Existential OCD involves intrusive, repetitive thinking about questions that cannot possibly be answered. Individuals will think about really any question. Most don’t have answers, but they feel the need or urge to find the answer right then and there. Often feeling anxious until they do. Let’s go through the treatment for existential OCD and what it looks like to those experiencing it.
It is also difficult to identify existential obsessions, as they can seem like the questions many of us think about often and then carry on with a shrug of the shoulders. Existential obsessions can also be confused with the kind of thoughts encountered by people while they are depressed, constantly going through pessimistic thoughts about how pointless life can seem. And, existential OCD is much more difficult than that.
Typically people with existential obsessions spend hours going over and over these questions and thoughts, and can become highly anxious and depressed. They may be seen as suffering from concerns or existential fears as they seek help, or they may be misdiagnosed as suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Existential OCD is most likely, however when a person fights ongoing distracting, repeated, constant, anxiety-producing, doubtful thoughts of this nature.
In the general population and the media, many individuals have a somewhat stereotypical view of what OCD is all about. Individuals with OCD are seen as individuals who either wash their hands too much or are super-organized and perfectionist. It can be difficult, therefore to identify the forms of OCD that do not resemble these typical stereotypes. The truth is there are a lot of forms that OCD can take.
Even if you don't have existential OCD, at one point in time, you could have had existential obsessions, spending hours contemplating why you have your particular thoughts and wondering precisely what these thoughts might mean. This is yet another form of intimidation that follows obsessive thoughts, and never leads to any real responses. Your obsessive suspicions can not be argued, reasoned, examined, or challenged while you have OCD. This is particularly the case for Existential OCD.
Existential OCD includes distracting, persistent thinking about questions that may not be answered and that in nature, may be metaphysical or scary, or both. The questions generally revolve around life's meaning, intent, or fact, or the nature of the universe or even the existence of one's own. In a university philosophy or physics class, these same questions could come up. Most individuals, however may quit such classes or read about these subjects and move on to other thoughts.
The aim is not to escape or stop the "response prevention" aspect of ERP, so you are taught to comply with your existential thoughts and not try to evaluate, challenge, or disagree with them. You are also discouraged, as this is another way of escape, from finding reassurance from others or even yourself. Sadly, avoidance may become a learned habit that becomes very automatic over time. Unconsciously, without even thinking about it you can avoid your triggers.
What does existential ocd look like
Existential OCD help
Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.