HOCD thoughts feel real; does that mean they are true?

Dr Elaine Ryan
Written by Dr Elaine Ryan Psychologist and Founder of MoodSmith® Elaine obtained her Dr in Psychology from the University of Surrey and has worked in psychology for 20 years. Dr Ryan specialises in Intrusive Thoughts, OCD and anxiety-related conditions.

This is something I hear a lot; if my HOCD thoughts feel real, does that mean that they are true, that they mean something?

Just because a thought feels real, it does not mean that it is true.  Feelings are not facts; thoughts are not facts

Why do I get HOCD thoughts?

You get them because you are human and the way that the mind works.  Everyone, including me, gets random thoughts every day, all days.  You can check this out for yourself; just sit back and let your mind do its thing for the next minute.  Sometimes it is hard to catch all the thoughts that stream through your mind, and some thoughts stick out.  You might find that you think more thoughts relating to HOCD as you are reading this post, but that’s okay; try not to run away from them, as they are only thoughts.

The mistake you might be making is assuming that you have control over what pops into your head; you do, and you don’t; let me explain.

The random thoughts that pop into your head, or my head, are involuntary; you have no control over this, as you will have seen if you took a minute and let your mind wander, as I suggested above.

How you react to the thoughts, though, this you do have control over, is one of the differences between people who hardly notice these thoughts and people who are struggling because of their thoughts.

Do they say anything about me as a person?

No, they say that you are struggling with unwelcome thoughts; they do not reflect you as a person; it is just that they feel real.

The only thing that says something about you as a person is how you choose to live your life.  The real stuff you do in the real world.  People who know me or read my stuff on the website assume I am a good person, and I agree with that.  I’m good enough, no better or no worse than you.

I judge myself on how I carry out my life, not by the thoughts in my head, as I know that I am just as capable as the next person to have thoughts in my head that do not reflect me as a person. The difference between you and me, though is, if you are struggling with unwanted thoughts, you are reacting to them as if they are true, and this has to do with the meaning that you give to them and also because they might ‘stand out to you more than other random thoughts.

Why do my HOCD thoughts feel real?

There is emotion attached to them; if you felt nothing, you probably wouldn’t notice them in the first place.  If you let your mind wander as I suggested above or try it later, lots of your thoughts do not have emotion attached to them, so that you won’t take much notice.  If your brain sees thoughts relating to your sexual identity as a threat, it will stand up and take notice.

You can see what I mean by a threat in the video.  It is a recording of a webinar on panic attacks, but it explains threats clearly and will hopefully help you understand what I mean.

Are the thoughts true?

Hopefully from what you have already read you will know the answer to this is no.

HOCD related thoughts are just thoughts.  I can think I am a multi-billionaire if I want, but unfortunately, that’s not true.  It is just a thought that I am capable of thinking.  Make yourself think that thought now, that you have billions in the bank; I’m pretty sure you won’t even need to check your bank balance; you will know that the billions are not there.

Now you might be thinking that’s a stupid example, Elaine, that your thoughts are different, but they are not.  You might think they are different because they disturb you, are so out of character and are stuck in your head all the time, but that still does not make them say something about you as a person.

It’s the nature of obsessions and compulsions.  They create a nagging doubt in your mind.  If you have never really thought about the OCD part of HOCD, it’s something you should learn more about, as that’s the part of your thought processes that you can learn to have control over.

Once you gain control, the emotion starts to fade.  When the emotion has gone, they do not feel real; the thoughts have lost their grip on you.  If you have read any of my stuff on HOCD before, you will know that I have an online course to help you.  I include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help with HOCD and this, along with other techniques, helps to take the emotion and fear away from the thoughts.

Online self-help

If you would like my help, please see my online courses

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