It’s hard to turn on the news without hearing about violent assaults, murders, and sexual abuse. We probably feel revulsion when we hear about these things, wondering how a person could do something so despicable. We might also fear for our loved ones’ safety, or our own.

For some individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the fear can take on a very different quality. Rather than fearing that they or someone they love will be a victim, they are gripped with terror that they themselves might commit some horrific act. I call this form of OCD “Malevolence OCD” (MOCD) because the person fears doing something truly evil.

Like any type of OCD, MOCD starts with a thought: What if I do something awful to another person? That thought is the obsession, which triggers anxiety since it would be terrible to do what the person fears. All of us want to avoid anxiety and prevent bad things from happening if possible, so the person will do something—the compulsion—to try to make sure s/he doesn’t hurt anyone. The person often feels temporary relief after a compulsion.

Let’s consider an example:

I’m standing in the kitchen chopping vegetables. My brother comes in the kitchen and asks me if I need any help. I’m about to ask him to wash the broccoli when an image suddenly comes to mind of him standing at the sink with his back to me and me holding the knife behind him. What if I stab him in the back? God forbid I think to myself as I shudder at the thought and try to put it out of my mind—Who thinks such things? I set the knife aside for a minute and say, “I’m good, but thanks for offering. Feel free to keep watching the game.” I wait until he’s out of the room before picking up the knife again.

This example has many of the common features of OCD. First, I’m triggered by a fear: What if…? I then do several things that are meant to prevent what I’m afraid of: I put down the knife, encourage my brother to stay out of the kitchen, try not to think about it, and say a short prayer. I’m also left feeling like I must be really messed up.

In MOCD, these obsessions and compulsions happen over and over, taking up an incredible amount of mental space and filling my days with fear and dread. Let’s take a closer look at this form of OCD and how it can be treated effectively (yes, it can).

[Join the Malevolence OCD Group on Facebook to Find Support and Learn More]

When Is It OCD?

It’s important to distinguish between OCD about maliciously hurting others and a truly high risk for causing harm. A person who is actually dangerous may have a history of assault and will feel a desire to hurt others. The person may try to resist those urges because of the likely consequences, but not because the idea of acting on the thoughts or urges is incredibly unsettling.

People with MOCD usually say hurting someone else is the last thing they would want to do. Even thinking about the possibility is upsetting. To actually commit such a heinous act would be the worst thing imaginable. And yet the thoughts come back, over and over.

But How Do You Know for Sure You’re Not a Terrible Person?

I’m fully aware that trying to distinguish between these two categories, important as it is, will almost certainly feed the doubt in those who have this form of OCD. After all, how do I know I don’t want to hurt someone? And what if I don’t want to right now but then have a sudden urge that I act on without thinking? Or what if I just “lose it” and snap? What if I’ve been pretending all along to be “normal”?

In fact, the quest to be 100% certain I won’t do what I’m afraid of is a big part of what makes it OCD. When it comes right down to it, it’s hard to be completely sure of anything. This uncertainty—or rather, the effort to eliminate uncertainty—is what fuels OCD. When we aim for certainty, OCD always holds the trump card. As we’ll discuss later on, beating OCD means refusing to play its game.

Myths About Malevolence OCD

As if having MOCD weren’t enough, there are unhelpful beliefs about it that compound the difficulty. The primary myth is that having this condition means that “deep down” the person really wants to do the thing s/he is afraid of. In fact, obsessions about harm used to be called “Aggressive” obsessions in the mental health community based on an old-fashioned understanding of the condition.

In a related way, the general public often misunderstands MOCD, too. Most of the time when someone says she’s afraid of hurting people, we take these concerns seriously, especially in the current environment where we’re told, “See Something, Say Something.” If we don’t probe a little deeper we’ll miss the crucial point that the person doesn’t want or plan to act on the fears.

I would trust an individual with MOCD to stand behind me on a train platform as a train arrives, to hold a knife near me, or to be around my kids. In reality, a person with MOCD is probably the last person who would hurt anyone.

Which raises the question, if I don’t want to do these things, why do I think about them all the time?

Why Do I Have These Thoughts?

Often in MOCD a person will ask, “But if I don’t want to do it, why am I thinking about it so often? What kind of person does that?” As we’ll see is, the answer is: someone who doesn’t want to do anything wrong.

Our brains are great at imagining things that haven’t happened. They do it in dreams as well as in our waking life. If we walk by a knife with its handle jutting off the edge of the counter, our minds automatically imagine a person walking by and knocking it off, possibly hurting someone. By imagining an accident, we can prevent it: We move the knife away from the edge. So our minds feed us images of bad outcomes to help us avoid them. It’s something our minds are good at and that helps us in countless ways.

It’s important to point out that thoughts like “What if I just decided to stab this person?” are not at all unique to MOCD. I have them, others I talk to have them, and in fact the vast majority of people (whether or not they have OCD) will have these kinds of thoughts. The difference in OCD isn’t having thoughts of hurting others but the reaction to these thoughts.

If I have a sudden thought of, “What if I pushed this person in front of the oncoming Amtrak train?” I might think it’s a weird thought and then my mind will move on to something else. I won’t take it seriously.

In contrast, a person with OCD is likely to be horrified by the thought and to worry there’s something dreadfully wrong with him—and that he poses a serious threat to others. If he doesn’t want to be a bad person and doesn’t want to act on the thoughts, then he’ll probably try to make sure he never has a violent thought.

It’s exactly that effort to avoid having violent thoughts that causes them to multiply. As you probably know, it’s virtually impossible to keep something out of our minds without thinking about it—otherwise how will we know if we thought it? So whereas before a person with OCD might have gotten the thoughts a few times a week, by trying not to have them she will start thinking them many times a day, or multiple times an hour, or maybe even constantly.

What’s worse, constantly thinking about these fears can make them seem less upsetting simply from the repetition. Then a person with MOCD might be horrified that he’s not as horrified by the thoughts as he used to be, and may mistakenly believe that he’s warming up to the idea of acting on them.

Common Fears in Malevolence OCD

Obsessions about hurting others can take different forms. Stabbing someone with a knife is a common one, probably because knives are so readily available and the idea is so grisly. Others include:

  • Beating someone with a baseball bat
  • Stabbing someone with a pencil, skewer, scissors, or other sharp object
  • Sexually assaulting someone
  • Shoving someone off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic
  • Pushing someone in front of a train
  • Pushing someone down the stairs
  • Perhaps the most upsetting, being a child molester

Again, the individual with OCD does not want to do these terrible things and is not at a greater risk than the average person for doing them. Nevertheless they might worry that they’ll change in some fundamental way, becoming a cold, callous, sadistic human being, even a “monster.”

It’s important to mention that another form of Harm-related OCD can also be directed toward oneself: What if I commit suicide? What if I impulsively jump from a bridge? I don’t focus on this topic here because it’s nuanced enough that it deserves being addressed separately.

Common Compulsions in Malevolence OCD

The compulsions (or “rituals”) in MOCD are intended to prevent what the person is afraid of. They’ll generally involve trying to prevent the thoughts, trying to prevent the feared actions, and trying to make sure I’m not a bad person.

One of the most common compulsions is reassurance, either from oneself or others. The person might tell herself, “You would never do that. You’re not a violent person,” or, “Thoughts are just thoughts, thoughts are just thoughts.” Or they might ask their spouse whenever they have a compulsion, “You don’t think I would actually do anything like that, do you?” or, “Having that thought doesn’t make me a bad person, right?”

Sometimes a person with MOCD might seek out a professional with expertise in OCD—not only for treatment but as a form of “checking with an authority.” Unfortunately the relief a person generally feels from reassurance doesn’t tend to last long, sometimes not even until the end of the session. Reassurance leads to needing more reassurance.

Others might ask God for forgiveness, perhaps with a set ritualized prayer: “God, I’m sorry to have these thoughts. Please know that I don’t mean them and would never act on them. Please take away these thoughts forever.”

It’s also common to check repeatedly for evidence that the person wouldn’t hurt anyone. For instance, when seeing a story about a gruesome murder, they might read everything they can about the perpetrator to see if they’re similar in any way. These checks can backfire, of course, because they might read about a “seemingly normal childhood” or “no previous history of violence” and realize with horror that they shared a similar background.

Avoidance is also a very common response to Harm obsessions: avoiding the news in case there’s a triggering story, movies and TV shows with violence, knives and other sharp objects, the grocery store and other places with lots of people, and anything else that leads to the obsessions. And while the avoidance might provide some temporary relief, it plays the same role as compulsions in keeping the person in the clutches of OCD.

Consequences of Malevolence OCD

The real harm, of course, happens to the individual who has Malevolence OCD, and the fallout can be devastating. An aunt might avoid being around her nieces and nephews for years out of fear that she’s a child molester—and may avoid having kids of her own for the same reason. A man might never go out with friends because he’s afraid of assaulting one of them. Students might not go to class where they worry they’ll attack the professor.

And of course the emotional toll can be severe. Imagine if you lived every day worried—maybe even convinced—that you were terribly dangerous or depraved. It’s common for OCD to lead to depression as a result of these self-condemning beliefs as well as the withdrawal from enjoyable activities and relationships. Tragically in some cases the person may even resort to suicide.

Treating Malevolence OCD

Thankfully there is highly effective treatment for MOCD in the form of exposure and response prevention, or ERP, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve covered the basics of ERP elsewhere (see this post on my Psychology Today blog); here I’ll discuss some of the specific applications for Malevolence OCD.

In a nutshell, ERP is about doing the opposite of what OCD wants. The exposure part will involve doing the things that bring up obsessions. They might include:

  • Holding a knife with someone else nearby
  • Standing behind people on a train platform
  • Being around kids
  • Watching the news
  • Looking up stories about violent assaults

The therapist will work with the person to come up with a list of exposures for the person to start confronting. They’ll start with the easier ones and gradually work up to the more difficult ones. With practice a person will become more comfortable being around these triggers.

Crucially, the exposure will have to be coupled with prevention of the compulsions—exposure without ritual prevention won’t be helpful. So a person will need to stop seeking reassurance, saying ritualized prayers, checking to see if they might be capable of violence, and so forth. Over time it will get easier to do normal activities without compulsions.

With the right treatment, the obsessive voice will tend to quiet down; stepping out of the fight against the thoughts takes away their power. People also generally feel more confident that they won’t act on their thoughts.

However, the point of ERP is not to know for sure that the obsessive thoughts aren’t a concern, or even to get rid of them. Perhaps the most important part of the treatment is becoming more comfortable living with some degree of uncertainty. After all, we can’t be 100% certain that any given person won’t act violently, myself included. And we can learn to better tolerate that uncertainty.

As you might imagine, the work can be challenging—and at the same time worth the effort as it leads to freedom from OCD.

Where to Find Help

I’ve had many requests for more information about how to find help for Malevolence OCD. The International OCD Foundation is an excellent starting place; check out their website.

I also maintain a Closed Facebook Group where members can find support and information about MOCD.

There are also several excellent books on OCD and effective treatment. Here are some that I recommend; check your library or click on the link to purchase them from Amazon. (Please note: A percentage of sales through these affiliate links is used to support this website, at no additional charge to you.)

Overcoming Harm OCD  focuses specifically on the Malevolence OCD subtype of Harm OCD, with “mindfulness and CBT tools for coping with unwanted violent thoughts.”  It’s written by OCD expert Jon Hershfield, MFT, who wrote two other books I recommend (see below). Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts, focuses on upsetting obsessive thoughts like those discussed here, as well as other forms of intrusive thought OCD.

The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD focuses on developing a different relationship with obsessive thoughts, so they’re given less attention and importance.

The OCD Workbook presents the fundaments of understanding OCD and how to treat it effectively, and has a chapter dedicated to breaking free from horrific thoughts.

When a Family Member Has OCD is my go-to recommendation for an OCD sufferer’s loved ones. It’s written by Jon Hershfield, an expert in treating OCD and working with families, who happens to have OCD himself. You’ll find a compassionate and authoritative guide in this book.Freedom From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a classic on treating OCD effectively. It includes a chapter on mental obsessions, and specifically addresses harm-related OCD (including MOCD).

I co-wrote Overcoming OCD with Janet Singer, whose son overcame severely debilitating OCD with exposure and response prevention therapy. Janet tells the story of her son’s recovery, and I provide information on many topics related to OCD. While we don’t focus on Malevolence OCD, we present general information about the condition, its effects on family members, and the best ways to treat it.

113 thoughts

    • Thanks for your comments, O. That makes sense, doesn’t it? That it would provide temporary relief, but that it would fade over time…. Thankfully with some focused work it’s possible to get a more lasting sense of calm.

  • Thank you so much for this. This just came out of nowhere lately after a very stressful period. I’ve been avoiding loved ones out of fear. It’s terrible but you gave me a lot of comfort

    • Thanks for your comments, Tee. It is terrible, isn’t it? And sad how it can make a person isolate from the ones they love the most. There is plenty of reason to hope, and good treatment that’s available. I wish you all the best.

  • Thank you so much it calmed me down a lot and I’m not thinking about these thought at the moment I cried if refleif that it’s gone for now I’m saying a prayer every night I’m actually 13 and scared to death.❤️

    • I appreciate your comment and am glad you got some relief. I encourage you to talk to an adult you trust so you can find lasting relief and any necessary treatment. This doesn’t have to interfere with your life or make you miserable!

  • Thank you so much for this article, i read it and I did feel much relief. But every time i feel relief, my fear evolves and attacks me somewhere else. Sometimes i fear not fearing and sometimes i feel convinced that i am a bad person and i really dont know what to do .

    • Thank you for your comments, Ian. It’s true that our fears can be a moving target, and we can worry that we’re doing something wrong if we’re not worrying. We often need to seek effective treatment in order to find lasting relief, rather than riding the roller coaster of our anxiety and fear. I recommend as a good starting point for a person who might be dealing with OCD.

  • Thanks so much for this. I have OCD, no rituals but pure O. After years of theraphy and lots of effort I could understand, little by little, that the fears I had were not at all that uncommon. I used to think I was such an alien…

    Nowadays I take minimal medication and have beaten those awful fears.

    I encourage anyone that is reading this to never give up. Work hard and you will succeed. Hugs to everyone.

    • My pleasure, Federico. I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing better. Thank you for your comments and for the encouragement you offered to everyone.

  • Thank you for this. I always thought I was the only person who did this and I would feel depressed for hours and hours after reading about a murder or watching a scary movie of some sort. Constantly scared that I could do such a thing. Also considering I’m only 17 I’m constantly stressing I’m going to snap or something in my coming years and becoming an awful person.

    • You’re very welcome, Em. It’s sad and true that so many people feel alone with this issue. Sometimes it seems that adolescence can be a particularly difficult time for this since one’s identity is still forming and OCD can create intense worry about becoming a terrible person. I wish you all the best.

  • I had this in the the 80’s and there wasn’t much info about it then. I was in my twenties and would read books on end trying to find reassurance that I wasn’t bad and wouldn’t do something horrible. I did find one book that gave me some temporary relief (I still have it) but the added depression from living with the OCD took its toll and I ended up staying at a psych hospital for 2 weeks. I then felt really crazy. I did get the help I needed, mostly medication and therapy, although no ERP and I worked my way through it. A very difficult time. So glad this is out in the open nowadays, I felt so isolated during my experience. Good luck to all, do not suffer in silence! Thank you Seth~

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Janice. It’s good to know there’s more awareness now than in the ’80s, though from the responses to this post there’s still a long way to go. You described a sadly not-uncommon scenario in which this condition leads to one’s own private hell. I’ve seen how tragic it is when a person bases their life around this fear, especially when treatment is available. That’s what motivates me to spread the word. I’m so glad this post is reaching people, and hope others will continue to share it or other resources so we can shine a light and offer hope to those who need it. I really appreciate your willingness to comment.

  • I Googled this topic and found your website. I have had this condition, as you describe it, since I was about 18 years of age, but it has gradually increased in severity (I am now 36). Indeed, I read an article that compulsive neurological conditions actually change the brain, reinforcing the respective pathways (much the way any behavior is learned) and thereby more readily triggering the unwanted reaction. I also noticed an increase in this OCD behavior ever since I became a parent, which makes sense, as this opens both a more stressful and more responsibility-prone (less error-tolerant) chapter in our lives.
    I appreciate your description of treatment possibilities, as I had hitherto been a bit confused about what “exposure therapy” meant in this context, where obviously you do not want to act directly on your fears; now I understand what is meant, which is an exposure to the situations that trigger the fear, and indeed sensing that one does not act on them. The fascinating part is knowing that these fears are not rational, but they are obviously a product of parts of our brain that we do not directly control, much the way you describe in the beginning of your essay.

    • Thank you for your comments, eggman18. You’re exactly right about the changes on the brain from OCD compulsions, and thankfully the right therapy leads to positive brain changes. And good points about what the exposure is——not to the feared outcome, but to the trigger of the fear. Parenting is a common fear related to this concern, for the reasons you described. All the best to you!

  • Thank you for your article Dr Gilligan and the informed and sensitive way you describe this condition.
    I’ve struggled with Harm OCD for 2 years now, mainly focused on my daughter. It is such a traumatizing condition. Everything I took for granted about myself has had a terrible battering. I do not know whether to trust myself as a person. This is not a problem I faced before the OCD struck.
    I’m having trouble getting access to ERP where I live, and my income is limited due to mental health problems. Is it possible in your opinion to use a workbook to undertake ERP? Or would that not be advisable?

    Thank you.

    • My pleasure, Scott. I appreciated your feedback. It’s truly a traumatizing condition, isn’t it? And no more so than when it involves one’s own family members. And yes, access to ERP is a real problem in most parts of the country. It’s a big part of why I’ve written the books I have, to bring effective treatment to people who couldn’t otherwise get it. Many people are able to get a lot out of a good self-directed OCD workbook (like this one). If self-guided treatment isn’t enough, then more intensive options can be considered. I don’t encourage self-directed treatment when the OCD is particularly severe or if there are serious thoughts of suicide. I wish you the best in your recovery. Also you might check out Janet Singer’s blog if you haven’t already: Seth

  • Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply Dr Gillihan.

    I am in Australia where the ERP situation is – if anything – even worse. I’m receiving ACT, which does seem to be helping to some extent.

    I wasn’t able to make the link work for the workbook you recommended. Is it possible to provide its title?

    Thank you.

    • Sorry the link didn’t work! The book is The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy. And I’m sorry to hear things are even worse down under….

  • Fantastic article, this is exactly what I needed right now. I had recently come to understand what I needed to do to beat this vicious circle but your article really solidified it for me. From now on I will let myself feel every thought about being scared of hurting someone and I wont try to tell myself it is ok. Ill just be indifferent and not put the knife down when im in the kitchen or look away from who im talking to. The whole idea that I could hurt the people I love is so terrifying to me that ive perpetuated it and turned it into an obsession. Ive had incredible panic attacks about being scared to lose control. Thanks, I will start using your advice right away.

    • Thanks so much for your warm comments, Matt. I’m glad to hear that the article confirmed what you already sensed for yourself to be true. I usually find in delivering ERP that the person isn’t really surprised by the principles. They know that rituals are OCD’s false hope for relieving anxiety, and that avoidance doesn’t work in the long run. I wish you all the best along the way.

  • I been dealing with this for so long I just don’t know what else I can do
    I feel like I need to move away from my family I’m on Prozac to help but the thoughts and fear never leaves
    I can’t be at home or at work a lot of times I feel like I must be locked in a mental institution sorry for my bad English

    • Jose, I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling. Good ERP can help so much. I suggest starting with to look for resources. I hope you find relief soon.

  • Hi, I hope you could help. I have this scenario everyday about thinking I want to kill. No, not just thinking but hearing some noise in my head shouting to kill somebody. Then an image will pop then I’ll loses my consciousness then suddenly I’ll just realize that I was holding a knife and was ready to kill him but then my hand start shaking, my tears will burst up then I will laugh like crazy then my heart will pound loudly and fast. My breathing will be difficult then my body will feel numb. I dont know what is this. I hope you could help.

    • Knife, to be honest the experiences you describe do not sound like what people with Harm-related OCD experience. I would strongly encourage someone with these symptoms to schedule a consultation with a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible, and to visit an emergency room if necessary. Best wishes to you.

  • Seth – Wow.
    Thank you for such an informative article. My son recently approached me with a similar fear. Having come across this article ( By looking for things on OCD) has been an eye opener. He is young – only 15. Do you think he can manage to curb this before he is an adult? or at least learn to manage it a bit. He is a middle child as well which I suppose aggravates anything like this. I am actively trying to invest time and effort into him to make sure he doesn’t feel a certain way. Unfortunately he is just simply getting worked up as it is decreasing his moral and outlook on himself.

    • Thank you for your comments and sharing about your son’s experience, Trevor. Yes, I do think a person can curb this issue as an adolescent. I would recommend consulting with a professional ( is a good place to start) to make sure you’re on the right track. It’s easy as parents to end up giving reassurance that just feeds the OCD, leading to temporary relief that actually continues the cycle. I wish you and your family all the best.

  • I have been living with OCD for years, last year was the hardest for me. Everything caused a chain reaction, being home, not being home, being around family, not being around family. Even eating caused a ritual to rise, I have been looking for an article to explain my version of OCD. When I tend to start having intrusive thoughts I like to research possibilities and when I came across this article it’s like I knew I wasent alone. So thank you, you made me feel like I can live with uncertainty.

    • Ghitza, thank you so much for your comments. I’m glad to hear you feel like you can live with uncertainty, especially because sometimes articles like mine can function as reassurance. That is, they can provide temporary relief and then the OCD-fueled doubt creeps back in: Is it really OCD? Am I tricking myself? Did I understand what they were describing? etc., and then more online research to get reassurance. All the best to you!

  • I posted but i dont it went through 🙁
    I dont if i have ocd. But i keep on getting these awful thoughts. Making me feel like im a pyscho or something. I feel so lost. And i keep on checking my feelings and thoughts. How do i know if im actually not a bad person. What if im actually sicko that wants to hurt people. I get them around my family and my doggies. And i cant hug my doggies anymore cause these thoughts make me scared. I feel so lost, i cant remember who i am.

    • Thank you for your comment, elle. What you describe is consistent with this form of OCD. It is a good idea to consult with a professional who can make a determination. You don’t have to suffer with this. Consider starting with

  • This website helped me a bit. Hopefully I won’t worry as much for a couple of minutes, maybe hours.
    I’m an almost 13yr old, and have experienced these thoughts for almost 5 months now, and a couple of years back when I was 11 I experienced hocd (homosexual) related thoughts. I also experience thoughts were I fear I want to act on the thoughts, which is completely against my character. On bad days I relapse into my compulsions, and look up warning signs of killers and the such. This always backfires as I find out small similarities between myself and bad people such as having a fascination with fire, and hurting small animals (I once hurt my pet rat because I was extremely stressed, to the point of depression, a misfortune I am extremely ashamed off.) I have talked to my parents about my situation, but recently I have stopped because I have realised they are getting increasing annoyed to the point we’re they tell me I’m making up the thoughts on purpose, ect. As for the theory we’re genes are involved, my dad has experienced depression so crippling, he was bed bound, but I believe this was before I was born. He has also experienced these thoughts in a similar way to me but he was on a strong medication to deal with other complications.
    These thoughts bother me so much, I feel I am constantly on the verge of depression.
    Is my situation normal?
    Thx, sajj

  • Just like Elle I posted but I don’t know if it went through. Just in case,
    I am a thirteen yr old experiencing these thoughts. I also experience thoughts were I fear i want to do the stuff I’m thinking. I have a family history of depression (my dad had depression so crippling he was bed bound but I think that was before I was born.) and on days I feel so depressed because of these thoughts. They strike mostly when I’m alone, when my mind isn’t occupied by the chaos that is my highschool life. XD school is a good distraction, but every now and then I remember the thoughts and get a sad little…pang I guess? In my chest and I kinda go silent and stress for a while before I’m distracted again. If I’ve had a particularly bad day (days were I couldn’t, or almost couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head) I go home and research traits of a future killer, so I can tell myself I’m nothing like them. Usually this backfires, as as you stated I do this, “It’s also common to check repeatedly for evidence that the person wouldn’t hurt anyone. For instance, when seeing a story about a gruesome murder, they might read everything they can about the perpetrator to see if they’re similar in any way. These checks can backfire, of course, because they might read about a “seemingly normal childhood” or “no previous history of violence” and realize with horror that they shared a similar background.” Or I find out other similarities between murderers and myself, such as a fascination with fire, or hurting small animals ( to clarify, I have only ever hurt one animal (that I can remember, obviously) and it didn’t die because of my actions. It was at a stressful time in my life, although I can’t remember why, and I was on the verge of depression. I feel very ashamed of my actions and I haven’t hurt another animal since.) these finding make my thoughts worse. They convince me I’m a horrible person and one day I’ll just… snap. In the past I have had what I believed to be hocd(Homosexual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) like thoughts. These lasted for anywhere from 5-6 months to a year. It was a couple of years ago now so I can’t really remember. The thoughts I am currently having have been occurring for almost 5 months now. They started after I read a magazine on Australian murders. (I definitely shouldn’t have because my parents told me not to and it’s ruined my life.) I finished reading one of the stories, and wondered; “what if i was a murderer.” The thoughts have plagued me ever since. I do have anywhere from a couple of days to week occasionally where the thoughts leave me alone, but then they are triggered again by stuff in my environment; e.g Tv, peers, ect.
    I have told my parents about the thoughts, I only planned to tell them once, so they knew what was happening, but occasionally I break down and confess. Initially, they were very supportive, similar to when I was having the hocd thoughts, although recently they seem a little… annoyed. They sometimes tell me I’m making it up on purpose, or that I’m “full of it”. Not that they aren’t supportive and amazing parents, or that they don’t understand (my dad had these thoughts before I was born, when he was on some strong medication for other complications.) they just don’t…. I don’t know, “get it”

    I just wanted to know your opinion, because although my parents are incredible, they can’t offer a professional opinion, and I really need one of those right now 🙂 is all this normal?

    Thx, sajj

  • Also sometimes my mind tells me “oh you’ll like to do that” when I’m thinking about bad stuff and stuff like that but I don’t want to like it, I don’t think I do but my mind keeps telling that, Im always doubting myself because of it

    • Hi, Sajj. Thank you for sharing your experiences, and sorry you didn’t know if the comments were going through (they were but they have to be approved before they’re visible).

      The things you describe sound very consistent with OCD—the doubting, the questioning, the wondering even though there’s scant evidence that the person would actually act on the thoughts.

      As you know from my post, it’s a very treatable condition, though it does require finding a professional who gets it if you’re going to work with someone on it. For those who aren’t able to do that, I’ve added some resources to this page. I wish you all the best, Sajj. Help is available.

  • Thank you so much for replying Seth, I was so scared.
    Every time I think I’ve gotten over it, or at least a particular fear, I’ll somehow think up another one. It’s really annoying. XD .
    Thank you! ,

  • This is a great article. I am currently at the midpoint of an overseas holiday with thoughts and compulsion out of control, and now worried the rest of the week and journey and all of those triggers. This is entirely how I feel and reading some one else express how awful this can feel makes me feel a bit more human. It’s hard though…

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, GooseR. I’m glad you liked the article. 🙂 I’m glad to know if makes you feel a bit more human, but sorry you’re suffering like this, and while you’re traveling on holiday. I hope you find some relief soon, and long-term relief when possible.

  • I had this problem for a while now. My biggest triggers were living with my girlfriend and driving with traffic in the opposite lane (fear of self-harm). I’m so glad that I took the time to do some researches tonight and came through your article. Now that I have a better understanding of the situation, I can finally work on myself. Thank you!

  • Brilliant, simply brilliant. I’ve just been to see a phycologist and mentioned 80% of things things mention on this article and he didn’t seem to have a clue as to what I was on about.

    Thank you for this.

    • So glad you found the article helpful, HK. Sadly this manifestation of OCD is still not recognized and understood a lot of the time, even within the mental health community.

  • Dear. Dr. Gillihan:
    I was close to going “off” after I had some harm thoughts, to the point where I was seriously contemplating ending a meaningful relationship (over a barking dog of all things). This article hit all the nails on all their heads, and made me rethink everything. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to make content that makes us feel better and healthier. I think this type of work really makes a difference!
    All the best!

    • Michel, I appreciate your letting me know. I’m so glad you found it useful, and I like what you said about this type of work making a difference. I certainly hope so. All the best to you, as well.

  • I’ve recently been struggling with thoughts like this and it has drained me because I’m terrified that I even had thoughts like this about my family, but after doing a little research about this I feel comforted by the fact that I’m not the only one. I’ve had passing thoughts before but it’s been constant the past few weeks like I’ll find myself thinking about it when I’m not doing anything and the fact that I have these thoughts scare me. I’ve reached out for help with a therapist recently, should I mention this to them?

    • Thanks for your comments, Aly. No, you’re certainly not alone. I would mention these things to your therapist, including this article if you think it might be helpful. Best wishes to you as you navigate through this.

  • I have suffered since I was 17 I’m now 23 I have seen so many different practitioners and am currently working with someone at the moment to help me I’ve started to believe these thoughts even though I wouldn’t do it and never have because they’ve because so intense and I have had different ocd harm thought more than one which I find distressing because when I first got this is was the one thought for years now I have loads of them and they’ve got worse and worse I feel emotionally numb like I can’t feel love some times it’s hard to cry even when I want to but then sometimes I can’t stop myself crying please can you help recommend what I should do

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you’ve suffered with this. The best approach is to find someone who specializes in this condition, and follow the treatment (which is Exposure and Response Prevention). You might also find support through high-quality online forums like I also listed some books at the end of the post that many people find helpful as they’re going through therapy. I wish you all the best and that you find relief. You’re not alone.

  • I’m so happy I found this, I was getting these thoughts awhile ago and when I got them it would make me sick to my stomach and I would actually throw up because hurting someone is the last thing I would want to do. I wanted to isolate myself because I didn’t wanna think that way, but maybe it’s best to go against the thought and show that I’m in control. Thanks again.

    • Maya, I was so pleased to read your comment. Your reaction to the thoughts you were having is so telling–clearly it’s the last thing you wanted to do, and yet the mind can convince us that we’re dangerous. Please don’t hesitate to consult with a professional if you need assistance working through this.

  • Sadly I didn’t find any comfort. I’m still terrified. I see a therapist and psychiatrist and I feel like if I tell them that I fear hurting others or that I think of gruesome scenarios that they will think it’s a step backwards. I’ve been seeing them for a year. My depression was really bad it’s better now I think but my anxiety seems worse. I really don’t know if I have OCD …I don’t know how to feel. I’m terrified to know if I can actually bring my thoughts to life. I was sexually harassed as a child and now I feel as if I would do that. I can’t stop these thoughts. What do I do?

    • Tay, I’m sorry you’re not finding any comfort. I hope you’re getting treatment from people who truly understand this condition, and can help you determine what you’re dealing with and the best way through it. The right provider needs to know what you’re experiencing in order to guide you through it. If you’re looking for someone who specializes in OCD, consider searching through All the best to you.

  • hallo dr.gillihan
    ( sorry my english is not that much )
    i have been suffering from ocd since 3 years i lived one year it was amazing without having any kind of fears ( i reach to the point that i could really automatically ignore my ocd with out feel bad about it )
    and before 1 month i had some pannicattacks i went to the doctor he give is me untidepression drug and one of the side affects of the medicament was having suicides thoughts i was getting anxiou i stopped the medicament and the ocd come back becouse i was a fried from the antidepression so it’s trigger again my ocd
    I’m so depressid right now but i never tried this kind of therpy i will ask my doctor about it and try to speak to my parent’s about understand it to help me get of my fears ( my fears its about harming my self my family ) it’s new challenge
    thank you so much

    • Thank you for sharing about your experience, lora. I’m glad you’re going to speak with your doctor about getting this kind of treatment. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a first-line treatment for OCD, and for many people is just as effective as medication. It’s encouraging to know that you did reach a point where you could automatically ignore the obsessive thoughts, which suggests to me that you can return to that state. All the best for your recovery.

  • Hi Doctor I find your posts very relaxing. I might be mistaken as I have read about 1000 articles. This one is one of my favorites but I thought I read one of yours elsewhere that I can not can find anymore. It said something about if you had a horrible thought of killing your family you know chances are you will just come home for dinner and even if it was some deep dark secret urge frankly you don’t care. I thought wow this is normal I wish I could be that. I have had OCD my hole life. Started with contamination I would wash my hands until they bleed. The last couple years it’s been harm. Started with my EX now that she is no longer the most important in my life it switched to my mom. I am classic meaning i’m afraid of knives I threw all the knives in my apartment out. I went to the doctor who put me on Zoloft for awhile about a year and a half I was OCD free. However the side effects caused issues in my relationship via sexual side effects. I recently went off my meds thinking hey I got this beat I don’t need them after a couple months OCD came roaring back. I reached back out to my DOC who was on vacation. I have an appointment this week and was able to have the on call doctor call me in some low dose Zoloft. However reaching out to my doctors office and telling them about my intrusive thoughts he stated I need to go to the emergency for evaluation. I knew what he meant as in a trip to the psych ward. I had never been and deep down knew I was no a threat however wanted to take the doctors advice. This was an awful experience as they made me empty my pockets took my shoes and my belt. Here I am with my mother now locked in a waiting room with others on suicide and homicide watch. People with real disorders 1 man keep walking the same circle over and over. Others having fits I brought my mom and now am in tears asking her please don’t let them put me in a padded room. I found the experience to worsen my thoughts and give credit to them. When it was my turn to be interviewed by the Psychologist they quickly realized I was no threat and released me with in the hour. They did point me in the direction of some therapists who are familiar with Harm OCD. Some many people like me can not find the help we need. The fear I had when they put me in a room locked the door and started asking me the hard questions. I know my doctor was trying to help and I wanted to except that help but he obviously does not know about harm OCD. I am 33 and have been miss diagnosed my hole life. It seems that their is so much out there how do doctors and therapists still not know or are unfamiliar? The extreme trauma of being in the one place i’m so afraid to go will live with me forever. Even though I have had many harm thoughts on myself and of course others this is the 1st time I truly wished I was dead. The thought of being in that room with the t.v. with a cage over it and on the same channel is scaring. I am sorry if this triggers anyone but I had to share. My battle now goes on alone as I never want to mention an intrusive thought again. I will stick to my meds but everyone reading please please reach out to someone like this. Do not just pick anyone pick someone who is an expert. I wish all of you the best and those who are struggling keep up the fight….We can win!!!

    • Anthony, I appreciate your sharing about these very personal experiences. You’re so right, there is sadly a lot of misunderstanding of OCD, maybe especially harm OCD, which can lead to very unfortunate experiences for those who are dealing with it. I do hope you find the help you need to find relief. Thanks again for your comments.

  • Thank you for this whole article! My 13 year old daughter has been suffering with this as well as myself since she was born. I work in mental health, which has been very helpful, but this article really sums it up. My daughter just found it and said it was very helpful, and shared with me. It is hard to find OCD specialists in our area, unfortunately. Are there training opportunities for professionals to increase supports for those suffering from this?

    • Thank you for your comments, Christina. I’m glad you and your daughter found the post helpful. It is indeed hard to find OCD specialists, especially outside of major cities and outside the US. There are centers that offer training opportunities for professionals, including the CTSA where I was trained:

  • It was comforting reading your post. I have always had OCD since I was young. I use to obsess over washing my hands and germs. Now I am a mother and am having these horrible thoughts that I may harm my kids. It scares me and puts me into panic mode. I am to the point where I don’t even want to be around my kids alone because I am afraid. I love them so much and I would never want to hurt them. I’ve never been this scared. This is ruining my life. It’s making me feel numb to where I don’t even feel love anymore. I wish I could go back to a month ago before this started. I am only 27 with a great job and wonderful husband. I just want to enjoy life again. It’s taking a toll on my marriage as well. I will try to take comfort in the fact that there are other people out there who are going through the same thing. I pray we all beat this.

    • Lana, I really appreciate your sharing your experience and struggles. I hear what you’re saying about just wanting to go back to the way things were before it all started. I will pray you beat it, too, and in addition to that I certainly hope you find the help that can provide tremendous relief. I suggest starting with a search at for an ERP therapist. I wish you the very best.

  • I am 14 years old and have suffered from some intrusive thoughts when I was 12 till now. They are truly disgusting and the guilt of having these thoughts can be overwhelming , I know. But it gets better. Imagine it as a roller coaster, it always comes down when it’s been up. Hold on all of you. The pain will ease I promise. You are all more than decent individuals and are the best kind in the world. Sensitive, conscious and self aware. I love you all… Stay strong

    Casper x

    • Casper, you seem to have wisdom and empathy beyond your years. Thanks for your comments and your encouragement to others. I hope you’ve found the help you need for this condition. All the best to you.

  • It’s 12:36 am an I just woke up with a thought of hurting my wife. I’ve been having continuous thoughts of harm to whoever is around me or near me, including myself. I mustered up the courage just now and did a search online and found this article. Although I don’t think I suffer from ocd I do notice I have certain “ticks” or movements I ritually do throughout the day. Looks like I have some form
    Of ocd. These thoughts of harming people started out of nowhere and have begun taking over my days. After reading your page I’m so relieved to know that I’m not so psychotic serial killer. The thought of harming people scares the heck out of me
    And then I harp on the thought of why I’m
    Thinking like that for a long time. Everything you explain is exactly what I’m dealing with. I can’t thank you enough for writing About this and giving people like me some Clarity on the issues. I’m so embarrassed and afraid to tell anyone about my thoughts because I figured they’d just run from me.

    • Chris, I really appreciate your sharing your experience, and am gratified to know you found the article helpful. It’s tragic that people with this form of OCD thinks they’re monstrous. Nothing could be further from the truth. But you’re exactly right that the condition is not well understood by most people. Please do seek treatment if possible; help is available.

  • Hi I have been struggling with this for about 6 months now, mainly thoughts about my son which terrify me because I love him more than anything in this world. I am feeling some relief because I’ve been doing ERP for the last 3 months. I tried meds a couple months ago but had horrible side effects and have been scared since to try new ones. My question is: is it possible to make a recovery without meds? And is is normal that I’m still getting the thoughts after 3 months of ERP? It has helped somewhat, but I guess I’m just getting impatient cause I just want to go back to enjoying my life with my little boy I’ve never had these kind of thoughts before that’s why I was so scared at first because I didn’t know what they meant about me? I am very sensitive person so from what I’ve read is that it attack what you love most and that is my son, so I guess it makes sense why it had disturb me so much… just want to go back to normal already… thank you.

    • Great Qs, TS. Yes, some people do recover from OCD without medication, if they get the right treatment (ERP). It’s not unusual to still have some thoughts well into the treatment; some people continue to experience at least some degree of obsessive thoughts even after successful treatment. We can’t know for sure if and when the obsessions will stop, but we can absolutely make things worse by engaging in compulsions, even subtle ones. I would certainly want to address with a person whether there might be sneaky ways the OCD is keeping itself around, such as subtle forms of avoidance. I’m confident that with ongoing work you can enjoy your life much more fully. That is my hope for you.

  • Hi Seth, I took your advice and met with a psychiatrist. After speaking with her she diagnosed me with ocd! I have to tell you seriously that your page really saved me from checking myself into a hospital. I honestly thought I was crazy and losing my mind with these violent thoughts. I downloaded a book you recommended “Overcoming unwanted inteusive thoughts” and started reading it immediately. The book has done wonders for me already because it really explains how these thoughts work and why they morph into deeper thoughts when we fight them. My psychiatrist loved your website and the book I mentioned. I can’t not thank you enough! I sincerely thank you for your website and reading recommendations to understand the issues. I feel like I have a new lease on life now that I am
    Diagnosed and getting help.

  • Dear Seth,
    Thank you for your article and all of the responses you have written, they really make a difference when you are feeling low. I have struggled with Pure O for the most part of my life. Two times it was unbearable and seeked thearpy first when I was 13, then again 2 years ago at the age of 27. I have come to terms with the fact that intrusive thoughts are going to be a part of my life even though they to do not disturb me as much since I have been taking a very light SSRI medication and had ERP thearpy 2 years ago.
    I just felt helpless for the past week since my harm ocd has reared its head back into my life. Although I know deep down that these are just intrusive thoughts but I feel so disheartened that after two years it seems to have an affect on me still.
    I just felt really frustrated and saw your article and just felt like sharing..
    Hopefully I will be able to overcome this yet again..

    • Thank you for sharing about your experience, Ginger. I hear what you’re saying about feeling frustrated that the thoughts keep coming, and keep bothering you. I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to get to a better place, especially because you were able to before. It’s true that some people do continue to have obsessive thoughts even after successful therapy, but they can become much less bothersome (like “living next to a noisy neighbor,” we sometimes say). I also wanted to share this post about “Pure O” in case some of the ideas are helpful to you: All the best to you.

  • I enjoyed your article it seems to have helped a lot of people and it is always reassuring to know you are not alone, but I have acted on these thoughts. Sometimes I don’t even realized what I have done until it’s happened. It’s never been anything major to warrant real action I guess. And a lot of the time I just brush the thoughts off, but every now and again I’ll act on it without thinking. As if it’s a normal thought. Is there an exercise or can you point me in the direction of an article that deals with acting on intrusive thoughts?

    • Thank you for your comments, Ember. I’m not able to give specific guidance for your situation but it’s always very important to do a thorough assessment to understand one’s experience before thinking about treatment. If a person were actually doing the things that many people are afraid of, like hurting others, that would be something different from OCD. If the fear is “what if I’ve acted on these thoughts,” that sounds more like OCD. I always recommend talking with a trusted and experience professional.

  • Reading your post was comforting for some minutes then i read knife’s comment and i read youd answered him that he was not like people with harm OCD. Suddenly this thought came to my mind that maybe I’m like this maybe this isn’t OCD and this idea terrified me but ive never acted violently. I’m 22 and i live in Asia it isn’t easy here to find a expert who use ERP.ive had many intrusive thoughts before but these days I’m afraid of hurting people accidentally specially little kids i think what if i open my eyes and see I’ve done something horrible by accident like this: I shouldn’t hold little kids because there’s possibility of falling or I shouldn’t go near stairs while I’m holding a baby.i don’t have access to a good therapist but i don’t want to live with guilt i want my life back .it’s been a year and I’m fighting all the time but what if it’s not ocd??

    • Sarah, thank you for sharing about your experience. I’m sorry it’s hard to find an OCD and ERP expert where you live. It’s an unfortunate reality in so many parts of the world. What you described is a very common fear in OCD, and perhaps especially in harm-related OCD: “What if this isn’t OCD??” That’s why the treatment emphasizes living with uncertainty, because there’s no way to know with absolute certainty that this is or isn’t OCD. But when all signs suggest it is, we treat it like OCD and over time people find they can better tolerate not knowing for certain. In the process they actually come to feel more confident that what they’re experiencing is OCD. I hope you find the help you need.

  • i have this awful thoughts about 2 years from now, but not continuous manner, in the last year those awful thoughts to hurt my family keept for just 2 month or so.
    i’ve always believe that every person can be healthy if he have enough of belief that he can beat any disease, but the problem with OCD is another story of challenge ,because you’re in challenge against yourself, that why this situation is very difficult. so if I want to beat this disease, I need a trick, is to use my mind but not directly. it’s like using my mind in parallel or you can say it in the background or in depth. it’s important that my fears don’t know that i’m thinking how i can heal or seek of solution to my OCD. its very complex solution! so how i can do that!
    first i need to rewind my memories, and try to figure out how this start? cause everything in this life has a start and reason, so in my case, i know for certain how it start, and i’m certain that is the same as you, just think about!, my first thought begin with fear is like Anxiety(OGD). fear if someone harm someone you love, and you feel so nervous in same time you imagine like you beat this person(monster), this a whole scenario cross your mind in short time left you overwhelmed by an inexplicable fear, so over time this fear become more intense or more bloody and your interaction(Imagination) become more intense. this is the beginning of OCD. so now i know how its start and in same time i know what is my fears and who feed it, so if stop fearing of my OCD that will result the end of my suffering. NO NO because is too late my fears become mine, what i mean, when i was that fear of someone can heart my family, now that person it’s become me, so i combat against me! its very very important to know that and analysis like i did, the main reason why is to NOT try to escape from your awful thoughts. now i know 3 keys (The start of OCD, who feed my OCD, NOT escape). so how i can beat it for ever? no believe me this not the right question! why because if you ask this question you’re so far to beat OCD, its like you believe on it , believe that you’re a week and ask for help, no you’re not awake you’re strong and you can extinguished the fire that eat you from inside.. be strong, for me and hopefully i’ve overcome this OCD just like i mentioned and without any drugs and you can do that just believe in yourself

    • I appreciate your comments, Json, and am glad you found a way through your OCD. Understanding can be very helpful, as is not resisting the thoughts and not making more of them than they deserve. Be well!

  • Thanks Seth, for writing this post. I kept trying to search online what could I possibly be suffering from, but I couldn’t find it.
    I’ve been feeling suicidal these days because I thought I was possibly a psycho in the making and I would have extreme fears of me posing as a possible threat to the safety of others.
    Thank God I came across your site. You have no idea the huge sense of relief and happiness that this post had brought to me. It meant so much to me to know that I’m not a psycho in the making nor am I ever going to pose a threat to others.
    I’m no longer feeling suicidal anymore and I’ve been feeling great joy that I haven’t been able to experience for quite a while now.
    Thank you so much!

    • Nelyn, I so appreciate your taking the time to comment on this post. I couldn’t be happier to know that the post provided you with a sense of relief at such a troubling time. I certainly encourage you to seek whatever help you may need through this process, including through therapy if necessary ( is a good place to search for a therapist). All the best to you through all of this.

  • doctor it makes so difficult to me,i am so guilty.whie i was sleeping my mom said in a loud voice to give food to my dog,when i heard that loud voice from my mom suddenly an anger struck my head an i got that urge to tell abusive word due to anger i controlled it totally ,i said ok to my mom a.After that i tried to control not to use bad word ,but still trying to control i couldnt,again the same thing is coming in my head ,that how could she speak in a loud voice,again i am getting irritated and i am trying to control but by trying to stop that,again my anger getting worse and its making me remember the loud voice…and my anger got extreme and got loosing control in my head,the anger started to hit my mind and started abusive words hitting my mind with bad sexual abusive words,after that i found guilty and shame like what my mother didto me, she just said to give the food to my dog in a loud voice thats it she didnt shout at me or she didnt do nothing ,for that y i did i got that much hatred and anger towards my mom,and after that i prayed to god in my mind like i have did sin i am a monster and i did wantedly etc And again the anger came out now towards god,now again i started to control that nothing bad or abusive word hit my mind,i was controlling and at the same time anger towards god builded up ,and again it came ,this time with sexual abusive words against god , it makes me so guilty ,i am getting extreme anger for unwanted reason and while trying to contro the thought it makes difficult and it turning towards god,if i get these thoughts i pray to god to help me,if the next time if the thought hit me again means ,i will get angry and i will be feeling like god didnt help me beacuase i am a monster and i am a bad guy and th anger will turn against god ,i will try to control the same and again it repeats .i am fed up, my life is going like this in a bad phase.if my father,mother or my girlfriend,they speak to me in a loud voice or if they speak to me in normal i get an urge and anger in my mind and abusive words hit my head and very bad sexual abusive thought will come to my head against my mother and girlfriend due to anger,doctor i couldnt control this ,i want to live a happy life for silly reasons y i am getting this much hatred,vengeance etc what they did to me,i am feeling guilty ,after these thought hit my mind i will recheck when i got anger what are the abusive words that came to my mind due to anger,i used to reassure and i feel guilty and i will tell to god i didnt do it wantedly,the whole day i will think y i did like this and i reassure.there are so many issues lik these.if a baby cry i will get irritated and wanted to kill ,like these kind of thought hit my mind i am totally worried and disturbed doctor,plz help me doctor,i want to live a peacefull life

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, kiransujay, and I’m sorry to hear of your struggles. Please do consult with a mental health professional so you can get the right diagnosis and treatment to find the relief you’re seeking. It’s hard to know from your experience exactly what it is you’re dealing with. I wish you the best.

  • Doctor in my small age I had this washing habit repetition,but now it stopped but while writing I avoid some letters and while texting too ,if I write those letters some bad will happen to my loved ones like this kind of thoughts occur ,and as issue in the earlier msg like anger,due to that bad abusive words hit my mind after that i find guilty myself,bad sexual thought about god ,about my girlfriend ,mother etc

    • Kiransujay, what you described about the washing repetition and avoiding letters while writing and texting sounds consistent with OCD, especially the idea that a person might be responsible for harm coming to others based on the thoughts the person has. Again, it’s crucial for a mental health professional to make a diagnosis for each individual. Please consider seeking an evaluation. Thank you again for sharing about your experience.

  • I get urges to hurt people that I perceive to be weak, (people with injuries, babies etc). I imagine just punching people in the face that I am talking to, pushing people in front of trains, off cliffs etc. I watched a movie called natural born killers and it actual made curious as to how I would feel if I actually killed someone. Obviously I have never acted on these urges however I can’t help but feel that maybe that is what separates me from murders/serial killers, I don’t act on the urges and they do…… I haven’t sought any kind of help as I have developed methods to deal with the urges and I heaven’t murdered anyone yet, haha.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, John. It can be hard for people sometimes to distinguish between an urge and the actual desire and intent to harm someone. Your remarks get at an important point——that many people imagine harming someone (often the weak/vulnerable), and yet the vast majority of people don’t act on these images. What seems to distinguish people with OCD is that they’re more distressed by these images than are most people. It’s always good to speak with someone who understands OCD well in order to make a determination of whether it’s OCD, so if it is, the treatment can proceed accordingly. Thanks again.

  • I’ve been going through actual hell on earth for 6 has been the worst time of my life. I was thinking I was going to do terrible things. Basically everything you said. The more I tryed to escape the deeper I got in and when the feelings of terror over my thoughts dimmed I started to think am I starting to warm to the idea as you said. I feel great now thanks to your article. Simply because I know now it exists. It’s not just me. I hav been fighting harm ocd on and off for years but it never got this bad. I also never knew it was harm ocd. Thanks Very much. I know I may or may not still need help. I’ll see how I go because I could go long periods free of it but this is the first time I have identified it and understood what’s happening. At the very very least you have given me hope. Thanks. Very much.

    • Robert, I couldn’t be happier to hear that you found comfort in this post. I’m also glad to know you recognize treatment may be necessary for full relief. Thank you for sharing about your experience.

  • I’m glad I stumbled onto this page. As a Marine Corps veteran, I’ve been struggling with these kinds of thoughts processes with almost no knowledge of the terms for too long, in my opinion. Thank you for doing this for people. I really hope you can help and guide people as you did for me. I think I’ll be able to better handle myself but I do have one question: Is it possible to be in some kind of gray area between Harm OCD and truly dangerous to others? I only ask because I feel there are many people who do fall into that category, like myself, due to more uncommon factors amongst the populace such as military training, MMA training, etc. Thank you for your time, sir.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Shane. I’m glad the post was helpful, and that it helped one of our Marine Corps Veterans. Unfortunately there are so many people who don’t know what they’re dealing with. I’m starting to work on ways to bring the most effective treatment to people who otherwise couldn’t get it, and plan to have something available in the new year.

      As far as the gray area you asked about, it’s all gray area to some extent. Everyone has the potential to be dangerous to others, with some a more potent threat due to training, weapons, etc. OCD wants complete certainty, so the treatment emphasizes living with the uncertainty we can’t avoid. That said, the chances of a person being the opposite of what they want to be is vanishingly small.

  • Hi, my name is kacee, 25 years old. I have a 4 year old boy and husband. Past 8 months I’ve been having terrible anxiety.. I was prescribed lexapro for the anxiety I was constantly thinking about how bad it was everyday.. I finally started to take lexapro. Week 2 into it I kinda obsessed over a article about the man killing his family and was so sad about it. My son since the day he was born I over obsessed over his every move he’s never spent the night away from me. The minute I leave him somehere I would constantly text my husband or mom if he’s okay. Anyways back to the case something snapped that day inside me like could I be crazy could I hurt my family. Then I started feeling omg I’m going crazy I could hurt my family. Witch I’m the total opposite person. I stopped lexapro thinking maybe it was that. 2 months off I’ve been a emotional roller coaster. I felt I could harm my family. When I never in my life ever ever could, they our my world, for some reason it was mainly my son and I love him the most. I would question myself watching him now. I would notice I didn’t want him on me as much. I was wondering if I could hurt him. Like I’m pushing him away… it’s killing me. I just wanna be the mom I just was. I always wanted my son on me I always loved him laying with me. It’s like I have these urges that I know could never be real * I would die for my son. So why do I feel like I’m protecting him from myself 🙁 I don’t want him sleeping with me anymore I wonder if I wake up in my sleep and could hurt him. Why is this happing. I got prescribe some medication from my physiatrist I think I’m getting a little better still on a low dose of it and about to be 2 weeks on it soon! I still feel I’m protecting him from me. Still notice im not being myself all the way around. Still weird urges or thoughts or whatever you call this could I hurt him. I’m just a mess and feel so alone 🙁

    • Kacee, thank you for sharing your experience. So many people can related to what you’re describing. It’s so hard when these fears get in the way of sharing the love we have, isn’t it? I do hope you’re able to get the help you need. I’m working on ways to make helpful information more readily available so people don’t have to keep suffering. I wish you all the best.

  • What if a sufferer of Harm OCD believes that they already HAVE committed a heinous act? My husband has struggled for years with hygiene OCD, with his only relief being drinking to excess. Over the past year, he has started experiencing blackouts and begins to believe that during this periods of memory lapse, that he has molested a child, or severly hurt a person, even though he knows he would never do such a thing. This is since a few months ago, he blacked out and assaulted someone to defend me, yet he doesn’t remember doing it, and is convinced he is capable of doing it again. But often he believes he has done something, and spends hours scouring local news to find articles where an assailant was not identified, and matches his description. Is there a way to console him when he reaches these conclusions? I will add that we are expecting our first child in a week or so, and he believes he will be carted off by the police at any minute, and that he will never get to meet his son

    • It’s a great question, Robyn. It can be especially difficult when the doubting is about the past, not about what could happen in the future. How do we make absolutely certain something hasn’t happened—especially when we have blackout episodes? I don’t imagine the Kavanaugh hearings were helpful in that regard. And throw in the assault you mentioned and it’s even more difficult. True relief will only come through stopping the compulsive need to be certain (like asking for reassurance, checking the news, etc.). Those compulsions might help a little in the short run but are what keeps OCD alive. As I’ve mentioned on here, I’m working on ways to make information about Harm OCD more available to those who need it, because clearly the need is there. Thank you for your comments.

  • Thank you so much for this article. I thought I’m the only one having these kind of bad thoughts. I’ve struggling for long time having this kind of thought until now. I’ve searched a lot on the internet and read a lot about my problem but failed to find the right explanation about it. Your article really explained well my situation, your article is so informative! Hope to read more of your articles! God bless.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Shalimar. You certainly are not alone. I’m glad this explanation was helpful to you. I’m working on a way to make this information more widely available so others, including the general public, has a better understanding. All the best to you.

  • What if it’s not just knives and other thing I would rather not mention? (which I have many thoughts of and is one of the main reasons I am here in the first place) What if it ties into the fear of being oneself. To pretend your someone else because you believe that part of you is dangerous. So you try to change it. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve nearly destroyed every part of me except for the obsession to help others. What do you do than? You can’t hold a knife than and slowly become better. I don’t know who I am and I constantly think of the perfect things to say till they lose their cincerity. I can’t change anymore, I don’t know what I am. What do I do now?

    • I appreciate the questions, Trent. It’s a great question, and you’re definitely not the only person who has had a fear of being oneself because it “could be dangerous.” Treatment for OCD would involve, as always, doing the opposite of what OCD is demanding, like doing things that clearly involve being oneself. It would probably also involve more spontaneity, to push back against the urge to “say the perfect thing” etc. This work is best done with a therapist, after a thorough assessment. I wish you the best as you deal with things.

  • Hello, my name is Collin. I have been suffering from OCD for multiple years now, and have especially struggled with violent intrusive thoughts. I have learned that by writing them down, I am able to see how irrational they are, and they usually end up dissipating. Recently, my roommate came across my journal entries, and found many about severely harming her. She confronted me and told me that she was afraid that I would snap and do something to harm her; that she had been locking her bedroom door at night, out of fear that I would come and hurt her while she was sleeping. I have been able to not let these thoughts bother me up until this point, but now am beginning to fear them again because someone I am close to is now afraid of what I might do to them. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to move forward- and just have one question to sum up everything I’ve said. What do I do if the person whom is being targeted in my violent intrusive thoughts, becomes afraid of me and thinks that I am going to hurt them?

    • Thanks for your questions and for sharing your experience, Collin. I’m glad you found a way to deal with the upsetting thoughts. It’s so hard to help others to understand them, though, isn’t it? I don’t know for sure how a specific person could be helped to better understand, but I think this blog post could be useful for many people as a beginning. I’ve also begun working on a book about this form of OCD—for those who have it, for the people who love them and want to understand, and for general public knowledge. All the best to you, and to your roommate.

  • Is there any natural treatment, is it exercising? Diet? I’m only 14 and very scared that I might hurt someone, I really really don’t want to I know it’s just a thought, I just want to know natural treatment, I don’t want to contact any medical professionals

    • Thanks for your comments, Mason. Diet and exercise can be helpful, but if treatment is required that usually means seeing a psychologist or other therapist, or taking medication. Young people should talk with their parents or another trusted adult about what they’re experiencing. It’s important to get the help a person needs. I’ll be wishing you all the best.

  • So I’ve just recently started having these thoughts about hurting my niece. I haven’t really been around babies that much ,my niece comes to my house almost every weekend. I’ve never thought of harming her until now . Every time I think of harming her I have a panic attack. And it’s not like it’s a once in a while thing it happens constantly. I go to therapy but like I read it doesn’t really help. I’m planning on telling her about this article so I can get the correct treatment. I feel horrible for thinking these things because I would never hurt her ever. I’m still in school and I tend to have these panic attacks in school. I try to distract myself but it never works . I’m afraid that this feeling will never go away and I will suffer from it for the rest of my life and it will never stop

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Bubbels. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through that. It’s a good idea to let a therapist know about the right treatment if they’re not aware of it. Why continue to suffer if you don’t have to? You can also find a directory of OCD specialists on the International OCD Foundation website, And I actually started a new Facebook group in the past week as a place to connect and find information and support: This condition doesn’t have to shrink your life. I wish you the best.

  • It weighs a ton on me and I seriously think I will never be the same again and it’s never going to stop. I really need help before I grow into adulthood and constantly have to avoid kids because I’m afraid of hurting them .

  • This helped me out a lot and brought me so much peace. I thought I was a horrible person, even though I have no means of committing the things I think. I’m 17 and I don’t know how to get help. At least this helped me out a little.

    • Bea, I’m really glad to hear the article was helpful and brought you peace. It’s hard when you don’t know how to get help. I hope there’s someone you trust, like a family member or family doctor or friend, who would understand and can help you out. I’ll also mention that I recently started a closed Facebook group for MOCD that you might consider joining– It’s a place to share information and find support. I wish you all the best.

  • I looked up malevolent ocd and only 2 articles showed up. I was so pleased reading this but I’m scared too and the reassurance only stays for so long…I want to feel closer to God and now I feel like God will not accept me due to these intrusive violent thoughts. What is most terrible is the person harmed in my thoughts is the person I love so much, my husband. I then try to conceal the terrible thought by replacing the person in my thought with someone else even though I know I would never perform such a violent act or wish it at all…my husband comforts me a lot and wants my mind to grow stronger for us but the terrible thought just keeps coming back the moment I realize I’m no longer thinking of it…I am scared to take medication because I want to have children when older

    • Thanks for sharing about your experience, Rosie. I’m glad the article was helpful, and completely understand about how reassurance is only temporary. It’s terrible how MOCD interferes with our closest relationships, including our sense of connection with God. I always tell people that I believe God understands the nature of our thoughts far better than we do, and knows that the mind produces MOCD thoughts against our will. And of course OCD would go after the person you love dearly. With MOCD we find that efforts to replace the thoughts or substitute something aren’t effective, because that ends up playing into OCD’s trap of treating the thoughts as if they must be avoided (which gives them more energy). I hope you find the help you need so you and your family can get some relief. I recommend looking into Jon Hershfield’s book Overcoming Harm OCD if you haven’t already. You might also consider joining the MOCD Facebook support group that I moderate: All the best to you.

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