Discovering Harm OCD

I’ve just stumbled upon something I’ve never heard of before.

I’m sure I mentioned this before, but my first diagnosis was one of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I am fairly certain I was already experiencing depressive/hypomanic episodes by that point, but it wasn’t until I was given an antidepressant for the OCD that I began having the psychotic episodes that resulted in the Bipolar diagnosis.

My understanding at the time of how these things (these things being diagnoses) worked was that my Bipolar diagnosis cancelled out the diagnosis of OCD -in fact, I never dreamed that I could be lucky enough to be blessed with both (and then some).

This is why my most of my understanding of OCD is quite stunted. I never took the time to research it the way I researched Bipolar Disorder, and for years I am sure I claimed that even if I experienced both it was the Bipolar Disorder that was making my life hell. The more I learn about things like anxiety and OCD, the more I am finding out I am wrong.

So this is a true “Eureka!” moment for me, because when I was reading Variety’s review of OC87 (something I am going to talk a bit more about next week) I stumbled upon the following lines,

“The pic’s title comes from what Clayman considers his watershed event: the 1987 arrival of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that shut down his remaining social skills, bringing with it an intense anger and violent thoughts he’s constantly afraid he’ll act on. (Unlike most people, “Harm OCD” sufferers have great difficulty grasping that negative thoughts won’t equal actions — even though, as in Bud’s case, they never actually do act on them.)

I was struck by lightning. Harm OCD? What is Harm OCD?

Harm OCD is apparently one of the major components of what I’ve been dealing with without knowing what it was called, or that it was linked to OCD.

The obsession around staying in control and attempting to avoid hurting others (pretty much at all costs) comes from barrages of repeated violent thoughts.

In my own case, there was one point where I was having extremely disturbingly violent nightmares and became so terrified that I would carry out the violent acts that happened in my dreams that I refused to leave the house for several days. Apparently, this is a classic Harm OCD scenario.

The fear is of impulse, that I could unknowingly or unintentionally do something that causes anyone else (or myself) harm. I don’t even like going on balconies because I become terrified I might throw myself off of one for no apparent reason (even if I’m not feeling the least bit suicidal). Irrational? You bet.

The feeling for me is very much like this nagging anxiety that I might just snap at any moment, and the more prominent it is, the less likely I am to be around others or go outside or chop some vegetables.

The most interesting part for me, though, is that I don’t know that this fear, for me, is entirely unwarranted. I mean, obviously I’ve never snapped and done anything particularly brutal to anyone, but when I was younger I did have a pretty intense temper with some pretty explosive blowups. At the same time, I have had mixed episodes that have removed my sense of control, and left me doing some pretty bizarre things.

So is this obsession unreasonable? I don’t know. Out of proportion, definitely yes.

Something to ponder for the weekend.

You can read a little more about Harm OCD here…

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5 responses to “Discovering Harm OCD

  1. So glad I found your blog…….you are a great writer and I admire what you are doing to raise awareness for Bipolar Disorder. My son suffered from severe OCD, specifically harming obsessions, and I agree what you describe is OCD. I hope you have a good therapist who can help you figure out how to deal with the combiination of both bipolar and OCD.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      You know, up to this point I have really discounted the effects of OCD on my life (since I haven’t been doing any of the overtly obsessive or compulsive things I was doing as a child) but after reading about harm obsessions I am planning on looking at things much more in-depth with my therapist. Honestly, I have been quite relieved to hear that this is something that others experience (though it isn’t fun, for sure) because I really never knew where those specific feelings were coming from on my end. Thanks for stopping by and take care!

  2. I have experience this as well but with harming myself – not others so it is probably just the suicidal ideation stuff – but when it happens I know I don’t want to kill myself but I am afraid that I will do it anyway on an impulse. Wierd, huh?

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I think that is commonplace with the “Harm OCD” stuff too. I know they mentioned people being afraid to go up to ledges for fear of impulsively jumping off, and that is something I’ve had trouble with myself. That fear of not wanting to kill yourself but being compelled to do it is where that OCD part comes from, obsessed with the idea of acting compulsively -and harming yourself with those compulsive actions.

      It is definitely an odd situation but I’ve had it too!

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