Common Uncontrollable Thoughts Affecting OCD Sufferers

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A core symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is obsessions, which are unwanted, distressing, and uncontrollable thoughts that are often of a disturbing nature.

Typical Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Thoughts

Common OCD thoughts, or obsessions, can be on a wide range of themes and include:

  • Worrying constantly about catching a deadly disease and/or that you will contaminate others with your germs.
  • Fears about contamination with environmental toxins, such as lead or radioactivity.
  • An intense fear that something horrible will happen to a loved one.
  • Profound worry that you will do something extremely embarrassing, like screaming out an obscenity at a funeral.
  • Believing you may hit someone with your car or injure someone unknowingly.
  • Aggressive or disturbing ideas, such as thoughts of murdering your partner or child.
  • Disturbing sexual and/or religious imagery that might include sexual assault or inappropriate sexual acts.
  • A fear that you might forget or lose something.
  • A strong need to reorder things until they feel "just right."
  • A fear of harming inanimate objects.

Interestingly, research has shown that strange and disturbing thoughts pop into the mind of most of the population on a daily basis. While most people continue about their daily routine without giving these experiences a second thought, if you have OCD, these kinds of occurrences can become both distressing and debilitating, which is why you engage in compulsions to try to relieve the anxiety the obsessions create.

The Effect of Thought Suppression

Indeed, if you have OCD, you may be overreacting to such thoughts by trying to suppress them, which only causes them to come back worse than before. Of course, this leads to more thought suppression, which leads to experiencing more distressing thoughts. This is how obsessions might, in part, be created.

Although distressing, it is important to remember that both psychological and medical treatments can be effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of OCD thoughts.

Self-Help for Obsessions

If you are struggling to stop your obsessive thoughts, there are some things you can try to do to help yourself along with your therapy and/or medication. These include:

  • Concentrate on something else. Try going for a walk, listening to music, playing a video game or reading a book for at least 15 minutes to distract yourself from your obsessive thoughts. The point is to delay the thoughts for a while so that they don't feel so urgent. If you keep practicing this, going longer and longer, your thoughts will likely change or not cause as much anxiety.
  • Write your thoughts down as soon as they occur. Seeing just how many of them there are, as well as the repetition of what you're thinking, may help you take back some control. 
  • Take good care of yourself. Keeping stress at bay by making sure that you are eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep will help keep your obsessive thoughts in check.
  • Relax. This can involve meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness exercises or just a warm bath. Making sure there isn't too much stress in your life can help your OCD symptoms significantly.
  • Consider joining a support group. Sometimes being around people who understand what you are going through can help make the journey easier. 
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Article Sources

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  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. 2000 Washington, DC: Author.

  • Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). HelpGuide (2016).