Intrusive OCD: What It Is and How to Deal With It

Intrusive OCD: What It Is and How to Deal With It

Intrusive OCD, also known as Pure-O OCD, is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that is characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts. These thoughts can be anything from violent or sexual images to blasphemous or obscene words or phrases. Individuals with intrusive OCD often feel ashamed and embarrassed by their thoughts and may keep them hidden from friends and family. In this blog post, we will discuss what intrusive OCD is, how it manifests and how to cope with it.

What Is Intrusive OCD?

What Is Intrusive OCD?

Intrusive OCD is described as having unwanted, intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety or distress. These thoughts can be about anything but are often related to themes of harm (e.g., harming oneself or others), sex, religion, and morality. People with Intrusive OCD may try to suppress or neutralize these thoughts with other thoughts or actions (e.g., praying, washing hands). However, these efforts only serve to temporarily relieve anxiety and the intrusive thoughts eventually return, often stronger than before.

Intrusive OCD can be debilitating and make it difficult to function in day-to-day life.

Are Intrusive OCD Thoughts Normal?

Studies have shown that intrusive thoughts are a common occurrence in the general population. It is estimated that nearly everyone has experienced an intrusive thought at some point in their lives. However, for some people, these thoughts can become so persistent and distressing that they meet the criteria for a diagnosis of OCD.

If you have OCD, intrusive thoughts are not just occasional or mild. They are frequent, distressing, and cause significant distress and disruption in your life. These thoughts may be accompanied by compulsions, which are behaviors or mental acts that you feel driven to do in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts.

Why Stopping Intrusive Thoughts Backfires?

Why Stopping Intrusive Thoughts Backfires

Understanding that intrusive thoughts are part of OCD can be incredibly reassuring. However, many people with OCD mistakenly believe that if they can just stop their intrusive thoughts, their anxiety will go away. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Trying to suppress or get rid of intrusive thoughts actually makes them worse. Why? Because when you try to push something away, it usually comes back even stronger. It’s like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. The more you try to keep it down, the more it pops up.

The same is true for intrusive thoughts. The harder you try to push them away, the more they come back.

What Do Intrusive OCD Thoughts Feel Like?

Intrusive OCD thoughts can feel very real and believable. They can be persistent, and some people report that they are overwhelming and hard to control. It’s common to have doubts about whether the thoughts are really just thoughts or if they could actually happen.

It can include thoughts like:

  • Fear of harm coming to oneself or others
  • Anxiety about making mistakes or doing something wrong
  • Intrusive sexual or violent thoughts
  • Excessive worry about contracting a serious illness

While the content of intrusive thoughts may differ, people with OCD typically experience them in a similar way. Intrusive thoughts are often accompanied by a strong sense of anxiety or fear and can be so distressing that they interfere with day-to-day life. In some cases, people may even avoid certain situations or activities in an attempt to prevent their intrusive thoughts from coming true.

What Triggers Intrusive OCD Thoughts?

There is no one answer to this question as everyone experiences different things that can trigger their OCD intrusive thoughts. However, some common triggers include:

  • feeling stressed or anxious
  • being in a new or unfamiliar situation
  • having a change in routine
  • feeling tired or run down

Knowing your triggers can be helpful in managing your OCD, as you can then try to avoid or prepare for them where possible. If you can’t avoid a trigger, then knowing it is coming can help you to be more prepared to deal with the intrusive thoughts when they do occur.

How Do I Know If I Have Intrusive OCD?

The main symptom of Intrusive OCD is persistent and unwanted intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are often disturbing or distressing and can cause a great deal of anxiety. They can be about anything but are often related to themes of harm or contamination. People with Intrusive OCD may try to suppress or ignore their thoughts, but this only leads to more anxiety. Other symptoms of Intrusive OCD can include avoidance behaviors, compulsions (rituals), and excessive worry.

What Are The Causes Of Intrusive OCD Thoughts?

Although the exact cause of intrusive OCD thoughts is not known, it is believed that they are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some research suggests that people with OCD are more likely to have a family member with the disorder. Other studies suggest that stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce, may trigger OCD symptoms.


How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts?

Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue, each individual’s best method of coping with intrusive ideas will differ. However, there are some general tips that may help:

Identify Your Triggers

What situations or activities tend to lead to intrusive thoughts? Once you know what your triggers are, you can try to avoid them or be prepared for them. Although recognizing and controlling your emotional triggers might take some time, the changes can be significant when it comes to your relationships and overall well-being. Managing your triggers and understanding how they work makes it easier to get through an emotional surge.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Why do you believe that the intrusive thought is true? What evidence do you have to support this belief? Once you realize that the thought is not based on reality, it will be easier to let it go. So the next time you find yourself overthinking you can ask questions like:

  • Am I confusing a thought with a fact?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of thinking this way?

Challenging your thoughts can help you fact-check your feelings and increase self-awareness.

Focus On Something Else

Distract yourself with another activity or thought. It can be anything like:

Research has shown that actively engaging in any physical activity can help reduce stress and increases dopamine levels in the brain. When you find your mind wandering back to the intrusive thought, gently guide it back to the activity at hand.


Take slow, deep breaths and focus on your breath going in and out. This can help you relax and calm down. Trying methods like diaphragmatic breathing or progressive muscle relaxation may also be helpful. Abdominal (or diaphragmatic breathing) reduces heartbeat and encourages the body to relax, calming the nervous system. Alternatively, you can also try 4-7-8 breathing.

Talk To Someone

Talking to a trusted friend or family member about your intrusive thoughts can help you feel less alone and more supported. When we are overwhelmed verbalizing our feelings helps us label them, understand them better and come up with a solution. You may also want to consider talking to a therapist, who can help you manage your OCD.

Intrusive thoughts are a common symptom of OCD, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer. By using the above tips, you can learn to manage your intrusive thoughts and live a happier, healthier life.


CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy. It is a type of therapy that focuses on changing the way you think about your OCD and your intrusive thoughts. CBT can help you to learn how to control your thoughts, and it can also help you to change the way you respond to your OCD.

If you’re interested in CBT, there are a few things you should know. First, it is important to find a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. This will ensure that you get the best possible care. Second, CBT usually takes place over a series of weekly sessions. And finally, it is important to be committed to the treatment process. CBT is not a quick fix, but it can be an incredibly effective treatment for OCD.


In a nutshell, intrusive OCD is a form of anxiety disorder that manifests itself in the form of intrusive thoughts. These thoughts are usually about things that you would rather not think about, such as death, violence, or sex. Moreover, people with intrusive OCD may also have difficulty discerning between what is real and what is not. This can lead to them feeling as though they are living in a constant state of uncertainty, which can be extremely distressing. There are various treatment options available for intrusive OCD, and the most appropriate one will depend on the individual’s specific needs and preferences.

If you suffer from intrusive OCD, it is important to seek professional help. There are many effective treatments available that can help you manage your symptoms and live a normal, productive life. For additional information, you can contact Therapy Mantra. We have a team of professional therapists who can provide you with the support and guidance you need to recover. Get in touch with us to learn more about our services. You can also book an online therapy or download our free OCD treatment app on Android or iOS.