about it lately. And, I am scared that I may be racist towards Asians. I think I also have racist dating preferences because I have never really wanted to date or even touch an Asian woman.
I have seen one or two that I find attractive, but for the most part, I do not think I have ever had a crush on one. They do not turn me on for whatever reason. I cannot talk to her about this. lol. She is pretty anti-racism, so I do not want her to take it the wrong way. If she knew I had these thoughts about her race, she would probably want to terminate our therapy sessions. God. I hate myself.”
“Racist thoughts can absolutely come with OCD. I do not get them a lot, but every once in a while they happen. Like if I happen to interact with a black family at my job I will think ‘what if I call them the n-word’ even though I would NEVER do that, and have never said that word in my life. The very fact that I am so bothered by this tells me everything I need to know about the type of person I am deep inside, you know?”
“I am obsessed that I’m racist even though I have never said a racist slur. I used to get extreme anxiety from it, and would not leave my house. I have gotten better over the past 6 months thanks to a good OCD therapist. I am currently working through it.”
“I have racism OCD. I think of racial slurs towards black people all of the time. I do not think much of it, even though my brain still attaches anxiety to these awful thoughts. My therapist is Asian, and I have also had racist thoughts about her. But, just like any other intrusive thought, I allow it to be there, but do not place meaning on it, besides that it is probably just my OCD.”
Racist OCD is a complex, and often misunderstood condition. It can be difficult to recognize and manage. In this article, we have provided an overview of what racist OCD is, its signs and symptoms, the possible causes of it, and available treatment options. We have also discussed how to recognize racist OCD in others, and provide ways that you can help someone with this condition. We have also explored the role of racism in racist OCD, and how it can impact mental health.
Keep in mind that if you or someone you know is struggling with racist OCD, it is important to seek OCD help for it. An OCD therapist can provide you with the support, resources, and tools you or someone you know will need to manage this all-consuming, but treatable condition. Although, racist OCD can be challenging to manage with the right help, you can overcome it.
- Williams, M. T., & Jahn, M. E. (2017). Obsessive-compulsive disorder in African American children and adolescents: Risks, resiliency, and barriers to treatment. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(3), 291–303. Retrieved fom https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000188
- OCD Institute. (n.d.). Racism and racist-themed OCD. Retrieved from https://ocdtypes.org/racist-ocd.php
- Williams, M. Y. (2021). The OCD-racism connection and its impact on people of color. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/202009/the-ocd-racism-connection-and-impact-people-color