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Harm OCD

Harm OCD involves feeling unsure and anxious about your own ability to harm someone else. These thoughts and fears generate considerable anxiety and distress. And of course they would! It's terrifying to think about harming someone. These harm obsessions are usually aimed at loved ones which only serves to intensify the distress. Compulsions involve avoidance and otherwise working to be certain you will not follow through on the scary thoughts. 


  • having thoughts of carrying out violence toward someone else

  • vivid images of violent acts

  • worries around whether you have full control of your movements

  • questioning whether you have true intentions to harm another person


  • avoiding persons at the center of the obsessions in order to protect them

  • hiding dangerous objects or anything that could be used as a weapon

  • avoidance of media and entertainment involving violence

  • internet research around what makes a violent person and evaluating oneself

  • asking others for reassurance that you would not carry out a violent act

  • mentally reviewing past behavior for certainty you are in control and not a danger

Additional Symptoms

  • extreme distress from intrusive thoughts

  • feeling uncertain in one's ability to control their movements, actions and body

  • worries about harm to others with or without intent

  • terrified of impulsive action that causes harm

  • guilt and shame over the repulsive thoughts of harming others

  • questioning if the thoughts represent one's "true" nature

The Problem with Seeking Certainty

OCD comes with urges to engage in compulsions, either mental or behavioral. These compulsions are in pursuit of 100% certainty that the feared outcome will not happen. For example, never using a serrated kitchen knife so as to completely avoid the possibility of harming someone with a knife. Avoidance will ultimately lead to a small and limited world experience with more and more things to avoid because they trigger the anxiety and uncertainty. Also, relying on compulsions to get relief from the anxiety will only serve to grow the OCD and feed the cycle. 

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