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Scary Thoughts as Costumes: The Illusion of Danger

Unwanted Thoughts in OCD

Scary, unwanted thoughts sometimes masquerade as truths. Although these thoughts may have the appearance of danger, their form is intended to deceive.

It’s nearly Halloween, and kids around the country are digging through dusty closets and plundering the aisles of local Halloween shops in search of the perfect costume.

Halloween is the one night of the year when we give ourselves permission to be silly, scary, or fantastical. We can act a little weird, and nobody will disapprove.

On Halloween, it’s normal to see the ghastly holding hands with the divine; fairy princesses walk amongst zombies, lions, and super heroes.

There is something thrilling about handing over the reins to your imagination…even if it’s only for a single night.

But what would happen if the masks got stuck?

What if every goblin remained a goblin and every ghost remained a ghost? The children underneath the make-up would still be our children, but their appearance would remain altered. How would we feel then?

At first, it would be scary to inhabit a world populated by monsters. We would be angry. We would be confused. However, eventually we would learn to distrust our senses in the knowledge that beneath every scary facade is simply a child.

Despite appearances, there is no danger here. We might wish that things could go back to the way they used to be, but eventually we would accept this new world as our reality.

Sometimes our thoughts like to play dress-up, too.

Scary, unwanted thoughts can masquerade as truths. Possibilities can take on the form of probabilities. Although these thoughts may have the appearance of danger, their form is intended to deceive. The semblance of danger is not danger.

In the real world on Halloween night, beneath every sheet, mask, or painted face is a smile.

Beneath every scary thought is simply a person.

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Read more about OCD and unwanted thoughts,
be it in the context of sexual thoughts, violent thoughts, or religious thoughts.

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  1. A very helpful comparison of dressing up for Halloween and dealing with scary/fearful thoughts. It reminds me that a thought is just a thought.

    • Thanks, Tina. It’s often easier said than done, I know, but it’s incredibly important to keep that idea in mind.

  2. Wow that was an amazing comparison. Vey well said.
    But even thought i have full insight into my problem, i still feel very anxious and uncertain and cant get over the thought that what if all this comes true 🙁

    • Thanks for reading, Helen. Yes, you’re right. Although, insight doesn’t solve the problem, it can sometimes give you the courage you need to take the types of risks necessary to fight back against your anxiety.

  3. Oh, wow – great post, Dr. Seay! Very thought provoking. Yep, the illusion of danger. Sure sounds like OCD.

    • Thanks, Sunny! Even without mentioning OCD by name, it certainly pops out, doesn’t it? 🙂

  4. Great analogy……certainly on Halloween, and with OCD, things are not always what they seem!

    • So true! As Helen said, the insight isn’t necessarily sufficient, but it’s a good starting point.

  5. Dr. Seay,
    I often obsess that i secretly hate the people whom I’ve always loved and I fear that they might have bad intensions towards me although I know all this is not possible. And I try to become too judgemental and observe them too much in order to disprove my obsessive thought but in this process something or the other just triggers the ocd and when I’m stuck there I feel miserable and the thoughts just feel so real. Is this kind of paranoia a part of OCD? My ocd tells me that OCD would only mean blaming yourself for having wrong intensions towards others and not vice-versa so all this has to be real. But I know that in reality its all in my mind.

    • Your description certainly sounds like OCD. OCD is the doubting disease. It can not only lead us to doubt our own intentions, but it can also lead us to doubt the intentions of others. Attempting to “figure out what’s really going on” can become a type of mental ritual.

      • Thank you Dr.Seay 🙂
        Your posts are really awesome. And especially the ones where you tell us how to over-come ocd. They are really really useful.
        Will keep following them.
        Thank you so much!!

  6. Thanks to all for these encouraging stories and words of wisdom. Recent news strories in the ny/nj metro area have triggered a spike in my harm ocd and i am actively working on my cbt and erp therapies. tough stuff but i know im not alone. I am wondering though if reading these sights and seeking ocmfort from support groups and ocd knowledge/science based sights is a type of counter-productive reassurance seeking. that’s what i struggle with- it makes me fell better but is that a band-aid or can I do a little of both?

    • Hi Stacy,

      Reassurance-seeking in OCD is not the same as information seeking or receiving support from friends or loved ones. Reassurance seeking involves actively seeking out the same information multiple times or via multiple sources for the sake of reducing doubt or uncertainty. I blogged about this a while ago–much of the post was based on words of wisdom by Dr. Alec Pollard who is the director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute. Feel free to check out the post, which is linked above.

      Please attend support groups, and help support others as they help support you. Support groups are an incredible resource, and you’re very lucky if you have one in your area. Also, feel free to use information wisely…just make sure that you can spot the point at which information seeking turns into reassurance seeking.

      Wishing you all the best…

  7. Hi Mr Seay

    I’m really thankful because ERP (which I started by myself) helped me too much and I feel like a new person but I like to know something :

    here is a brief history on my disorder

    I’m diagnosed with ocd and I’ve gone under lots of medical therapies (such as zolof and even clozapine)
    I should say that the specialists were not familiar with OCD and I confused them so much.

    I’ve attemted suicide once and I have a history of drug abuse (I can’t say that I was addicted I think that I was using them obsessively)

    when I was using drugs (especially cannabis) I began to act on some of my obsessions.A strange behavior also occured : “sexual obsessions were killing me so I burnt my hand with a cigarette (I didn’t want to really harm myself) to make it as a reminder (I thought that : “whenever I look at this scar it will reminde me that I mustn’t think about having sex with …”)
    and I remember “projecting” lots of my idelas to a specific object (like “if I get that specific thing everything will change”) and getting too much focused on the specific thing …

    I know that they are all linked to obsession but it seemed a bit strange …

    I’m not worry about repeating them cause I’ve overcome lots of my obsessions and I’m not depressed at all …

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