How can I stop OCD thoughts?

Thought-action fusion

People with OCD may believe that simply thinking about something disturbing is morally equivalent to carrying out the act. They may even believe that having the thought might mean the event will happen - unless they do something to prevent it.
Instead of letting their thoughts come and go, they often take personal responsibility for the thoughts they have. They also tend to interpret these thoughts as being more significant than they really are.

Behavioural compulsions

These are actions and behaviours that are used in an attempt to alleviate the distress intrusive thoughts cause. There is recognition that these behaviours are not rational but the fear of what they believe will happen if the rituals are not performed is compelling. While the completion of the ritual helps the individual to quell their anxiety, it keeps them stuck in the cycle because this process reinforces the obsessive thinking.

Mental compulsions

These occur when someone with OCD believe that a thought will become a reality if not thought through sufficiently. They may also think about a ‘bad' thought to neutralise or ‘balance it out'.

Why suppressing OCD thoughts backfire

When someone with OCD believes that their intrusive thoughts are dangerous, they may monitor them closely, which could easily result in hypervigilance and overwhelm them. Suppressing these thoughts, while it might appear good, might only lead to the development of more intrusive thoughts.

What can I do instead?


Pause when the thought comes up. Recognise that it's trying to control you, consciously challenge it.


Distance yourself from the thought and resist the urge to perform a ritual. Defusing your obsessive thoughts this way, over time, will help you feel more in control.


Once there is some space between you and your thoughts, put on an objective lens - look at what triggered the thoughts and note down (non-judgementally) how you reacted

You are not your thoughts

The intrusive thoughts you experience are not necessarily a reflection of who you are. They are just strings of words and are not inherently dangerous, you are not obliged to take them seriously just because your brain generated it. your thoughts do not necessarily say anything about you. Having a ‘bad' thought does not mean that you are a ‘bad' person.

Be kind and patient with yourself

Remember that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts at times, and they are not something you are expected to be in control of. It is a good practice to recognise the intrusive thought or feeling you are having, but that does not mean you have to identify with it.
Once you accept that you cannot completely control your thoughts, you can start building the habit of acknowledging them without letting them take control.

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