‘What If I Smothered Him?’: 20 People Share Their Most Terrifying OCD Thoughts & Habits

Flickr peapod labs
Flickr peapod labs


“It began one night as I was nursing my son, Easton. I was home alone with the kids because my husband travels for work. I was looking at him and this random thought popped into my head—‘What if I smothered him?’…One night, I was putting my son Brayden to bed and thought, ‘At least I’m not one of those people who is attracted to their kids.” Guess what happened after that thought? That’s right, I was now fearful of becoming a pedophile. That is how quickly my thoughts would terrorize me. It was as if the mere fact that I was capable of having a thought suddenly meant that it could become a reality. This was endless.”



“I see HIV everywhere. It lurks on toothbrushes and towels, taps and telephones. I wipe cups and bottles, hate sharing drinks, and cover every scrape and graze with multiple plasters. My compulsions can demand that after a scratch from a rusty nail or a piece of glass, I return to wrap it in absorbent paper and check for drops of contaminated blood that may have been there. I have checked train seats for syringes and toilet seats for just about everything.”



“These are some of the thoughts: That I must worship Satan (I thought this was very odd as I hated even the name Satan. That my child is my God. That there is no God (I fight within myself nights days hours weeks years with this) I fight very hard with my mind and told myself that I usually believe in God before so I MUST believe in him no matter what it took. That there is no evil. That when people kill one another it is just normal. Fear to Sleep. Fear that someone is going to kill me.”



“The years of middle school and early high school I developed a sensation to force myself to swallow spit, and I would have to do it in a certain way in sequence of fours. If I didn’t get it right the first time I would have to do another four, and my stopping number, or the highest I would go would be sixteen until I admitted complete failure. Once failure was admitted I would have to start all the way back from one, when really it was just a continuance, but going until I got it right at sixteen exactly this time.”



“I would do things like put any knives or sharp objects up high in cabinets so I could not reach them. I would also put up a barricade against my bedroom door so I couldn’t open it in the middle of the night. The idea being, I couldn’t hurt my family if I was sleepwalking because I wouldn’t be able to get out of my room or get ahold of any sharp objects.”



“Every night I had to sleep in a completely dark room. If a room I tried to fall asleep in wasn’t completely dark, I couldn’t sleep. That might sound strange because it is strange. While it’s ideal to sleep in a completely dark room, it’s often impossible. But, I did everything I could back then to make it possible. I’d turn off all the lights anywhere near my room, including the ones in the hall. I would cover devices in my room that emitted light, no matter how small. I’d even turn off the lights outside our house to reduce the light coming in through the windows. If I could have, I would have probably turned off our neighbors’ lights too.”



“As long as I can remember I would make ‘wagers’ with the cracks in the sidewalk and the streetlights. My mind would say something like, ‘If I get through the intersection before the light turns yellow, my mom won’t die tragically.’ The lights were usually right. I didn’t realize it then, but this was my way of trying to dodge doubt and gain some sense of certainty. I would play this ‘game’ with anything I was obsessed or anxious about. When my dad was very ill and about to go into surgery, the lights ‘said’ he would get through it. The lights were correct—he did get through surgery. But then he died the next day.”



“My first memory of OCD began at approximately age 6….Violent obsessions involved both mental images and impulses to act. These images included hitting, stabbing, poisoning and shooting people, even the people I loved the most: my family, myself and our pets, but the disease knew no boundaries so strangers were targets as well. I was paralyzed with fear, not leaving my house some days, wishing I could go blind so I could not view people or objects. You see I believed many of these violent thoughts were associated with objects, such as knives, scissors, pencils, screwdrivers, chemicals, guns, just seeing these objects caused a spike in my intrusive thoughts.”



“When I had my fourth child I used to have intrusive thoughts when I went to bed that I would go to the children’s bedrooms and in my sleep, take out their dressing gown cords and strangle each one. This was horrendous to go through, because I didn’t know whether I was going to do it or not….That was the obsession: the compulsion was to try to relieve some of the pain and terror that I was going through because of the thoughts. I would get out of bed, find their dressing gowns, take the cords out of the dressing gowns and tie them into as many knots as possible, thinking I won’t actually be able to put the cords around their necks….Then I’d go back to bed, but I still couldn’t sleep. So I would get out of bed again, get the cords, put them in a bag, seal the bag, and put the bag in a high cupboard. This would give a little bit of relief, but it was still terrifying.”



“I walked into the bathroom and began a process that would often end hours later. I stepped into the shower and turned on all the faucets, hoping I had gotten the water temperature right with just one try, because I could only touch the faucets once. I washed the soap bar off, which entailed actually soaping up and rinsing the bar of soap itself. This stung my raw, chapped (and sometimes even bleeding) hands, but this was a fairly good day: this particular action was only necessary twice….I started at the top of my head and washed my hair. So far, so good. I washed the bar of soap yet again and then scrubbed my hands ten more times. Now for my right arm and shoulder and—oh, no! My elbow touched a faucet. I had to start all over again. I started washing all over from the top, washing my hair a second time, but my wrist brushed the shower head this time, so I had to start over for a third time. By now the water was scalding but I could not touch the faucets again until I washed fifteen specific body areas three times in four different ways, all very methodically done with no variations in the process allowed. If I didn’t perform these actions perfectly, dictated by some unknown drive inside of me, I would feel as if something unspeakably terrible would happen. The feeling of doubt and dread that drove the thoughts was so strong it was literally sickening. At last I was done. Outside the bathroom window, the sky had gotten light. I had been in the shower for over two hours.”



“When I was little, I would try not to kiss any of my dolls because I knew that meant a painstaking process would begin. If I kissed one of my dolls, I had to kiss them all. I would sit in my closet with my porcelain doll collection (maybe 12-15 dolls at the time) and if I kissed one, I had to make sure to kiss every other doll because I had a feeling something bad would happen if I didn’t. I wasn’t really sure what the bad thing was. Maybe they would attack me in my sleep, maybe one would run away or break, but I had a nagging feeling that I just couldn’t shake. If for some crazy reason, I kissed a doll in the middle of the line-up first, this meant I would be kissing each doll multiple times because I wouldn’t know if they had all been kissed equally. It was frustrating.”



“I’d created rituals that I thought would allow me to control events. If I touch my doorknob eight times, Mom and Dad will come home unharmed. If I read the same page six times in a row, I won’t be orphaned….My phobia began with a somewhat rational fear of kidnapping and progressed to a wholly unfounded dread that my parents would abandon me.”



“I can’t turn on a faucet, go through a door, take a shower, walk, talk, or breathe without some little part of my brain wondering if I did it ‘right’ and prompting me to do it over until I get it ‘right.’ Then I get mad at myself for never doing anything “right’ to begin with. I turn into this ball of anxiety, frustration, anger, and confusion….In the meantime, that little ODC part of brain is saying, “Do it over again, stupid. Do it over again idiot.’”



“I constantly count things throughout my day in 10s. If I accidentally get further than 10 (on off days) I have to count up to 20, and so on. I have only met once person that truly understands what I’m going through. I’m embarrassed to even admit this due to being judged because of it previously and made fun of, but I’m going to share this one thing. When putting on my deodorant I have to count 10 strokes under each arm, if I go over 10, then I count to 20, etc., etc. This particular habit (?) became worse after my friend was killed in 2011. I didn’t count the strokes the day he was shot, I didn’t have an even number either. I felt like by messing up that day, I caused it.”



“Recently I was diagnosed with OCD after a solid year of battling extremely distracting and aggressive, violent, gory thoughts about the death of myself and my loved ones, in some cases I would think about myself hurting them. I loved to think about falling down the stairs, jumping off a bridge, falling or impaling objects, and my personal favorite, car accidents. Eventually I could no longer drive because I became fearful that all these thoughts about car accidents would cause it to actually happen.”



“At first the most obvious way was to control what I wore and ate. Every day it was the same faded green and brown-striped T-shirt. Although kids teased me, I had a sense of power and stability—as long as I wore that T-shirt. As I grew older, wearing the same shirt wasn’t enough, and I controlled what I ate. My list of rules had to be followed to the letter: I could eat only 12 grams of fat per day and 12 grams of sugar per item. Eventually, my rituals became more elaborate and all-consuming. I could eat at just one restaurant, only white foods—and when no one was looking.”



“I had started to develop a prayer routine at night which, in my OCD mind, I believed would keep my loved ones safe. I felt I had to say my family member’s names 8 times, touch the right side of the wall after, blink 8 times after that and the list goes on. With so many rules and restrictions, I could not complete the prayer ‘perfectly’ no matter how hard I tried. I vividly remember it was late at night and my mom was still up cleaning. I ran down to her and burst into tears because I could not get my prayers right and was so worried that my loved ones would be hurt because of this.”



“It all started with a dead mouse in my apartment. The fact that it died made me start thinking about contamination. It must have had some sort of disease. It must have spread that disease all over my apartment floor. Suddenly I found myself cleaning my floors with isopropyl alcohol and Lysol. But it didn’t stop there. My mind kept creating ever-wider circles of contamination. What if the mouse wasn’t just on the floor, but had also run across the table? Then all the papers on the table were contaminated. I had to clean what I could, or keep track of the things that were contaminated that I couldn’t clean. Because if something was ‘contaminated,’ and I touched it, then anything else I touched became contaminated. Soon my thoughts about germs spread beyond the mouse. On the street, I became afraid of germs from garbage cans or trucks being blown on me by the wind. If someone coughed as they walked past me, I imagined germs ‘coming at me.’ Then my clothes were contaminated, and everything I touched became contaminated. Getting to work became an ordeal of Olympic proportions because walking a block could take a half hour. I worried about spots on the sidewalk that might be ‘blood,’ circling around them, trying to look normal in case someone who knew me walked by. By the time I got to work, I was drenched with sweat.”



“Almost overnight I was horrified that I had AIDS and was spreading it everywhere I went. I knew I was contaminated. I started calling the national AIDS hotline numerous times a day telling them that I thought I had given someone AIDS because I sat on a toilet seat and then they did. I would tell them that I might have gotten some saliva on someone inadvertently and thought I had given them AIDS.”



“Faucets are one of my biggest problem areas. I will continually check them to make sure they are really off, often placing my hand underneath the spout and counting for drops, usually up to 10 or 12. If a drop falls in this time period I feel a lot of anxiety and usually have to start all over again.”

Mike  Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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