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Intrusive Thoughts OCD Symptoms and Treatment

Intrusive Thoughts OCD — Symptoms & Treatment

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can appear in many different forms and can affect any person, regardless of their race, age, or gender. OCD can cause a person to suffer from unwanted thoughts or mental images, which are called intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are symptoms of all types of OCD and are a form of obsession.

Symptoms of OCD & Intrusive Thoughts

A person suffering from OCD can experience intrusive thoughts that can vary significantly because each sub-type of OCD typically has its own unique array of triggers. Regardless of which triggers are present, most intrusive thinking causes distress, anxiety, and in severe cases, panic attacks. Typically, without knowing that the individual has OCD, they will try everything possible to avoid these overwhelming thoughts.

Treatment for OCD

People suffering from OCD are encouraged to seek treatment from a mental health treatment provider that specializes in the treatment of OCD. OCD specialists are equipped and prepared to treat a wide array of OCD subtypes, including OCD. Like all types of OCD, this form of OCD can be treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically with treatment approaches called Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Mindful-Based CBT teaches patients that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. Individuals will also learn that intrusive thoughts have no power over them and that by responding to their thoughts through compulsive behaviors, their thoughts are given more strength and credibility and their fears and obsessions are strengthened and reinforced. Mindfulness-Based CBT is a very effective OCD treatment, especially when combined with ERP.

ERP exposes patients to situations related to their intrusive thoughts that cause them anxiety. The goal of this treatment is for the patient to prevent himself or herself from completing their compulsive behaviors when triggered by intrusive thoughts. The situations that are confronted will intensify over time, until the patient can face and overcome their most feared scenario. Once they are able to stop themselves from responding to their intrusive thoughts with compulsive behaviors, they can experience tremendous relief from the symptoms of OCD.

If patients are suffering from severe levels of anxiety due to their OCD, they may benefit from participating in treatment at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) OCD treatment program, as is offered by The Gateway Institute. The Gateway Institute offers Intensive Outpatient treatment options as well as regular outpatient psychotherapy sessions, and a free, 30 minute face-to-face consultation with one of our experienced and caring clinicians at all three of our beautiful locations in Orange CountyScottsdale, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay AreaOCD symptoms typically worsen over time and can take over a person’s life, so it is very important to seek OCD treatment as soon as possible with a skilled and dedicated OCD specialist who can provide expertise and support during this journey.

Other common Sub-Types Of OCD

It is not uncommon for an individual suffering from one OCD sub-type to also suffer from other sub-types. Treating co-occurring sub-types simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from OCD.

Checking OCD
Contamination OCD
Harm OCD
Homosexual (HOCD)
Pure O (Pure Obsessional OCD)
Relationship OCD
Sexual OCD


The Gateway Institute is here to support you in getting the help that you need.

Common Symptoms of a Panic Attack

The intrusive thoughts a person experiences depends on their form or sub-type of OCD. Some common types of obsessions and intrusive thoughts include:

  • Intense fear of committing a feared action or acting on an undesirable impulse
  • Fear of contamination (Contamination OCD)
  • Fear of committing a sin or blasphemous behaviors
  • Constantly doubting one’s sexual orientation (hOCD)
  • Fear of harming themselves or others (Harm OCD)

Common Compulsions of Intrusive Thoughts OCD

The compulsions a person develops in order to neutralize and reduce the anxiety caused by their intrusive thinking also varies between subtypes of OCD. Examples of common compulsions in which a person may engage due to intrusive thoughts or images include:

  • Compulsively repeating a ritual to reduce their anxiety
  • Checking oneself or others in order to ensure no harm has been done
  • Ruminating (continually thinking about the intrusive thoughts)
    Seeking reassurance from others
  • Intense need to perform a task “just right”
  • Avoiding objects, places, or people that can trigger one’s intrusive thoughts

A person’s intrusive thoughts can cause them to cycle through their compulsive behaviors several times each day, which can prevent them from completing important tasks and engaging in relationships. The impact of distressing intrusive thoughts can cause a person to isolate themselves from friends and family, as well as cause major disturbances in their normal functioning.