You have a thought, as we all do, and it’s nothing in particular, just a thought that perhaps your brain insists on having, which could probably be linked to a mechanism of survival; self-preservation. Most people have these thoughts and just ignore them, particularly those that don’t apply because, for example, they’re irrational. Unfortunately, some of us pin rather a lot of meaning onto these random thoughts, such as myself. A trigger typically comes in the form of the 5 standard senses, such as smell, sight, or sound. For example, you hear a sound that reminds you of a horrible event in your life or challenges a core belief, your anxiety is triggered, adrenalin is released, and so you act on or flee from it, as per the fight or flight response.
If you want a personal example of the mechanics of OCD at work, check out this popular entry titled Health Anxiety is a Relentless Bitch, where I go on to explain a rather unpleasant evening thanks to my health anxiety being triggered. Health anxiety works in a similar way to OCD, because you have a trigger or obsession and its compulsion.
In the case of an intrusive thought, it triggers anxiety, at which point it becomes a thing, essentially jumping from the background to the foreground. One such response of an intrusive thought, is what we call ruminating, which would be the compulsion, but there are also other common ways to act, such as to compulsively clean.
Something called magical thinking can apply here, if you feel something bad will happen if you don’t do something; in this case, you would have the obsession, such as fearing someone you care about will die. Something triggers the obsession, such as hearing about a death, your response is to then compulsively begin an action (be it mental, such as rumination, or physical, such as cleaning) just in-case something bad happens to the person.
I suppose, with OCD in mind, you could also call avoidance a compulsion, so if your response is to flee, such as to actively avoid something triggering, you could probably refer to that as a compulsive response to an obsession or trigger.
I should probably point out that OCD is far more than just washing your hands thoroughly, and in-fact, many people with OCD don’t even have this need to wash their hands repeatedly, as the media would lead you to believe. It actually really, really annoys me when people think someone with OCD is always super clean and washes their hands excessively. You might as well assume everyone in a wheelchair has no legs—there are surely many reasons why someone might end up in a wheelchair, such as a spinal injury.
Let’s assume you have OCD. I would tell myself and anyone else with this disorder, that OCD, or indeed intrusive thoughts, is like a dog at your dinner table pining for scraps. Eventually, if you continue to give the dog zero attention in such a situation, it will give up and wonder off, finally learning that you just don’t care to feed it at the dinner table. However, if you give the dog food, you’ll only prompt it to come over and nag you the next time, and the next time, and the next time, until you’ve got no food left.
If you really think you might have OCD, I would speak to your doctor about it and see if you can be referred to a psychiatrist who should be able to diagnose you. OCD and anxiety are commonly linked, so if you’ve been written off as just having anxiety problems, consider that there could be more going on which you’ve yet to uncover. Finding more answers means finding more ways to get help, which ultimately results in a better quality of life.
The topic of OCD, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts is quite vast, so, without spending countless hours on this entry, boring you with walls of text, I thought it best to stick with a brief overview. However, if you have any questions, please feel free to place them in the comment section below, or contact me via TwT’s E-Mail address found here, or send me a private message via TwT’s Twitter page.