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  • Writer's pictureJenna Matisz

Taboo Obsessions in OCD

Updated: Oct 3, 2023


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. While it's often associated with repetitive behaviors like excessive handwashing or checking locks in the media, many people deal with a distressing aspect of OCD that is far less talked about: taboo obsessions. These obsessions can be intrusive and deeply distressing, causing immense anxiety and affecting a person's daily life.


Understanding Taboo Obsessions

Taboo obsessions are intrusive, distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that go against a person's moral, ethical, or cultural beliefs. These obsessions often revolve around themes that are considered inappropriate, harmful, or even morally reprehensible.


Some common examples include:

  1. Violent Thoughts: People with taboo obsessions might experience intrusive thoughts of causing harm to loved ones, strangers, or themselves, even if they have no intention of acting on these thoughts.

  2. Sexual Themes: Obsessions with sexual themes that are against a person's values, such as inappropriate thoughts about family members, children, or non-consenting individuals.

  3. Religious Blasphemy: Intrusive thoughts involving religious figures, rituals, or beliefs that are considered disrespectful or sacrilegious.

  4. Unwanted Aggressive Impulses: Fear of losing control and acting violently, often towards vulnerable people.

  5. Contamination Concerns: An irrational fear of contamination or disease that goes beyond the usual concern for cleanliness.

The Paradox of Taboo Obsessions

One of the most challenging aspects of taboo obsessions is the paradox they present. People with OCD often recognize that these thoughts and impulses are irrational and distressing, yet they cannot stop themselves from experiencing them.


This internal struggle between their logical understanding and emotional response can lead to extreme distress and anxiety. They may wonder why they are experiencing such disturbing thoughts, images or urges and what this means about them as a person. The obsessions can convince them that they are terrible, disgusting people with no moral code.


People with taboo obsessions might go to great lengths to suppress or neutralize these thoughts through mental rituals or compulsive behaviors. However, these actions provide only temporary relief and reinforce the cycle of obsessions and compulsions. The more they try to avoid or control these thoughts, the more power these thoughts seem to gain over their minds.


The Role of Anxiety

Anxiety plays a central role in keeping taboo obsessions going. When someone experiences these distressing thoughts, their brain interprets them as dangerous, triggering the body's fight-or-flight response. This leads to a surge of anxiety and physiological symptoms, further convincing the person that these thoughts must be important and worth addressing.


As a result, the person engages in compulsive behaviors or mental rituals as a means to alleviate anxiety. These compulsions might include seeking reassurance from others, mentally reviewing their thoughts to ensure they haven't acted on them, or avoiding situations that trigger these obsessions. Paradoxically, these compulsions only provide temporary relief and reinforce the belief that the obsessions are significant threats.


Getting Help and Treatment

Some people who experience taboo obsessions really struggle to ask for support because they experience immense shame and fear about the content of their obsessions. They might worry that if they share their struggles, the people around them will think they're disgusting or a terrible person. This is understandable - the obsessions can be disturbing and distressing!


However, it's important to emphasize that taboo obsessions are a manifestation of OCD, a very real and very distressing mental health disorder. People experiencing these obsessions are not evil, immoral, or dangerous; they are grappling with a condition that requires understanding and treatment.


This is why it's important to reach out to a therapist who specializes in OCD and understands what taboo obsessions are and how they work. OCD therapists can help you build the skills needed to respond effectively to the taboo obsessions so that you can get back to living your life.


Treatment for your OCD might include:

  1. Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard treatment for OCD. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a specific form of CBT, is particularly effective in treating taboo obsessions. ERP involves gradually exposing the person to their distressing thoughts without engaging in compulsive behaviors. Over time, this helps to reduce the anxiety associated with these thoughts.

  2. Medication: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed to people with OCD. These medications help regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which can alleviate anxiety and reduce the frequency and intensity of obsessions.

  3. Mindfulness and Acceptance: Practices like mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help individuals develop a healthier relationship with their thoughts. Instead of trying to control or suppress these thoughts, they learn to observe them without judgment and allow them to pass naturally.

  4. Support Groups: Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges can provide a sense of validation and reduce isolation. Support groups offer a safe space to share experiences, coping strategies, and successes.

If you're struggling with taboo obsessions, get in touch! I've heard it all and promise I will not think you're a dangerous or bad person. Don't let the OCD get in the way of you receiving the support you deserve.



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