Existential
OCD

Existential OCD centers around obsessions that are unanswerable questions on topics such as the universe, the meaning of life, and a higher power. These questions are not unique to those with Existential OCD. In fact, they are questions many people have thought deeply about at some point in their lives. The difference for those with OCD is in the level of anxiety experienced as well as the inability to move on without finding an answer. Those with Existential OCD will repeatedly think about these ideas and obsessively seek answers through research and talking with others. The time spent obsessing is significant which is another distinction from those who just ponder grandiose concepts. And when an answer is 'found', the anxiety fades but this relief is only temporary as the next trigger is in que.

Obsessions

  • what is the meaning of life?

  • am I real?

  • do I have free will or am I being controlled or influenced somehow?

  • what is my purpose?

  • does a higher power exist?

  • is there an afterlife?

  • is my life a simulation or truly real?

Compulsions

  • obsessive thinking in an effort to 'figure' out the answer 

  • research

  • asking other people what they think

  • reading philosophy books

  • speaking with religious or philosophical leaders

  • praying for clarity

The Problem with Seeking Certainty

OCD comes with urges to engage in compulsions, either mental or behavioral. Compulsions are intended to eliminate doubt which is impossible when the doubt concerns existential questions about life and purpose and meaning and life beyond. For people without OCD, it is entirely possible to think about these concepts, feel uncertain and uncomfortable, and then move on with life. That is moving on with uncertainty which is helpful and adaptive. Those with OCD, however, are unable to move on with uncertainty and in fact spend hours seeking certainty. But developing a habit of seeking certainty with something that is not answerable creates an endless cycle of OCD.