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Postpartum OCD – Fear of Harming Your Baby

Postpartum OCD - Fear of Harming Your Baby

Postpartum OCD is a form of acute-onset OCD that develops after the arrival of a new baby. Parents with postpartum OCD often experience unwanted aggressive or sexual thoughts about their infant.

Parents brace themselves for many changes when a new baby comes home. As new routines replace old, life quickly becomes a confusing jumble of cherished memories, bottles, and dirty diapers.

Parenting can be joyful, but it can also be terrifying.

Parenting comes with many important responsibilities, and it can be intimidating–if not downright frightening–to be responsible for protecting and caring for a vulnerable new life.

What is Postpartum OCD (ppOCD)?

For some parents (mothers and fathers alike), new parenthood may spark postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a surprisingly common anxiety disorder that is associated with violent and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges (Fairbrother & Abramowitz, 2007). Symptoms may begin suddenly after the new baby arrives home, or pre-existing OCD symptoms may be exacerbated by new parental responsibilities.

Postpartum OCD symptoms can involve virtually any type of OCD symptom, but harm obsessions and sexual obsessions are especially common. Harm obsessions may include fears of accidental harm or intentional harm coming to the infant.

Postpartum OCD – Unwanted Violent Thoughts

Consider the mother of a colicky young infant who, frustrated by her baby’s crying, has a mental image of herself throwing her baby down the stairs. This thought occurs unexpectedly and feels dangerous, and the woman becomes extremely upset by this thought.

This mother might think:
“Why am I having this thought? Does this mean I might harm my baby? What if I lose control and throw my baby down the stairs? Mothers shouldn’t have thoughts like this.”

In response to these thoughts, the mother may avoid going near staircases while holding her infant or may hold her baby extra tightly whenever she is near the stairs. She may become especially fearful of caring for her baby whenever it is crying, for fear that she might do something impulsive or dangerous. If certain parenting activities feel especially risky, these responsibilities may be delegated to other caregivers.

Postpartum OCD – Unwanted Thoughts About Danger or Accidents

Another common type of postpartum OCD symptom is the recurrent, intrusive fear that something bad has happened to the baby. For example, a parent might experience recurrent thoughts or intrusive images of their baby choking or suffocating in their crib.

This parent might think:
“It’s my responsibility to prevent any harm from coming to my child. If I have a dangerous thought, it’s important that I check every time just to make sure my baby’s okay. After all, that’s what a good parent would do. If I have a worry and don’t check and then something bad actually does happen, then my baby’s death will be all my fault.”

In response to these thoughts, the parent may engage in repeated checking behaviors to make sure that the baby is okay. These checks may occur many hundreds of times a day. However, the relief that comes from each check is fleeting. Whenever a new doubt pops up, the parent feels compelled to check again, just to make sure.

Postpartum OCD – Unwanted Sexual Thoughts

A third common postpartum OCD symptom involves having unwanted sexual thoughts about your child. These may frequently occur when changing your baby’s diapers or giving your baby a bath. These obsessions may consist of thoughts (e.g., What if I just touched my child inappropriately? What if I’m aroused by this?), graphic sexual images involving the child, or impulses to act in a sexually inappropriate way.

A father with these types of obsessions might think:
“What kind of person has thoughts like this? Does this mean that I’m a pedophile or that I might be capable of molesting my child? This is sick. I shouldn’t be having thoughts like this.”

In response to these unwanted thoughts, the father might begin to avoid the infant. Avoidance may be especially evident in situations involving nudity (e.g., changing diapers, giving baths, changing clothes). Parents with postpartum sexual obsessions often avoid physical contact with the child (e.g., hugging the child, having the child sit on your lap) or being alone with the child.

Postpartum OCD: Fear of Harming Your Baby

In the examples above, a spontaneous, unexpected thought gives rise to the fear that the parent might pose a threat to their baby or might act in a way to put their baby at risk. Parents with postpartum OCD have no desire or intention to harm–however, the occurrence of an unwanted or threatening thought leads them to question their baby’s safety, their own intentions, their own morality, or their own fitness to parent. Moreover, some parents with OCD may misinterpret normal anger or frustration with their child as an indicator that they might truly want to harm their child. I discuss this topic briefly in my post on anger and OCD.

Despite these fears, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (ppOCD) is not associated with an increased risk of harm to the child or infant (Fairbrother & Abramowitz, 2007).

As with all forms of OCD, individuals with postpartum OCD engage in a variety of rituals and avoidance behaviors in response to their obsessions. These typically include checking behaviors, washing behaviors, situational avoidance, and mental rituals (Fairbrother & Abramowitz, 2007). These rituals maintain symptoms of the illness, because they prevent disconfirmation of faulty OCD-related beliefs.

Given the way that postpartum OCD works, the more intensely the parent scrutinizes their unwanted thoughts, the more severe their OCD becomes. The more the person tries to figure out why the thought is occurring or how to make it stop, the more often the thought will reoccur. Parents with severe postpartum OCD may have near-constant unwanted thoughts about their child. These symptoms may cause the parent to dread spending time with the child, which affects bonding and can wreak havoc on the parent-child relationship.

Because violent and sexual obsessions stand in stark contrast to what new parents feel they “should” be feeling, postpartum OCD symptoms often cause a great deal of guilt, shame, and confusion. Due to the nature of ppOCD symptoms, postpartum OCD often results in extreme isolation, alienation, and depression and is sometimes a primary contributor to parental separation or divorce.

Although many people are acquainted with postpartum depression, fewer are familiar with postpartum OCD. This is true for several reasons. First, postpartum OCD tends to be relatively uncommon in comparison to postpartum depression. In a relatively small-scale study, Wenzel, Haugen, Jackson, and Brendle (2005) estimated that ppOCD affects about 2.6% of mothers (when assessed 8 weeks after giving birth). Second–and perhaps more importantly–the symptoms of ppOCD can be so disturbing that few sufferers speak out about what they’re experiencing. They fear the looks of horror and disgust from their loved ones, the possibility that their children will be taken away, or that their doctors will determine that they’re “crazy” and institutionalize them.

The reality is that, just like other forms of OCD, postpartum OCD is a treatable condition. The treatment of choice for ppOCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP), a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that was designed explicitly to address symptoms of OCD.

For more information about postpartum OCD, feel free to contact my South Florida psychological practice which is located in Palm Beach County, Florida, or review the list of common ppOCD symptoms below.

Symptoms of Postpartum OCD (ppOCD)

Common symptoms of postpartum OCD include fears of accidentally or intentionally harming your child.

      • Fear that you will act on an unwanted urge to hurt or kill your child.
        • Fear of stabbing your child.
        • Fear of beating your child to death.
        • Fear of choking your child.
        • Fear of shaking your baby to death.
        • Fear that you may lose control and drown your child during bathing.
        • Fear of throwing your baby down the stairs.
      • Fear of acting in a sexually inappropriate manner toward your child, which may occur during changing, bathing, or dressing your child.
        • Fear that you may secretly want to molest your child.
        • Fear that you have inappropriately touched your child.
        • Fear that you are sexually attracted to your child.
      • Fear that your irresponsibility will lead to your child’s death.
        • Fear of accidentally poisoning your child by not properly cleaning their bottles or toys.
        • Fear of accidentally exposing your child to chemicals (e.g., cleaning products).
        • Fear that not checking on your child enough will result in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
        • Fear of your baby suffocating or choking due to your own carelessness.

NOTE: These thoughts are often associated with graphic mental images of violence.

Questions? Comments? Struggling with symptoms of postpartum OCD? Sound off below.

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  1. Excellent article. I think it is so important to raise awareness about ppOCD as it has the potential to ruin what should be one of the happiest and most rewarding times in parent’s lives. Thankfully, as you say, ppOCD is treatable!

    • Thanks, Janet! Although nearly everyone has heard about postpartum depression, ppOCD gets very little mention in mainstream media. Thank goodness for the internet. 🙂

  2. I agree with Janet. As I already had OCD by the time I had my children I struggled with some of these issues. Luckily I was diagnosed with OCD when my eldest was only a number of months old so I began to understand the tricks my brain was playing, however it still cast a shadow for my husband and I on the first couple of years of each of my children’s lives. It must be so awful for parents that think that these thoughts may be a true reflection of their intentions.

    • I’m glad that in your case, Tanja, you had a bit of a forewarning…although forewarning or not, the symptoms can certainly be distressing.

  3. Where were you in 1992, Dr. Seay? LOL. I had a horrific case of PPOCD. It was bad with all four of my children but the worst with my last. I was throwing her in the woodstove, cutting her with a knife or razor blade, on and on… I kept seeing images of bloodletting. I was completely convinced that I was demon possessed and I spent 7 years trying to get exorcised but instead got brainwashed. It was a very frightening time and no one should have to endure this alone. I’ve written a memoir about my experiences including growing up with an anxiety disorder but I haven’t found a publisher yet.

    I’m so grateful that people don’t have to suffer with this any longer. There is hope and help. Thank you for spreading the word.

  4. Hi I live in the uk and have got a lot of good information from your website, we don’t seem to get that knowledge over here, iv got a few questions why dose OCD always seem to be about things we fear most and attack things we love most. Also I have had pure o for about 8 years but once I get rid of one type say harm OCD it changed to another like Rocd is this common and if so why, also you don’t seem to cover much on Rocd can you give me a bit of information on why we get this. Thanks brett

    • Brett,

      Unfortunately, that just tends to be the nature of OCD. It seeks out our Achilles’ heel, so to speak. The reason this might be is because when it comes to certain issues (harm, sex, relationships etc.), we tend to think that our thoughts reflect our “true identities.” In fact, many people with OCD consider their thoughts to be much more meaningful than they actually are…which can lead to all sorts of difficulties like rituals, avoidance behaviors, etc., that then perpetuate and strengthen our fears.

      Symptoms may shift and evolve over time, but the strategies used to manage different types of symptoms remain the same. Once you understand how OCD works, you’ll be able to use consistent strategies across symptom domains. Regardless of the specific symptom area, these strategies involve learning to live with uncertainty.

      RE: ROCD, you’re right. I haven’t written a post that specifically addresses ROCD. I’ll certainly do that at some point. Much like other types of Pure-O symptoms, ROCD-related doubt feels dangerous, as it reflects uncertainty about our identities and/or our future. These are things we can’t know in the ways that OCD tells us we “should.”

  5. Dear Steven,

    I am suffering PPOCD as of now, it took me awhile to know this is a symptom but not demonic-possessed. Many stressful events stacked, especially I’m about to be unemployed and without income, during this time and with my history of anxiety problems (worry too much, think too far, paranoid about almost everything), PPOCD hits me hard just a few days after my child’s birth.

    I am now under treatment with PP symptom specialist-psychiatrist with SSRIs because there aren’t any good CBT-trained professionals on PPOCD around my area. However, the intrusive thoughts still sneaks in sometimes, especially when I am under heavy pressure from work and daily errands. I am seeking natural ways to co-work with medication, would moderate exercising be good? I was told not to exercise too much when under medication as speed-up heartrate may contribute to further anxiety?

    Look forward to your further suggestions. Thanks!

    • Exercise can be helpful for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Many of the individuals I know with OCD who are on SSRIs are able to exercise with no ill effects, but you should follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to decisions that could affect your personal health.

      Seeking balance in your life can also be helpful. It can be useful to prioritize health related activities (sleep, diet, etc.) and to spend time engaging in activities that reflect your personal values.

  6. I too have PPO CD/OCD. I am seeing a psychologist and a prayer counselor. I have received a referral for psychiatrist for medication. Some days are definitely better than others; it’s hard not to feel crazy. I have done a little bit of reading online and have found that other women have said that this will go away. Some days I believe that; some days it’s very hard to believe that. mostly thoughts of harm toward my child are gone but seem to be replaced by thoughts of harm to love ones. I don’t know what triggers I have and I have to think back to before this time to convince myself that I’m not crazy or psychopath or psychotic; that this isn’t me but again it’s a struggle. And i feel so down especially after the bad thoughts come up. I know it’s a disorder or an illness, but it’s still really hard not to feel like a freak. some days, I feel hopeful; today is not one of those days and that usually comes after a randomly intrusive thoughts of harm, which scare me. I guess I would just like some confirmation that at some point and will be able to look back and this will be a closed chapter in my life. Thank you

  7. I had pp ocd and I have pretty much learned the thpughts but i still have a fear of knives. I don’t think.I will ever get over it. My question is, if I don’t ever get over it how will I later explain this fear to my children? I don’t want them to be scared of them to or me.

  8. Hi I had ppocd when my son was born 11 years ago and didn’t know what I was going through, turns out I already had OCD and didn’t know I had that either but it was exaggarated by the birth of my son even though he was my third child. I had thoughts I would throw him out the window and was frightened of walking past his cot in case I had the urge to throw him out it was awful I would spend ages under my duvet telling myself it was a thought but it wouldn’t work in the end I went to the doctor and she said to me was there a risk of harm to my baby and I horrified said no but I didn’t feel comfort from the doctor instead I spent the rest of the weekend not wanting to touch my son for fear of harm to him. After that weekend something changed I told myself I’d rather kill myself than hurt my kids and now I have suicide obsessions and have had these for about 11 years now even when good things happen or bad I get them. What I’m saying to everyone is its important to recognise them as ppocd I went on to have my daughter and I never went through my ocd after having her I had no thoughts of harm towards her at all instead I’m just left with thoughts of harm to me. Thankyou for putting these articles on here and I have read the suicide obsessions one and great to finally read that this is normal in someone with OCD and considering its the only thing I obsess about I know it’s obsessions and ruminations thankyou.

    • Thanks for reading, Tracy. It sounds like it’s been a very difficult road. I’m glad that you’ve gotten clarity about your symptoms–harm obsessions (directed to self and others) are surprisingly common, and it can be helpful when you realize that you’re not alone.

  9. Hi, I also suffer from PPOCD. I suffered from undiagnosed OCD for years until I got the courage to visit a psychiatrist who diagnosed within minutes. Finally all my fears and rituals of counting and repetition made sense. I got on several different SSRI’s until I found the right one in Lexapro. I had my daughter 3 years ago and I can see looking back that I had some PPOCD but nothing overwhelming. I had my son 2 years later and oh Lord, I was hit like a ton of bricks. My first really intense episode was over Thanksgiving weekend and I had intrusive thoughts of suffocating him. I literally fell apart after that. I avoided him like the plague (luckily we a nanny who adores him and whom he adores). I was in full panic attack for days. I couldn’t eat, sleep, think, nothing…much less be a mom to either of my kids. I very very very quickly got back on the SSRI’s, started counseling, started an exercise routine and I’ve been on the way back out of the cloud ever since.

    I still have really bad days…like today. My son is ill and really fussy and I’ve been trying to take care of him and my daughter has wanted all of my attention also. I got really frustrated with her and now I am being plagued by intrusive thoughts of the “You want to hurt her don’t you?” variety. Logically I know what they are and I can usually talk myself off the ledge. But right now, I have a pit in my stomach, my hands are shaky and I am in fear of being near her at all.

    BUT I know that it is these very symptoms that should give me comfort because they show that the thoughts are not me and not what I want and that is why I react with fear and guilt and anguish.

    It does get better, it really does.

    • Rachel, thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure many people reading here can relate, and it can be so encouraging to hear that it gets better. Even though you still have anxiety spikes, it sounds like cognitively, you are approaching these thoughts in a healthy way.

      Are you practicing exposure or just response prevention? I find that when you add exposure, it can decrease the thoughts significantly, as exposure allows you to really turn the tables on your OCD. Instead of it hunting you, you are hunting it.

  10. I think, I have been struggling with postpartum ocd, since my son was about 5 months old, and now he is 2. I have never been diagnose, but some of the systems are there. I have been looking up this disorder for several weeks now. It’s like I’m having a war with my own mind everyday. I just want to be at peace with myself. I love my son very much and I can’t believe this is me and I’m going through this. I never use to be like this. It seems like some days the thoughts are gone, but then they return. It’s so frighting, I just want to be able to enjoy life again.:(

    • Find a local therapist who specializes in OCD so that you can get some assistance with working on this. Postpartum OCD is treatable, and working on it can improve your quality of life as well as your relationship with your son.

  11. Hi, I’ve been having these kinds of thoughts since my early 20s (I’m now 31) and am now pregnant for the first time. I’m about 6 months in, and it’s getting worse and worse. I’m so scared about what’s going on in my head, and every time I seem to have got a grip on it, it comes back 10 times worse. It’s like my mind’s punishing me and every time I try to think “this isn’t me, it’s just fault wiring in my brain”, it’s like I can’t let myself believe it. It’s as if I let these thoughts go in any way, that means I want to have them. I’ll spend hours online trying to reassure myself that it is OCD, but never be able to actually believe that it’s not that I’m just evil. I’ve never told anyone about this before, but I’m so scared that I’ll end up hurting my baby or myself, I don’t know what to do. I’m frightened that if I go and speak to my GP or a psychiatrist they might tell me that I don’t have OCD, because I don’t have any compulsions, and that these thoughts are my own, and that I’m actually just a bad and sick person. Every time it’s really bad I convince myself that I’ll make an appointment in the morning, but I’m always too scared. Now I’m frightened that if I tell someone I’ll go on some kind of register and they’ll take my baby away, or that if I talk to my husband, he wont understand and will leave me. I just want these thoughts to go away, and be ok again.

    • Given the amount of distress you’re experiencing, I would strongly recommend that you talk with your husband and doctor. These symptoms can be treated, and it sounds like you are really suffering. Rituals include reassurance-seeking and figuring out behaviors, in addition to overt behaviors. It sounds like in this case, trying to convince yourself it’s OCD has also become a ritual. If left unaddreased, these rituals will keep you trapped.

      • Thanks being so honest, I really relate to the lady’s post above and Dr, I also make those behaviorus a ritual in an attempt to free my mind from those intrusive thoughts. What do you suggest I do instead of those rituals? Can you sugggest another coping mechanism?

        • Overcoming OCD is based around accepting uncertainty. If you let the anxiety alone and don’t force it to decrease through compulsions, it will eventually decrease on its own — even without rituals. This is how you gradually short-circuit the OCD. You can also incorporate ERP to more proactively expose to these thoughts. Also, sometimes making the decision to lean in (instead of leaning away from your thoughts) can help reduce the intensity. This may seem paradoxical, but it helps establish an “I can handle this” mindset in relation to your OCD.

  12. Dear Steven,

    I am finding your posts very helpful.Recently, I have been really scared of being sexually attracted to my baby daughter. However, there is one question I don’t think I have seen the answer to (apologies if I missed it).

    Sometimes, when I am in the presence of my baby daughter, or bath her, I get the impression I may be having some sort of slight arousal. Not an erection, but some dull feeling in my glans, or perhaps even some movement of my penis.

    Do people with OCD sometimes get that? I have read that sometimes, just obsessing about sexual paraphilias can give you some sort of arousal, but that it does not always mean you have genuine improper sexual tastes. Or does it mean that I am in fact a pedophile?

    I still take some reassurance in the fact that, to apply one of your questions, I have been in a position where I could have acted out improper fantasies (I was alone with her), and have not done so! (I find that, when I am changing her, the pressure of doing it quickly and properly does help keeping strange toughts in check).

    Many thanks for any views!

    • I’m not sure I’ve been as clear as I should have been in my post above… I should have said that I have been alone with her several times, and have never done anything improper. Also, I don’t know whether I’m really having arousals, and whether they really are about her. Sorry for any confusion.

    • Hi Robert,

      The “Did it Move?” phenomenon is very common with sexual obsessions. Analyzing or trying to figure out the nature of arousal and/or sensations in your genitals is always inconclusive. No matter how much you analyze, you will never be able to prove anything conclusively. Recovery from sexual obsessions involves actively resisting efforts to analyze and/or “figure out” the meaning of these bodily sensations. In some cases, individuals in treatment actually build exposures and/or acceptance-based statements around these experiences.

      Wishing you all the best…

  13. Thank you for this article! It was very helpful. In the past I was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD but was successfully treated with CBT. It wasnt until recently I started having this again. I was even afraid to goggle this topic! It started again a month after having my baby. I don’t visualize hurting my baby, but I always would obsess about things then get anxious. For example I would think, omg he’s sleeping more than normal, did I not support his head enough and he got a head injury, did that speed bump I just went over in my truck give him whiplash, did I not hold him right when I was burping him and restrict is airway? Just complete irrational thoughts. I knew they were irrational and untrue but I couldn’t help but obsess over it. Being in the medical field I even find myself always taking his vitals! The only thing I can say positive about having ppocd, is that I know I am very protective and would never hurt my baby because i love him so much I’m constantly obsessing over making sure he is ok, but it just seems like I’m always worried he’s hurt that it just exhausts me and stresses me. I know he’s fine and happy but I can’t seem to make the OCD stop even though I know he’s fine! I’m thankful for your article. I knew I didn’t have postpartum depression but I knew something wasn’t right. People should enjoy having their newborn, not constantly obsess over them. It was very helpful to know that the more you think about the thoughts the worse it makes your OCD. I always thought if I replayed my day over and over in my head I’d give myself reassurance, but it’s helpful to know I’m just making the OCD worse!! I never knew that.I Thank you again, that put some of my over active brain to rest 🙂

  14. Does postpartum OCD get better? It seems like a lot of people on this website have had postpartum OCD for several years. I thought it was only suppossed to last two years after you had your baby at most.

  15. Iv been suffering the same thing for around 3 months now. I went to see my gp but wasn’t completely honest about my unwanted thoughts as I’m absolutly petrified that my gp will contact social services and have my baby taken away from me. I’m too scared to speak properly with my doctor due to this. I live in the UK.. can some one please assure me this not the case? I’m full of panic, fear and have been for days 🙁 its the worst thing iv ever felt.

  16. I can’t sleep for the panic.. my appetite has vanished and I feel so withdrawn as I’m petrified Il lose my son as I feel these thoughts aren’t normal.. people will think my baby is at risk although I know I would never hurt him. He is my world so why is it I have these awful thoughts towards him. It’s destroying me at the moment. I just need to be assured that if I do speak out that I won’t lose my baby. It’s tearing me apart.. 🙁 thanks for listening x

  17. Ppocd does get better. You learn to deal with the intrusive thoughts so that they have little impact on your life. I happen to use medication and therapy.

  18. hi Steven
    does anyone else suffer severe panic attacks due to these awful unwanted thoughts? I keep telling lng myself I’m going insane. The past week iv had to have someone with me 24/7 as I’m scared to be alone with my one year old. Iv been to my gp who has referred me to a mental health team but that will be weeks away. I can’t live in this constant fear and panic 🙁 although I know deep down I would never hurt my baby it doesn’t stop my mind telling me I will. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I keep obcessing over it.. looking up conditions etc convincing myself I most likely have ocdbut what if it develops into psychosis? I love my son dearly and this is just ruining my life right now.

  19. ok, I have never written on a blog but have been a silent reader, until now. I have a beautiful son who is 2.6 years. I had some intrusive thoughts over kitchen knives when he was born but was able to dismiss them. After 16 months of deprived sleep, breastfeeding and everything else I could tell something had changed in my brain. I heard a couple of very distressing stories and they have somehow transferred to my son. I am now so scared of the dam kitchen knives, I made my husband remove them last year. Since then, they have been back in the house for a year and I can be cooking with my son around and not have a fear that I will do something. It is the image of doing harm that tears me up inside and makes me not even want to live. I have been on Zoloft for a year and find this is not a drug that seems to be helping with my OCD obsessions. I like everyone else on these site want them gone because they are so disturbing and again it makes me not even want to live. I have become so tired of trying to fight this image and it tears me up and breaks my heart in two.
    I know that all SSRI’s are different for everyone but there must be one the will help with the obsessional side of OCD and postpardum? I would like some information on others of you with the same issues with postpardum and the icky, disturbing obsessions and what has helped. I have also been seeing a therapist and it is somewhat helpful, but at this point I think I need more deep therapy. The one thing that I have found that has helped is gabapentin in the smallest dose, it knocks the edge off and makes me feel somewhat normal. This does make me believe my issue is anxiety driven…it still hurts like hell and I am so tired of fighting my thoughts. Where did normal go?

  20. Hello to everybody. I’, from Serbia, so english is not my first language, so i’m sorry for my poor grammar. I’m a dad to a 1 year old daughter and have been having these intrusive thoughts about harming my baby in numerous ways. It started on the day when she was born and by the time they came home a couple of days later i was a mental wreck. I immediately went to a psychiatrist and began treatment. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in 2002 and been on medication for about 2.5 years with antidepressants and some other medication to calm me, i don’t know how to say it. Later on i learned to control it, and panic attacks never happened again. But i had always been pretty nervous most of the time every day. I functioned normally. When this happened with the baby i hadn’t had panic attacks just severe anxiety. I never took a day off of work, functioned normally but in extreme fear. I even bathed my daughter for the first month because my wife had a pretty tough labor. But i was always affraid that i could act upon these thoughts and had to use extra will power not to, cause i had urges to do it not only thoughts. Today a year later its better, but not great. I still have fears, thoughts and urges, but i spend time with her and play and go for walks, but never alone. A couple of days back i stayed alone with her for two hours most of which she was asleep, but i guess you could call that success. I was pretty nervous and no i start to get fed up with these thoughts cause they’re still there after a year of medication and am starting to feel frustrated. In serbia you don’t even tell people that you take sleeping pills because people will immediately stigmatize you as a mental patient and start avoiding you. Pretty tough mentality in this country. Almost like racism. Anyhow im taking Cipralex 10mg one every day for depression, Lorazepam 1mg a day for anxiety and my doctor prescribed me with Metoten 1 mg a day (Fluphenazin). There are no terapists in my area, and those that can be found in Belgrade, i cant afford. IS there a self help cognitive behavioral techniques that i can practice home on my own? Besides these medication how can i help myself other way? Im pretty stressed about this metoten drug, cipralex and lorazepam im ok with, because i heard it is a serious medication for psychosis? Should i even take them? I would very much appreciate any help or advice i can get because in serbia i can’t get any counseling.

  21. Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues.

    It was definitely informative. Your website is extremely helpful.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  22. Steven,

    Thank you so much for this informative post! It’s people like you that give me hope!

    I too have been dealing with OCD obsessions – specifically fear of killing my daughter. This has been by far the most difficult thing to deal with in my life. These thoughts started during my pregnancy and still plague me today, 5 years later, as I am now pregnant with my second child.

    I find myself fighting with these thoughts day in and day out and I’m clearly losing. Not only is it terrifying and upsetting, it’s exhausting and prevents me from dealing with the REAL stresses of life. I quickly lose focus and find myself in the constant battle against my ocd. The thoughts are horrible but I find the guilt associated with it even more depressing. OCD has taken the joy out of what should be the most rewarding experience of my life.

    The thoughts twist and turn in all different directions and the ones lately have been “How do you really know this is OCD and not your true intentions?” “What if the doctors are wrong?” “It’s been 5 years and you’re still not better, it must be because you truly want to kill your children”.

    It took me forever to find the right therapist for this since a lot of the ones I met were very inexperienced in this field. I would find myself explaining OCD to them which made me feel all the more helpless. I was also on paxil for a while which did wonders for me but as you know I had to stop all medications because I am now pregnant.

    Can you give me some tips as to what I could do during this time to help? Also, some specific exposures and responses that I can discuss with my therapist?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Amanda, I was wondering if you wanted to talk. I’m suffering the same thing and feel no one understands me. I can’t talk to anyone as I feel they will think I’m some sort of evil person. I could really do with talkin to someone who understands this. take care, leona.x

  23. Thank you everyone for sharing. I have been struggling with the fear of hurting my girls for months now. I have a two year old and a four year blessed, have a beautiful life but this non-stop thought process that I am going to go crazy and hurt them. I am terrified, can’t eat, losing sleep, can’t focus….it is taking over. Reading your posts have helped tremendously. Feeling like your not alone is very healing in itself.

  24. This is horrible an uncomfortable to me but thank you for posting it…About 8 years ago I could find nothing about this for some reason despite that nowadays I can find articles from years before. When I read this I feel uneasy because I’m scared of what a regular person would think. I feel my blood drop when ocd is mentioned in front of people and feel like looking away and plugging my ears to their responses. I feel that I am two things at once; I’m a person with ocd, and I’m like other people in that I am weirded out by it. Right? Would a normal person be scared of someone like this? I don’t have children, but I have similar fears towards being a parent because I have had this sort of ocd. It finally went away after finding out what it was…I still sometimes feel guilt but I can deal with it. Knowing I’m not alone helps but I wish I wasn’t burdened with something I can never tell anyone. I wish I could be like others who have nothing like this to hide. That being said I acknowledge there are people who have worse problems; I have a friend who truly has been through a lot that isn’t her fault, and after telling me her story it helped me realize mine was just a mental issue. I feel so judgemental but when I read other’s stories I don’t know how I feel. Some of these I feel comfort, but others if they told me this I’m not sure if I would like them despite that I have the same issues.

  25. Hi had all types of ocd but mostly the hocd type and the very worst one for me is the pocd . I was always getting sick thoughts that really disturbed me it was at its height about 10 12 years ago but then when I managed to get my self to a doctor and he mentioned about ocd, I started doing my research on the net and things started to get a little better, that was until my mind started telling me that the only way I could really prove to myself I was not really a pedo was to conjure up all sorts of sexual thoughts in my mind and not get a erection from them . Well that was the worst thing I could do as it just posted even more doubt in my mind. Well after a lot of help from a therapist and 40mg floxentine every day. (Which I still take now) I managed to move on even getting married and having kids of my own who are now 5 and 7 and I have had horrible thoughts and images of my own kids but because of all my research and help with ocd I have managed to keep control of this until now, (12 years later) on Holliday me and my 5 year old got out the pool and I led on the sun bed to dry off when he came and led on the bottom half off the sun lounger resting his head near my groin,as u can imagine a five year old being quite fidgety and moving around a lot. I started to panic as the movement in that area was starting to make me semi erect. Which at that point some ocd voice in my head said ” you want to put in his mouth” (sorry to be grafic ) which seemed to be the same point I became fully erect. I lifted him off straight away and been panicking ever since and really don’t know what to do ( what dose this mean)?? Just to give u brief history in the last 12 years life not been easy but have managed some good times to. The ocd has been there but I seemed to have suffered with the guilt of it more so than the actual thoughts. I also get very anxious that people have it in for me say if some one dose not respond to me on face book or text I could start assuming they were after me in some way. I once worried my self into a frenzy that I looked at some one the wrong way on the motorway and I’m talking for weeks after. Please help

  26. I’m so scared I have not got help for baby will be a year on this month.I been dealing with for a whole year prayer that my son wihh be safe.I know deep down I will never hurt him I love him to much..I’m afarid that someone will takw him away from me. please give me some advice it seems everyday the thoughts gets stronger thanxs

  27. katie I’m sorry you and I are going threw this I been doing some reading.I know we are not crazy there seems to be more people with this then us.I’m scared to tell someone what should I do?

  28. I don’t know if this is the same but I thought I should ask. I have trouble sleeping at night and its either then or when I’m doing a simple thing like driving that I get very violent images of things that could happen such as accidents to me and my baby. It horrifies me. I am not a violent person in any way I’m actually very happy and social so it scares me that I’m always having images of harm coming to my child and I. I want it to stop. IM constant afraid of bad things happening. I lost a child by miscarriage so I understand the fear of losing another but I don’t think this is cause of that. It’s different it’s violent accidents or fear of SIDS that has become an obsession where sometimes ill just stay up all night and watch her sleep to make sure she is breathing. This is not me! I’m usually very carefree and unstressed. I hope I don’t sound like a total psycho but is this postpartum OCD or am I just losing my mind at a young age!? Thank you for your time.

  29. Hello,

    I am not even a parent, but rather an Uncle and I suffer from OCD and anxiety. Ironically, my anxiety occurred as a result of taking my anxiety medication while staying at my sisters and nephew (2 years) house. I have this terrible “what if I dropped a pill” obsession and my nephew swallows it and is poisoned. Of course I look time and time again on the floor and have counted the number of pills I have remaining and non are missing, of course. But the what if persists, I keep looking for nothing and my thoughts of something bad heppening cause much anxiety.

  30. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this article. I’ve been in constant fear of what is going on inside my head. When I had my first son in 2011, these strange thoughts started manifesting in my head. I tried talking to my husband about it, and he started thinking I was crazy and might actually do something to our son, to which I had to reassure him that I would never harm him. If anything, the thoughts made me even MORE cautious about everything I did and everything my son did. I never did bring it back up to my husband…
    As my son got older (he’s now over 2), the thoughts started to subside. Then I got pregnant again. I’m currently 8 months pregnant and the thoughts are back…. Would this still be considered postpardum since I haven’t yet had the new child? I don’t know. I’ve been wanting to see someone about it, but like your article pointed out, I was so scared someone would take my children from me. So I’ve just been living with it in silence. However, now that I’ve read your article, I feel much more relieved! This is actually a thing! I’m not nuts! I’m not actually going to hurt my children! And maybe there’s someone out there in my area that I can be open with about this. I think I’m going to have my husband read this. Maybe it will give him comfort as well. Thanks again.

  31. I had Terrible ocd 11 years ago and just had another baby 6 weeks ago, things were up and down the first two weeks I wasn’t sleeping or eating and was a mess !!i was getting thoughts but was coping. Then a few days ago I had a trigger from looking at a picture of my kids when they were younger and now I started having an aching feeling down below tmi I know! Anyway I started thinking about the intrusive sexual thoughts I had before and linked the two as I tried to push thoughts out it made me feel like a sensation like pain, I went to my ob gyn and she said I had an infection. Then my period started so guessing that’s increasing my anxiety and probably the reason for the vaginal discomfort but I’m so worried that’s it’s me that’s causing it? Is it possible to cause a physical symptom like that ? I was cuddling my baby tonight and when I started rubbing her hand it made my skin start burning like I was so afraid of what I might start thinking and causing my bits to ache more ! I don’t know what’s happening and I spent the night crying after I put her to bed because I feel I can’t take much more ….

  32. Hi my names Rochelle,iv had Ocd since i was 6 or younger,i am now 26.i no all abt ocd but its torturous when uv no1 like family to speak too,unless uv got ocd,no1 gets it, right my ocd changed wen i had my son,u see it was jst me an my baby for 1 an half yrs,his father didn’t want him so i was single,then i got my recent bf of a yr an its been a struggle wit my thoughts,it started by changin his nappy an because i had a bf in da picture now it triggered something an i was afraid of doin something sexually inappropriate but i wud never of course,it was jst hard to separate my thoughts from seeing my bf naked etc,but those thoughts have subsided now but now things have gt worse,as i no ocd drops one bad thought to replace wit a worse one,its wen i’m intimate wit my bf now, a bad thought of my baby son pops in to my head,,but of course dat thought disgusted me for i love my son dearly,sounds weird ino but dat thought happened jst once.
    u see ocd to me can be controlled but it can never go away for good,its da most loneliest disease as i call it out der, all i need to no is was it normal for a graphic sick thought to pop in to someone’s mind in an intimate moment wit ur other half, i wud appreciate ur help thanks x

  33. i give birth a month ago i think i have pospartum ocd i am constaly worried cheking my new born if sheis breathing today my husband came to me worried because he has having horrible thoughts seven years ago he was diagnsosed with panic attacks and anxiety he had cotrolled but he say two dys after my baby was born he has this terrible thoughts of harming the baby or doing bad thing to the family but most the baby when i told him i was pregnat he got furious my entire pregnancy he not even care he didnt come to any visits or the sonogram when i had the baby i went to the hospital by myself now the baby is here he loves her he say he doenst want to harm her he is very scare what he hasnt tell me what kind of harm i am olso confuse nd scare i need an advice iam been looking for help but no luck i saw your page and is very interesting please reply to me sicerely worried

  34. Steve

    Is it possible get get rid of ppocd yourself without getting help?


    • Hi Danny, I’m trying to get rid of it by myself. My son is about 2 years old now, and I still struggle with this during hormonal times of the month. You should do some research on exposure treatment and other treatments for OCD, but it’s never really a replacement for the help of a therapist. If I had access to one I’d go.

  35. What percent of adults have ppocd?

  36. Actually those thoughts of killing your baby are neither obsessive or compulsive. You don’t have them because you like to obsess about them, nor do you have any compulsion to act on them. Post partum thoughts of killing your baby are instead “intrusive repulsive”. These thoughts “intrude” because you are afraid of them. You are afraid of them because you are afraid of going crazy. “going crazy” is so easily misunderstood as “going berserk”. That is because in our culture, any incomprehensible crime is attributed to “going crazy”. Now that you have feelings of unreality, you think you are going crazy, and therefore you are afraid you will be going berserk anytime soon. In this context you start getting the thoughts which most repulse you. Just as a fear of burglars makes you hear burglars, fear of repulsive acts bring on the thoughts of repulsive acts. But the only reason you have these thoughts is because you are so afraid of them.
    “Intrusive repulsive” thoughts, not obsessive compulsive thoughts.

  37. Excellent article:
    This is one of the very few articles which dares to come straight out and declares that women who have thoughts of harming her baby are actually in no danger of doing so.

    I would like to take issue though, with the characterization of obsessive/compulsive.
    The thoughts are neither “obsessive” in the sense that the mother wants to dwell on the thoughts, nor, as you so well pointed out, are they “compulsive” in the sense that she feels driven to act on them. In fact the opposite is true. The horrible thoughts are intrusive not obsessive. Likewise the thoughts are repulsive, not compulsive. So instead of “obsessive compulsive”, the thoughts should be called “intrusive repulsive”.

    “Intrusive repulsive” thoughts, are not uncommon. I have seen them in advanced cases of panic disorder. Thoughts of driving the car into the uncoming traffic, thoughts of killing, jumping off the balcony, stabbing the spouse and throwing the baby off the balcony: these thoughts always happen as part of the fear of going insane. This is much due to our culture, where we believe that incomprehensible violent acts are integral to going crazy. Hence it is understandable, in our culture, that a person who is afraid of going crazy, becomes afraid of going berserk. It is in this context that I have treated woman with post partum panic disorder who became afraid they might harm the baby.
    So picture a woman, with a new baby, hormones in a mess, overcome by feelings of unreality, feeling of guilt, feeling trapped in the situation and beginning to wonder if she might not be going insane. Next, she begins to guard herself against “crazy thoughts” and next she starts experiencing “crazy thoughts”. She has fallen victim to paradoxical intent. because she is afraid of crazy thoughts, she begets the crazy thoughts and the more afraid she is, the crazier the thoughts.
    But in all fairness to these women, the thoughts should not be characterized as obsessive compulsive, but as intrusive repulsive. And the syndrome might better be understood in a context of Post Partum Panic Disorder (ppPD).

    • Hi Ben I found your article most interesting to read. The q I have is, how do u treat the intrusive repulsive thoughts?

  38. my daughter is now 1 and since about a week after she was born I feel so stressed out I sometimes get the thought in my head that I want to hurt her but I never would and It has just got worse then before I sometimes want to pull my hair out im now 9 weeks pregnant with my second and scared of having the same thoughts about this one

  39. I think you just saved my life. Thank you so much for this article.

  40. I’ve got this, or I had it. I still sometimes have these intrusive thoughts but I’ve learned to recognize them for what they are. Now, I’m trying some exposure techniques and really trying to conquer my irrational fears without fear blockers. Some days are better than others, but I feel positive overall. Exercise seems to help too!

  41. Hi!

    I just gave birth to my lovely baby boy. I’ve alredy lost two babies in late pregnancy ( 20 w and 18 w ), so it was a real blessing. He is 7 weeks old now…

    I am in great pain… I wish I would be dead sometimes… I have severe OCD and taking Asentra 200 mg… But it’s still hard. I am afraid I could hurt my child by throwing him from balcony… The image haunts me… Am I really
    such monster? I know it is OCD, but I am losing my mind…

  42. Hello dr,
    I’ve been dealing with unwanted intrusive thoughts ever since my baby accidentally got hurt. There are some days that are good, reading books about ocd help a lot. Especially the ones that mention that people with harm ocd are gentle and don’t act on their thoughts. But than you think of worse case scenarios what if I become schizo or bipolar. To add to the anxiety I read an article saying that ocd is a gateway to bipolar is this true? It freaked me out. Oh and that anxiety is the same as bipolar 2. Please help

  43. I stumbled on this article by mistake, I have this with no doubt, fear of hurting them by not checking on them or by making a mistake or this ones crazy ” what if I wake up in the middle of the night in a transe like state not in my own mind and harm them , go back to sleep and not even remember doing it” … never had a violent thought of doing anything just the constant fear I would .. I never seeked help because I thought” well I never think of doing anything to them if I had I was seeking help” but I did separate myself and try to always have another person in the house and never be alone with them… I have gotten better a bit and what has helped me is a multi vitamin and exercising but if I miss the vitamin even 1 day I feel it start to return.. feel glad I saw this article before I had never heard of it

  44. I am currently struggling with this. It’s so hard to understand how I am having these thoughts about my sweet beautiful baby. I haven spoken to anyone in fear that they will hospitalize me. I am living in WV, is there anyone you can recommend to see? I’m desperate. Thank you.

  45. Dear steve
    If I would have not read this article,I couldn’t cope because being a mom and that too a baby girl I was having all the weird thoughts for her genitical parts…her touch was arousing me..I thought I am mentally sick.I love her so much but this thought is killing me.I dnt know wy it suddenly happened to me.My daughter is just 42 days old.

  46. This article has been a great help and has shown me i am not alone. My child is 3 years old and I starting having bad thoughts when she was 5 months old. These are daily intrustive thoughts that pop into mind usually about hurting my beautiful baby. I feel so blessed however these thoughts pretty much rule my life even though I have never acted on them. I have tried counselling however I feel in the uk this topic is not spoken about, which is often the problem. People are scared to discuss there thoughts for fear of the consequence. I just want to be a good mother x

  47. From the UK: I am crying with relief. Tears streaming down my cheeks. I just stumbled across this article and its what I had! I wasn’t crazy, I am a brilliant mum. I was dogged by these thoughts for a few weeks post partum. Your article gives me such hope that there are great psychologists who understand the complexities of post partum behaviour. Thankyou!

  48. Hi everyone

    I have just come across these posts and wonder if you can relate to not being able to say if you have or haven’t done something
    something. I am a good person and do not in any way want to hurt anyone. My ocd seems to have covered just about everything you can imagine from cleaning to stealing to worrying I’ve killed someone but this is like my final punishment – the one I can’t get past.

    I worry I am going to inappropriately touch children. The idea alone is abhorrent to me. I find myself tensing up if I’m near children or babies – trying to control and keep my body still so I know I haven’t done anything. But I get sensations that I really can’t say if I have moved or its just being aware of feelings/sensations cos of the worry. My lovely therapist says all the right things, explains everything and gives me techniques but you will all know it’s easier said than done!

    This happened again a few days ago and the freezing cold feeling that engulfed me in panic that I had purposefully moved was horrible. Why would I avoid situations then suddenly do the bad deed- I ask myself – doesn’t make sense.

    I know we have to acknowledge it’s the ocd and trust that we are good people but it’s so hard and I do question myself. Of all my ocd I hate this the most and a couple of years ago attempted suicide cos of it.

    Steve – any advice when you are unsure whether you moved to intentionally touch someone inappropriately or its being so afraid that the movements are you being so aware of sensations. If that make sense!

  49. I thought I had PPA but reading this, I am almost the poster child for PP OCD. I thought I “just” had anxiety but that’s not it. It’s really not cool since my baby is such a great and happy baby. Now I need to figure out how to deal with it!

    • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) will be the treatment of choice. You essentially build a hierarchy of all the situations that trigger the OCD, and you start tackling the “easiest” ones first. Some people go it alone, but others find it helpful to consult with a therapist or psychologist who specializes in OCD.

  50. He i steven.i dont know where to post this.Im norwegian.we dont have litterature of this in Norway. How do you explain urges or impulse to do the thought? Please i need answer

  51. This is I’m formative. I too have had intrusive thoughts of killing people even my children. And sexual thoughts, makes me feel so guilty. I pray and read scripture and keep trying to not feel this way. I avoid talking to my now 23 yr old daughter cause I don’t want this in my life. Help

  52. I thought I was alone! I am a virgin. I began to have these later in my adult life. I don’t know where they came from! I never had these issues when I took care of my brothers, nephews or baby cousins. I was able to change their diapers, bathe them and sing and play with them like normal. I feel I can’t do that anymore. I am almost 37 now. I am afraid that I am sick person. I am supposed to be a woman of God and everything. I heard a baby cooing one day inside the market and I began to get emotional and I started to cry. I don’t understand what is going on! I may have scared people because I tend to stare a lot. I also thought I abused my nephew when I was younger and told my friends. They cut me off, then walked away from me after we got of the bus at the mall. I moved on in life. Years later the thoughts/trauma came back somehow, and then I started to panic! I confessed to my family, and it turns out I did nothing wrong. I wish I could tell my friends if I ever were to see them again, because I feel that they are disgusted with me ’til this day if they remember me. Lord please help us…

  53. Dr. Seay,

    Very informative, somewhat reassuring article. Please, do you have any reputable colleagues in or around Houston, Texas with experience treating ppOCD?

  54. i wish this was told to expecting parents. when i had my second child i started having these thoughts which was crazy to me. i never told anyone and one day decided to look online and saw that its a symptom of ocd. i was dealing with high levels of anxiety at the time and smoking a lot of marijuana to cope, which didn’t really help because in reality it made my anxiety much worse and made me feel out of control. i have since quit smoking and coffee and feel much better. i never told anyone because i was scared they would take my kids away.

  55. I am 62 yrs old and still gave trouble with evil thoughts, I did with my children I felt horrible, and when they were teens and now, my daughter is going to have a baby and I am not ready for it, I am afraid to hold baby’s, I don’t feel anything. I’m afraid it will show.

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