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Harm Obsessions & Violent Obsessions

Harm Obsessions & Violent Obsessions

Harm obsessions involve unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images about hurting or killing yourself or others.

Imagine that you’re leaning down to kiss your young daughter goodnight, when BAM! You are jolted by an image of yourself stabbing her to death.

Alternatively, picture yourself as a young child who is intensely afraid of playing with your new puppy…not because you’re afraid of dogs but because you are afraid that if you touch it, you might lose control and snap its neck.

In either scenario, the most horrifying part is that you’re afraid that you might secretly want to act on these unwanted thoughts.

After all, why would the thought keep coming if it didn’t mean something?

Violent Obsessions, Harm Obsessions, & Bad Thoughts

This is the daily reality for many adults, teens, and children who experience harm obsessions, also known as violent obsessions, a type of OCD symptom that involves unwanted, repetitive violent thoughts, impulses, or images. Harm obsessions are typically shocking, distressing, and disturbing, and they may occur thousands of times every day. They often involve themes of violence, death, murder, self-harm, and suicide. Obsessions involving death are also sometimes referred to as “morbid obsessions.”

Much like sexual obsessions, violent obsessions can be a debilitating symptom of OCD because they can “pop in” at any time and in any place. They are sometimes associated with the presence of triggers like particular people (e.g., loved ones) or vulnerable populations (e.g., fear of children or the elderly), but they may also occur with strangers. Even particular emotions, such as anger, may trigger harm OCD obsessions. See my post on the relationship between OCD and anger for further discussion of anger and OCD. In other cases, violent obsessions may seemingly emerge out of the blue with little provocation or warning. They can even occur when you’re alone or in the absence of an easily identifiable external trigger.

Because of this, many people with violent obsessions begin avoiding people they care about. They may also become fearful of being alone or being bored and may go to great lengths to keep themselves busy, because their unwanted thoughts may frequently occur during periods of downtime or relaxation. Consequently, many individuals with harm obsessions feel that they can never really relax. They become masters at distraction and often dread bedtime when they are alone with their thoughts.

Who gets violent obsessions?

Unfortunately, most people in the general population are unfamiliar with harm obsessions. Popular TV shows like Glee that feature characters with OCD (e.g., guidance counselor Emma) do not often depict individuals with violent obsessions. Even medical professionals like doctors, nurses, or mental health workers may not initially recognize the fear of killing/harming others as a symptom of OCD.

Because of the violent, gruesome nature of their OCD symptoms, many people who have the fear of harming/killing others mistakenly conclude that they must have dark, twisted personalities. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you attended my OCD support group and tried to pick out the people with harm obsessions on the basis of their personalities or physical appearance, you would nearly always guess incorrectly. Many individuals with harm obsessions are friendly, kind-hearted, and warm. Furthermore, even very young, happy children can develop morbid obsessions.

Interestingly, people with violent obsessions tend to be some of the nicest, most conscientious individuals who visit my Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, psychological practice. Why might this be?

OCD tends to hit you where it can hit hardest.

People with harm obsessions tend to be hypersensitive to bad thoughts and are often hyper-moral. Compared to individuals without OCD, they are more attuned to the content of their thoughts and are more likely to “police” their thoughts. As such, they often engage in mental rituals that involve examining their thoughts for potentially dangerous content. We all experience unwanted thoughts at times, but people with harm obsessions are more likely to fear that their unwanted thoughts are meaningful.

For people with harm obsessions, unwanted thoughts feel so distressing because they are often distinctly opposite of the types of thoughts that the individual wants to have. Thus, when bad thoughts do POP, these individuals are shocked and horrified and often go to great lengths to avoid or neutralize. Because avoidance and neutralization perpetuate OCD, without treatment, symptoms tend to escalate and become more out-of-control over time.

After having a bad thought, it is common for individuals with harm obsessions to jump to the following erroneous conclusions:

Fears about Violent Obsessions

  • These symptoms mean I’m going crazy.
  • Seeing violent images in my head must mean I’m developing schizophrenia.
  • If anyone found out I’m thinking these things, I would be institutionalized.
  • These thoughts mean that at my core, I am a truly horrible person.
  • Experiencing these impulses means that I’m turning into a serial killer or pedophile.
  • Only a monster would think about murdering their kids.
  • If my spouse knew I was thinking these things, s/he would freak out and never look at me the same way again.
  • Having these thoughts means I’m a bad person.
  • I should be able to control my thoughts.
  • What if the only way for me to have any peace is to act on my thoughts?
  • The more often I have these thoughts, the more likely it is that I’ll act on them.
  • I should only be thinking good things.
  • My thoughts reflect my true desires.
  • I’ve heard that some people with OCD have scary, unwanted thoughts…but what if this isn’t OCD?

These maladaptive beliefs cause many individuals with violent obsessions to be very secretive about their thoughts. They often live in fear, desperation, isolation, and depression for many years before understanding that they suffer from OCD, a treatable anxiety disorder. Having harm obsessions can feel like being locked away in your own private hell.

Fortunately, the internet has made it easier for internet-savvy OCD sufferers to discover that thousands of other people also share these disturbing symptoms. If you decide to attend an OCD support group, there’s also a comfort that comes in knowing that many other people have strikingly similar symptoms. Furthermore, these individuals tend to look more like kind-hearted individuals with OCD than budding serial killers.

In my next post, I identify some specific examples of aggressive obsessions.

Questions? Comments? Struggling with the fear of harming others? Sound off below.

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  1. A great discussion!

    • Most definitely. Harm obsessions are certainly some of the most alienating symptoms.

      • Hi Dr. Seay,
        I was wondering if it’s possible to have obsessions based in guilt? I have always been sort of overwhelmed with guilt for even the smallest things. It weighs on me and then when I “confess” I have gotten surprised reactions wondering why I even needed to apologize. I also will think about the things I say and worry if I said something wrong and am always the one apologizing when maybe I shouldn’t. These ruminating thoughts in the past have lasted for days at most. It wasn’t until recently that I felt this for a longer period of time. The first time was when I felt the need to tell my fiancé about someone I kissed when we were not together. I couldn’t eat or sleep and had constant anxiety. I kept telling myself there was no reason to tell him and I knew he would rather not even know. But still I ruminated. Finally I just told him how I was feeling. I cried and said I was so sorry. He was a little confused as to why I told him and said I’m glad you were able to get that off your chest. Days after I felt anxiety that he would decide he would leave me. When of course he didn’t, the guilt and obsession subsided. I think about it from time to time but it doesn’t have quite the same affect. Then recently my 1 year old neice who I adore was getting her diaper changed by my sister and law and a thought crossed my mind “what if she could harm her” (in the sexual sense) I was appalled the thought would even cross my mind. And then suddenly guilt overwhelmed me. And it suddenly flipped. “What if I want to harm her and that’s why I thought that?” And then it snowballed. It’s all I could think about. It has given me unbearable anxiety. I don’t have violent visions, it more like guilt for even thinking it. But the more I think about it, it’s like my mind is convincing me of a false truth. It’s so upsetting to me. I am filled with worry. I can’t wait to be a mother and the fact I would even have that thought makes me feel so guilty I am not eating, can’t sleep and feel my body shaking with anxiety. I have never been on any medication or been in therapy. I am feeling so overwhelmed. Any advice would mean the world to me

      • Hi I have been diagnose with bipolar 1 and adhd and am often plauged with these I work with animals and love them and yes am hyper moral about veterinary medicine and their care but here and there u think about snapping their necks or crushing them. And it scares me. And I know bipolar thoughts can be very obsession especially depressive ones which I trend towards. Is this normal for my illness?

    • Great talk. Im not alone

  2. Thank you, Dr. Seay, for continuing to get the word “out there.” If people with harm obsessions can realize early on that they are dealing with a common type of OCD, they can get treatment quicker and not have to suffer for so long. I see my son in your post…….he literally would not even hurt a fly, yet he suffered from harm obsessions, and again as you say, started avoiding being around his friends and some family members. Excellent post!

    • Thanks, Janet. These types of obsessions can be very difficult to bring up. Glad that Dan was able to conquer them.

      • Thank you so much for this page. I’m a mom and I have been an on again, off again sufferer of this and more obsessive thoughts besides since my childhood. I’ve found it a comfort that you know EXACTLY what I’m feeling. I’m currently on Paxil 30mg for treatment plus Buproprion as an add on to treat my depression. I’m still waiting for it to ‘kick’ in. God bless you for this.

    • Hi doctor idbeen sufferig with this symptom forthe past month and we yest fonud you please help me its been horrible.

  3. thank you so much for this post it has certainly put me in a better place

  4. Thank you so much for this information. I have been suffering with this for years and am so relieved to know I’m not the only one! I am finally realizing that I need help and am well on my way to getting it. I cannot wait to live my life no longer in fear and guilt.

  5. I believe I have this, but a psychiatrist believes otherwise. He said I had a brief psychotic episode and depression. I was having thoughts of hurting my daughter and boyfriend . I could imagen me doing it , and what scared me the most is that everything I saw suddenly became a weapon . I couldn’t go near anything. I avoid being with my daughter alone. I made sure if I was with her I had another adult present just incase. Then this thoughts escalated to me wanting to jump in front of a train even though I didn’t want
    To , it got so bad that I avoid taking the train as much as possible . Is it possible I have OCD ?

    • Hi Erika,

      Yes, it’s a possibility. In this case, it would be helpful to clarify your doctor’s reasoning, so that you can understand why he feels that the diagnosis of brief psychotic disorder is more appropriate than OCD. These diagnoses can have some overlap in terms of content, but the diagnostic criteria are actually quite different.

      This differential diagnosis has important ramifications for treatment, as you would not want to treat brief psychotic disorder with exposure and response prevention (ERP).

      Talk with your doctor.

  6. Well he did not exactly tell me why, so I decided to switch psychiatris but now this psychiatrist (only saw me once for 20 minutes and did not even look at what my therapist wrote in my chart) says I have bipolar with psychotic features. The difference is that my therapist did mention that it sounds like Lcd with anxiety. I told the psychiatrist what my therapist said and he said that she doesn’t know anything and that he only knows because hes been doing this for 20 years and that I’m in denial of my diagnoelsis. He prescribe me medication and did not even ask about my health status to see if the medication will be right for me. I do not know what to do, should I look for a new psychiatrist. Or wait to see what my therapist says.

    • It’s a tough situation, and only you can decide how best to proceed. You might consider having your therapist call your psychiatrist and provide consultation.

  7. I have been suffering from anxiety and panic for a few years now and I was good at controlling them with yoga and meditation. Lately I have not been serious about my yoga practice and the levels of anxiety rose. This was normal but just this morning I had the exact same thought as your article starts with and I was terrified to death. One thing is to have the normal panic attack and all the fear but THIS kind of thoughts were beyond any limit.Google led me to here. I have never seen a therapist and I cannot afford one. I was so proud of myself for managing to stabilize my anxiety and panic levels with Yoga but now I am totally baffled whether or not I need more serious help. Thank you for this information anyway!

  8. Well actually my therapist told me to look for someone who specializes in ocd which I did and she confirm that I do have pure o ocd ,she recommend me to a psychiatrist who also specialzes in ocd and also diagnosed me with pure o ocd, but now I’m doubting whether I do have, maybe my first two diagnosis are correct and I’m in denial, maybe I did not explain my symptoms well to my new psychologist and psychiatrist. Maybe they are not seeing what the hospital psychiatrist saw. I don’t know what do anymore or what diagnosis to believe.

  9. Thank you so much for this post and everyone who commented. I thought I was alone and was torturing myself with my thoughts. I am not afraid to get help now and I know I am not a crazy serial killer. Seriously, thank you so much for this.

  10. hi. I think I have ocd. Because I feel all these things you listed about fears. I would like to know is the reading about ocd is my compulsion? Because when these bad thoughts try to hit me I go to internet and read about ocd and it makes me feel better. Is it better if I stop doing it? And is it ok to stay with my family even if I have these harming them thoughts? I think like this I am fighting my anxiety. Thanks

    • Excessive online research can certainly be a ritual in some cases. It’s important to differentiate information-seeking from reassurance-seeking. If you’re reading the same information over and over again, it is likely a ritual. I would recommend meeting with a local OCD treatment specialist to get guidance.

  11. I can’t deal with this! I have the best bf ever and here recently out of the blue I’ve been having evil and unwanted thoughts, telling me to “Kill him.” I can’t even kill a bug without crying, so how in the world could I hurt my baby! I don’t deserve to live here with him, I just wanna die…I can’t do this anymore it’s killing me!!! And I can’t talk about it…I need help!

    • Seek help with a therapist, Narnar. My daughter also has horrible idioms and fears losing control and hurting one of us or even herself, but she is the most kind and gentle person. This also started very suddenly, along with several other OCD issues, so we are certain her issues are OCD. It’s very hard to talk about, but starting by getting help from someone who understands will make you feel much better. Knowledge is power!! Don’t despair!

    • This type of OCD can be incredibly stressful, but you should know that you’re not alone in this. Check out for OCD support groups in your area–it can be incredibly helpful to meet other people who share the same symptoms.

  12. I just wanted to say thank you. I may have experienced this a few years back though mildly..though it became intense that I had to see a specialist. I was told there was nothing wrong with me but this article made me understand this symptom of OCD more. Thanks.

  13. I got over it for a couple of months & being raised as a Catholic it did make it more intense. when i read your article i really thought i was going mad..the psychologist couldn’t answer me questions. I asked my GP who thought I was silly and I wasn’t ‘depressed’ but unwillingly she gave me a referral to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist explained how we all have intrusive thoughts from time to time and never saw her again. She explained that I know who I am, Im a good mother and wife. This helped me move on. Though a month ago I was under a lot of stress (work and sick grandma) and cant believe it came back. I’ll be more prepared next time but I feel very relieved.

  14. Thank you so much for posting this. I think I have this. I was told I can mild OCD as a kid, I couldn’t stop washing my hands and I imagined knives in the kitchen as a kid. I thought it meant I was siucidal, but I didn’t want to act on it, I was just scared, I was a child. Then lately I had some, it scared me most cause I saw these things happen to my mum & my best mate. I would never harm a fly as you described. Thankyou so much.

  15. I too suffer from these awful thoughts. Sometimes as soon as I wake in the morning the first thing to pop into my head is one of these horrible ideas. I’m married with three kids, whom I love dearly, and all I keep thinking of is killing them. I’ve suffered with anxiety and panic for about 11 years now without medications and was doing well until about 2 months ago. I’m now trying different medications for anxiety but I must have OCD as well and maybe I should try something for that also? Has anyone had any luck with meds? Do you recommend meds at all Dr. Seay?

  16. I have had harm obsession for 21 years. It started almost overnight when I was 21. It was a horrible experience. Horrible thoughts of murder, sexual violence, Satan worship, and suicide. The more I tried to stop these thoughts the worse they became. I remember how horrible it felt to think about killing my parents even though I loved them so much. After a year or so I learned that by actually thinking the thoughts, as opposed to not thinking them, the less they became. Although I still struggle it is not as bad as it was 20 years ago. I also found that having an active social life seems to make the thoughts less strong. I didn’t date women for most of my twenties because I was so scared I would carry out a horrible act. In my thirties I started dating again, and you know what? The thoughts subsided.
    My doctor put me on Lexapro for awhile and although it did help I didn’t like the way it made me feel tired and lethargic. I quit taking the medicine and still struggle with OCD but not to the extent that I did twenty years ago. Is there another treatment that works without the use of Lexapro?

  17. Hello, I believe it is either possible I have OCD or I am a complete psychopath. These symptoms started back in 2011 after watching supernatural I saw a lot of violent things and I had thoughts like “I will kill them all anyway” and it scared me to death. I was too afraid of telling my mother or my family thinking they would lock me away forever. They stated to disappear overtime and I was all right for about a year after talking to a therapist. Now they are back but it is not as bad as it was as I think I know how to deal with them now. I want them to go away for ever because I love people and I am a really nice person. I wouldn’t harm a fly but these thoughts are convincing me otherwise unfortunately.

  18. My OCD started after watching a show called Faces of Death. After watching it I couldn’t get the pictures out of my mind. I went through a whole year of the utmost horror. It’s a miracle that I didn’t end my life. I have matured so much in the last twenty years and have learned to not worry about the thoughts and to enjoy life anyway. It’s kind of like a rebellion against any guilt trips that would try to take me back to those horrible thoughts. I have also found that by making strong connections with other people the thoughts tend to subside. Sometimes, when I know people trust me, I am able to say no to the thoughts. It’s like I know people trust me and like me and so I am able to push any bad thoughts away because I would never want to let them down. But the year of horror that I spent in 1991 was right out of a Stephen King novel and I don’t wish what I went through on anyone. And anyone else that goes through this can breathe a sigh of relief because you are less likely to commit any of these horrible acts than a normal person would. In fact, what I have read and researched shows that a normal person is more likely to act out in violence than someone with OCD. This means you can laugh at what you’re going through because what you think is going to happen is highly unlikely to happen.

  19. Thank you so, so much. This is a topic I’ve NEVER talked to anyone about. I started developing OCD when I was about very young (about 6/7 years old), and being a kid, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. First it started with the little things: repeating simple tasks over and over again, continually feeling the need to wash my hands after every task, these lead to my mind being occupied 24/7 with various repetitive thoughts (for examples scenes in movies, an event that took pace that day etc).. Eventually this began to get worse, and I started developing other obsessions and compulsions; I ended up having these horrific mental images of my family in various gruesome situations, often me being the one to cause the pain. Whenever I saw a sharp object or anything that could potentially cause harm my mind suddenly flicked to a dark place where I would imagine that I would suddenly turn into an animal and attack the people I loved most in this world. Again, I was only about 8/9 at this point and these thoughts were causing me so much pain, and no one even knew, because I thought I was sick and messed up and should keep it a secret because if others found out, surely they’d lock me away. I could never ever dream of hurting anyone, I was a really good kid, and very kind and warm to others, so always wondered why I was being punished.

    I always thought that there was something wrong with me, so never talked to people about it, the most my parents knew was that I was obsessed with washing my hands, because that was the only visible symptom of the OCD. I tried to get myself to stop by just thinking of anything else when I got these images, and eventually over time it was easier to block them out.

    I’m 18 years old now, and feel I’ve come along way from those dark days of my childhood, where I really didn’t feel like a normal child. I still suffer heavily form OCD, but it’s mainly the hand washing and over the top hygiene, but from time to time, the dark thoughts do creep in and repetition strikes, but I’ve learnt to ignore them until they go away.

    This article brought me closure, and made me realise I don’t have a twisted mind, but unfortunately happen to have been a victim of OCD in my childhood.

    Thank you again.

  20. Hello Dr. Seay, ive been dealing with this problem for a little over 3years now and its been the most difficult time of my life. I am a loveing person with a great family and could not understand why i was destined to be cursed. I understand my disorder how harmless these thoughts are but it took a year living in silence to finally research this. Now the thoughts are automatic and my unfortunately intelligent mind is so quick to make most situations in my day uncomfortable. It all started with a thought of drowning my neice who i love dearly and now my mind can make everyday life a nightmare. I am a very strong headed individual and am very hard on myself dealing with this matter. I have great friends all of which look at me as normal and happy. I am successfull in my career and a respectable leader. This ocd on crack as i like to call it has a way of stipping your happiness and your valued things in life that i just mentioned. I feel alone and on auto pilot. I will never quit because this isn’t the kind of thing you can just throw in the towel. i just want to thank you for telling our story because we need to be heard and not classified or generalized. For other suffers out there i dont know you personally but we will get threw this and in the mean time let’s show the world just how great we are.

  21. Hello! I am 35 years old, and pregnant for the first time. I am also bipolar and struggle with intrusive/obsessive thoughts of harm about my son, and he’s not even here yet. This hit me like a ton of bricks at about 12 weeks pregnant. I weaned myself off of my meds, and that’s when it all started. I was told I’d never get pregnant, and so when I found out, I was exited. That quickly turned into panic, fear, and torture, as you can imagine when the horrible intrusive thoughts started. I am so petrified of post-partum illness, but have spoken with my obgyn/psychiatrist about it and we are going to discuss a plan of action just in case or does strike after my son is born. I am now 28 weeks pregnant, and I’m taking a far less aggressive anti-anxiety, mood stabilizer, and sleep aide. Once my son is born, I will go back to my more aggressive meds and look into a support group or therapist in my area. In the meantime, I pray, attend church, and keep busy by going things I enjoy. I tell myself these are just thoughts and they do not define me. I am grateful for sites like these and I wish everyone love and peace during their struggle and encourage them to keep fighting. We are all in this together! Xoxo

  22. Glad i found this site …i have anxiety due to a laid off job and lost my.

    employment, constant worring about my money rent food car..repairs…i felt i was going crazy thinking wierd thoughts and feeling fear that why im i feeling this way im 30 yrs old female healthy, love my kids and husbend but ..feel hope now and wanna seek some OCD…counselling, i am also oWith washing my hands and ..always google things online ..about health

  23. This all started about a month ago. I started having thoughts of strangling my girlfriend, whom I love being with so much. Over the span of a month, these thoughts have consumed my life. There are times throughout the day when they go away but before I know it, they come back with a vengeance. I keep telling myself that I’m not a psychopath and I’d never act on it!! I got anxiety medicine from my GP because it was causing me to have panic attacks, but I rarely take it because it makes my anxiety go away and it scares me. I start school in a few days and I don’t know if I can handle it. I went to a psychotherapist and she told me it was caused by anxiety and stress but didn’t mention OCD. I’m scared all the time. I barely get out of bed and it’s taking a toll on my relationship. I’m also always researching this online. Much like a ritual. It affects me all day long and I’m scared that my body is going to get used to feeling this way!! I keep telling myself I would kill myself before I hurt someone, but I don’t know if I would! I wish I was in Florida so I could pay your clinic a visit. You seem to be one of the only doctors who know what I’m going through! Last night I felt like I was finally over it! I went 6 hours without a thought, then this morning it hit me hard! I’m really scared about this…

  24. Can anyone recommend any good self help books on this subject?

    • At last a life by Paul David is an excellent book regarding self help written in a context that’s understandable.

  25. I seriously need help… or someone to talk to about this I am going insane….25 – 30 years all inside

    • I’ve been where you are and you need to try to calm down. You’re NOT insane and will never act on these thoughts.. ever. No matter how scary they feel or the fearful “what if” urge is. Learn relaxation techniques. Go talk to a professional. You will be ok. Think of the thoughts as “thought bullies” and keep replacing them with positive thoughts. Or let them run their course and just know that these are empty worries and can not hurt you.

  26. Thank you for this website, I just started having thoughts of harming my 10 year old son and have not slept in 3 days, I am too scared to fall asleep. How do I help myself now???? I need sleep as I think the tirednes is making it worse, I can’t tell my husband, he will freak out and make it worse and then I will be really scared.

  27. Hello, glad to know i’m not the only one. I have suddenly started having these morbid obsessions about 7 months ago and it has been hell. I thought was going nuts, turning into a serial killer etc.. I’ve tried 4 different SSRI’s and although they kind of clear my head at times, I cant bare to stay on them for more than 2 weeks, they make me depressed, angry, manic etc. Which leaves me to believe i may have potential light bipolar. IS THERE ANY DRUG TO HELP OCD THAT WON’T MAKE ME FEEL AWFUL? I DON’T THINK ANY ANTI DEPRESSENTS WILL WORK FOR ME. PLEASE AND THANKS.

  28. Hi, I am 12 and I fear I have OCD from familiar thoughts to other comments. I havn’t told me parents/family yet, because I’m afraid to. I did some early searching for OCD therapists in Australia/SA/Adelaide. But I cannot find one. So I now fear that even if I approach my parents with my thought of this problem, we wont be able to find a therapist to treat me. I just most fear me acting on my actions at night, when my thoughts most come. So now I just try and go to sleep early. And the amount of guilt that builds up in me is horrible. It’s like, a vomiting feeling that doesn’t go away. I really want someone to help. What should I do?

  29. Hey Steve. Thanks for the articles! I have ocd now for 20 yrs. I’ve had every theme imaginable but the hardest for me is harm ocd about my precious son. I’m a divorced dad and my son is 11 and this is probably the third time I’ve done this about him. It tears me apart emotionally and physically and mentally. The thoughts are so unlike me. I don’t have a violent bone in my body and I have always been a caring loving family man from a really close knit family. I have had harming thoughts about my dad yrs ago, girlfriends ex wife and basically anyone I’d gladly give my life for if needed. The ones about my son are the worst. It’s usually what ifs but back in 2008 I conquered the what if thoughts and I had the crazy thought of I want to harm him pop in my head. It literally made me go into a downward spiral. It was like a ton of bricks fell on my soul. Well I eventually got over it and all was good until 2010 when my ocd latched onto health issues. Mostly stomach viruses and compulsive nausea. I was nauseous most days until one month ago while lying in bed sick I had a intrusive thought of how some terminally ill ppl commit su—de. This caught me off guard and scared me and I remembered I got my son that night. And I thought oh god I hope I don’t go nuts or something. And that is where this episode of harm o started one month ago. I remembered the same I want to harm thought and that is the obsessive thought this time too. I can be feeling better and that thought comes up. I want to harm him. Then I try to reason and remind myself it’s all ocd and my ocd will make me think but you really want too!’ Then my heart sinks I get anxious and ask for reassurance or search the net to prove that it’s just ocd. It’s like ocd has a comeback for every reassuring thought I have. Like I can say well I’m anxious and hate the thoughts so that’s proof it’s not me. Then ocd will make me doubt if I’m anxious or hate the thoughts. This leads to doubt doubt doubt more anxiety sadness and negative thoughts. I just can’t understand these thoughts and for the life of me I don’t understand how someone can doubt their own morals and beliefs. I mean ppl don’t just change. I’m 43 and I’ve always been the model dad. Or atleast tried my best. I give my kid all the love I can and he means the world to me. I would just like to hear from a professional that the thoughts don’t have to come in the form of what if. Most do but this I want to thought is literally making me a nervous recluse all day everyday. I wanna add that whenever it leaves for ever how long I know without a doubt that it’s all ocd. Then I feel like me again. Happy grateful and loving. But when it comes back it starts all over. Any insight? Thanks steve

  30. I an 45 yes old and have been suffering from this since my very early twenties.i thought I was going crazy.even though I know what it is and and on medication it is still a burden to live with. I wish it on no one.

  31. Hello,

    I was just wondering if anyone could help me answer this question. I’ve been dealing a lot with Pure O OCD the last few months, and the violent thoughts always bothered me. Although they bothered me, I at least knew that meant that I didn’t want them. Now that I’m off my medication, however, I still get the thoughts and impulses, but they don’t bother me. Could the medicine have changed my morals? Could I really enjoy killing people now? I’m just second guessing everything I think. I’m asking myself stuff like how do you know you don’t/wouldn’t like killing someone? How do you know you really want to get help and not just go hurt people? I just can’t handle these thoughts and idk what to do. I try to do ERP with hurting people (usually my parents), but it freaks me out that killing them in my thoughts gives me no emotional response whatsoever. I don’t know what to do 🙁

    • I know exactly what you are going through. If ever you need to talk, I’d be more than happy to help. I myself am looking for someone with that same shared experience

  32. This article absolutely amazed me because it lists the exact symptoms I have been experiencing for 5 years. I’m on the verge of graduating college and I tend to notice that these awful thoughts gain strength around times where my life is about to endure a significant change. Should I start seeing a psychiatrist? Are there actual methods designed for people with these thoughts to control them? I fear that this will happen to me the rest of my life and this secret has been weighing on me for far too long.

  33. I find myself in a constant mental battle, I just had a baby 13 months ago and My biggest fear is that anything will happen to him. I don’t like to watch the news ,specially when it has to do with children because it impacts me emotionally in a negative way, as though I put myself in the victims shoes and it all goes south after that. then I get myself together but then have these thoughts thats pop in my head of harming my child, and I don’t know if its because of the news just read or saw on tv that stays in my head. I would never hurt my child, but i fear every time for his safety because of everything i see on tv. I try to surround myself with positive people and go to church and meditate but sometimes this feeling of sadness and fear takes over my body. I overall control my thoughts for a while and don’t think of anything negative for a while but when I see news they come back. I need professional to tell me its ok and how I be stronger and not be too sensitive to others suffering .

  34. I am along term sufferer of OCD and have witnessed first hand that it hits where it hurts the most. It basically manifests itself to your worst, darkest fears. For me, my worst obsession is causing harm to the ones closest to me. Thankfully now I am able to recognize that they are just thoughts and there is no real threat but every so often if my mood is low or I am stressed out, a huge chunk of my mind starts to question my sanity and the ‘what ifs’ arise. If it weren’t for the internet I would be a lot worse off. It helps to hear that I am not alone, even though I would never wish this affliction on my worst enemy. False memories and delusions are a horrible manifestations of OCD and when I never had as much insight to my problem, it took over my life. If you are a sufferer of OCD I feel your pain and you are not alone…

  35. This information was extremely helpful. It’s nice to see of the things I’ve thought on here and worried about to remind myself that it’s all just a part of the OCD. This really is a debilitating mental illness and one that’s been testing my strength, for sure.

  36. I have a 22 year old son who was diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 9. Recently he told his step dad some horrifying thoughts he has been having about hurting children. I have never known him to hurt anyone or hurt animals. Does this type of OCD partner with Aspergers regularly or is it possible he was diagnosed incorrectly? After reading your article along with many others I feel as if my son is a text book example of Harm Obsessions & Violent Obsessions. We live in Michigan and I am currently trying to find him a therapist but not sure what to ask exactly. I see that most of them treat OCD but I worry they will not understand this part and try to lock him up. Can you recommend someone in Michigan or do you have guidelines to follow? Thank you for bringing this to light. I was so lost not knowing what or how to help my son. Now I feel as if there is hope and he does not have to feel so alone.

  37. I have the same problem for years now and got worse when I became religious, sometimes it got better but I started policeing monitering my thoughts and it just got worse. I still have violent thoughts of ridiculous evil that makes me scared.. I argue all day with my thoughts; people think im nutts… Maybe I am…

  38. hello doctor steve seay ……i am also a sufferer of obsessive compulsive obsession came to me in the form of scrupolisity ….. i have very strong urge to displease GOD..or to curse or disbelieve god …..these are sort of anti religious urges ….so do you think i am under the attack of devil or am i suffering from ocd scrupolisity ……plz answer my question according to your knowledge……thank you in advance

  39. Are there any treatments for the harm/violence obsessions?

  40. I really don’t feel my self every body probably looks at me and thinks I have no problem or I’m alway confident i had surgery on my foot about 2 months ago going in three I was fine after having my surgery I began to get a little down because I couldn’t really walk and I’m so used to moving around working and not really depending on anyone to take care of me so when I finally had to sit due to me not walking I began to feel hopeless although I still felt mentally ok day all of a sudden I started having bad thoughts that I would be a harm to myself and my 4 year old little girl which made me feel like a horrible mom and made my depression worse causing me to think more of suicide thinkinking my daughter would be saver without me I began to become fightened and I’m very disturbed by these thought because I don’t wanna harm myself my daughter that I love or any one around me I’ve never been a violent harming person and before my surgery I was an outgoing confident happy women so I don’t understand the thoughts I feel I would get out of control I don’t feel normal and I want my life back I don’t wanna be afraid to be by myself or be by myself around my daughter because I would not wanna do anything stupid I’ve never acted on my thoughts but they feel real I used to want more children but because I’m experiencing this I don’t any more that’s horrible why does this happen …..this is a very dark tunnel but I have hope that it can be completely over …I feel like a freak…

    • Angela, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with this. Don’t despair, though — effective treatment for these types of symptoms does exist. Seek out an OCD expert that can guide you in how to address these concerns. This could give you better peace of mind and help you learn strategies for addressing these thoughts effectively. Don’t let these thoughts stand in the way of your relationship with your daughter — or interfere with what you might want for yourself in the future. It can get immeasurably better if you approach it in the right way.

  41. I’ve come across this k in ng for some advice my son has Aspergers is nearly 18 the past month or two he has had these thoughts directed to myself and when he goes outside,he is currently living with his nan…he has amazing morals but suffered with ocd with other things for years,this has completely come out of the blue…His thoughts of hurting myself and others are absolutely consuming him to the point he took himself to the police station saying he would rather hurt himself than anyone else…I believe these thoughts are a massive fear not an act,and he’s consumed by anxiety,its beyond hurtful to see him like this,as I type I’m in tears….I also believe his inability and will! To engage in any life,friends ect,he left edu ratio. At 14 has led to such isolation that these thoughts have become intrusive,he is back under the mental health team again! I’m just hoping the fear of becoming ‘I’ll(er) outways the need for change…Any encouraging words grateful! Or a hug! 😉

    • There is definitely hope! It’s good that he’s working with the mental health team — hopefully, between therapy and (possibly) medication, he’ll be able to get back on track. If he has OCD, then ERP would be helpful for teaching him skills to deal with the obsessions and compulsions.

  42. Hei steven.Im Norwegian and fond this webside. What do you men with impulse/urge?can it feels real,like you want to harm/kill?please can some answer Norway its not much litterature about it.please

    • Yes, that can certainly happen with OCD. Take a look at the comments on my post about OCD & pets. It discusses this topic in a bit more detail.

  43. I suffer from from harm obsessions and I have the will power to challenge it.

    • how do you challenge it?

  44. How do I cope with it as I really don’t like the way my head is and I want it to stop

  45. i read this article a while ago, when the experience of this form of OCD was at its peak, and it is what really started my healing from it. so first of all, i can not thank you enough for this. i wasted much time of my life because i was to afraid to even type in my symptoms, yet when i did, my entire life changed. It really broke the mental loop and got me to detach and stop identifying with passing thoughts. It still comforts me to come back to it and re read what it has to say. to people struggling with this i highly recommend learning meditation or yoga techniques. those have helped me the most (aside from reading this article). people still struggling i want to say i am so so so so so very sorry that you are going through this and experiencing this “internal hell”. it gets better and all things that arise, will fall away again. blessings to everyone and a special thanks to you steven!

  46. I loved all the articles, read each carefully. The question I have that I don’t see covered, with all these “obsessions” and “unwanted” thoughts, what if one chose to embrace and act on it oppose to hiding or shaming himself/herself into those categories. I could be wrong impulses can be good to act on and when do we draw the line to choose which to do act on or not. we cannot always consider someone elses feelings and instant gratification can be useful tool to motivate oneself ..I feel now days people reach to quickly for answers in pills or are told they are mentally unhealthy.. when did we move to a society where it’s ok to get hurt but not hurt back..

    • People with harm OCD experience unwanted thoughts and impulses that do not reflect their “true” intentions. The difficulty for people with harm OCD, though, is that they are unable to fully convince themselves that these thoughts are false alarms. The more they try to discredit their thoughts, the more they become entangled in them.

      Some individuals also get stuck because they have some previous experiences that seem to confirm the validity of the thought. The OCD then causes them to be all-or-nothing in how they perceive themselves. “If this one thing is ‘true’ or has happened, then this must all be true.

      For example, if someone has ever acted aggressively (which is probably most everyone), then the OCD would have them characterize themselves as an aggressive or dangerous person. In CBT terms, this is an example of “overgeneralization” or “all-or-nothing thinking.”

      The same can be true for some individuals with sexual obsessions. “If I have ever had such-and-such a thought or have engaged in such-and-such behavior, then I must be such-and-such.” Again, this can lead to misperceptions of the self.

      I agree that the issue is complex. This is why I always encourage people to consult with an OCD expert if they’re concerned about the particular thoughts they’re having.

  47. I just ran in to this post and it feels as if I wrote it. Can you please advise me now how to find a Dr who specializes in these types of treatments. I have been looking and have not found anyone

  48. Good to hear it’s not just me then. I am 62, have a life-long history of anxiety and depressive disorder – although it’s gotten better with age – and occasionally have intrusive thoughts that I’m going to hurt my dog. What’s come to me is – I’m angry at myself for not making wanted changes in my life “fast enough” and feel powerless, and I want to take it out on something weaker. That’s all I can come up with. That and I sometimes resent all the care that a dog requires – she is my third dog and I have ptsd and am often tired. I am hyper – neat by some standards and all the hair, etc. drives me nuts. I have got to find a way to let up on myself and relax. Thanks for listening.

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