Intrusive OCD: Symptoms, Treatment, and More

What Is OCD?

Intrusive OCD, or intrusive thoughts disorder, is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that involves unwanted and disturbing thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and cause great distress. If you have intrusive OCD, you may feel like you’re constantly being bombarded with upsetting thoughts or images that you can’t get out of your head. This can be extremely distressing and interfere with your ability to live a normal life. In this blog post, we will discuss intrusive OCD symptoms, treatment options, and ways to cope with the condition.

What Is Intrusive OCD? 

Intrusive OCD 

Intrusive OCD is a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors or mental acts that are carried out to relieve anxiety. People with intrusive OCD often have difficulty tolerating uncertainty and may feel the need to control their environment in order to reduce their anxiety.


Intrusive OCD can cause a great deal of distress and interference in daily life. Some common symptoms include:

  • intrusive, unwanted, and repetitive thoughts
  • compulsive behaviors or mental rituals aimed at reducing anxiety or preventing something bad from happening
  • avoidance of people, places, or activities that trigger intrusive thoughts or fears
  • excessive worry about contamination or contracting an illness
  • fear of losing control or harming oneself or others
  • an obsessive focus on symmetry, orderliness, and perfectionism
  • spending excessive time on activities such as showering, cleaning, or checking
  • difficulty discarding worthless or “contaminated” items
  • distress about religious beliefs or fear of going to Hell

These are some of the more common symptoms, but intrusive OCD can manifest in a variety of ways.


There are several risk factors for intrusive OCD, which include:

Having A Family Member With OCD

risk elements of Intrusive OCD 

Intrusive OCD can be caused by a number of different things, but one of the most common triggers is having a parent or close family member with OCD. This is because children who grow up around someone with OCD are more likely to develop the condition themselves.

There are a few reasons why this might be the case. First, children who see their parents obsessively washing their hands or cleaning the house may start to imitate these behaviors. Second, children may learn to associate certain objects or situations with anxiety and fear if they see their parents reacting this way to them. Finally, children may inherit a genetic predisposition toward developing OCD.

Experiencing Trauma Or Abuse

There are a number of ways that experiencing trauma or abuse can cause intrusive OCD. One way is by triggering the fight-or-flight response. When we experience a traumatic event, our bodies go into survival mode and release a burst of adrenaline. This can lead to hypervigilance, which is when we become overly aware of our surroundings and potential threats. Hypervigilance can cause us to become easily startled, have difficulty concentrating, and be on constant alert for danger. These symptoms can be very debilitating and make it hard to function in day-to-day life.

Having Another Mental Health Disorder

There are many ways that anxiety and depression can cause intrusive OCD. For example, someone with OCD might have intrusive thoughts about harming themselves or others. They may also worry excessively about germs and contamination, and go to great lengths to avoid anything that they perceive as dangerous.

People with intrusive OCD often feel like they are in a constant state of panic, and may even experience physical symptoms like sweating or heart palpitations.

Using Drugs

There are a number of ways in which using drugs can cause intrusive OCD. One way is by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and anxiety. When serotonin levels are too high, it can trigger intrusive thoughts and compulsions.

Another way that drugs can cause intrusive OCD is by causing changes in the brain’s structure and function. For example, LSD alters the way information is processed in the brain, which can lead to intrusive thoughts. Ecstasy, on the other hand, affects the parts of the brain that are responsible for regulating emotions, which can also lead to intrusive thoughts and compulsions.

Going Through A Major Life Event

It’s not clear why some people develop intrusive OCD after a major life stressor while others don’t. It’s possible that intrusive thoughts are a way of coping with the stressor. For example, someone who is grieving the death of a loved one may obsessively think about ways to prevent the death from happening again. Or, someone going through a divorce may obsessively think about their ex-partner and whether they are happy without them.

These risk factors can increase someone’s vulnerability to developing intrusive OCD. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone who has one or more of these risk factors will go on to develop the condition. Additionally, there are many people with intrusive OCD who don’t have any of these risk factors. Therefore, it’s impossible to say definitively what causes intrusive OCD.


Intrusive OCD can have a number of consequences, both short- and long-term.


consequences of intrusive OCD

Intrusive OCD can lead to anxiety in several ways. One way is by causing the individual to obsess over intrusive thoughts or images. These thoughts or images can be disturbing, and they may cause the individual to feel anxious or stressed.

Additionally, intrusive OCD can cause people to avoid certain situations or activities that trigger their intrusive thoughts. For example, someone with intrusive OCD who obsesses over contamination may avoid touching doorknobs or shaking hands.

Avoidance Behaviors

OCD can lead to avoidance behaviors in an attempt to reduce anxiety and intrusive thoughts. This may include avoiding certain places, people, or activities. For example, someone with OCD may avoid going outside if they fear that they will contaminate themselves with germs.

Avoidance can also lead to social isolation and decreased productivity. In severe cases, it can even interfere with a person’s ability to perform basic self-care tasks such as showering or eating.

Difficulty Concentrating

Intrusive OCD can lead to difficulty concentrating because it can cause distraction. For example, if someone with intrusive OCD is obsessively thinking about whether or not they locked the door, they may have trouble focusing on anything else. Intrusive OCD can also complicate decision-making, as sufferers may second-guess themselves constantly.

Sleeping Issues

Intrusive OCD can lead to a lot of sleeping issues because people with OCD tend to have a lot of intrusive thoughts. These intrusive thoughts can make it difficult for people with OCD to fall asleep. Intrusive OCD can also cause people to wake up early in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep.

Job Loss

Intrusive OCD can lead to job loss in a number of ways. The most direct way is if the intrusive thoughts and compulsions interfere with work performance. For example, someone with intrusive thoughts about contamination might spend so much time washing their hands or cleaning their workspace that they can’t complete their tasks on time. Or, someone fixated on symmetry might spend hours arranging and re-arranging objects instead of getting work done. In more severe cases, intrusive OCD can cause absenteeism from work as sufferers attempt to avoid triggering situations.

Another way that can lead to job loss is through social isolation and withdrawal. People with this disorder often become socially isolated because they are embarrassed or ashamed of their symptoms. They may stop going to work or participating in social activities. As their symptoms worsen, they may become completely unable to function and may lose their job as a result.

Relationship Problems

Intrusive thoughts and behaviors associated with OCD can be very distressing and time-consuming, making it difficult to focus on and nurture a relationship. Additionally, people with OCD may avoid certain situations or activities out of fear of triggering their obsessions, which can limit their ability to participate in and enjoy activities with their partners.

Finally, the secrecy and shame that often accompany OCD can make it difficult to be open and honest with a partner about one’s symptoms, further straining the relationship.

Social Isolation

Intrusive OCD can lead to social isolation for a number of reasons. First, the intrusive thoughts and compulsions associated with the disorder can be very time-consuming and overwhelming. This can make it difficult for people with OCD to maintain relationships or participate in activities they enjoy.

Additionally, people with OCD may avoid situations that trigger their intrusive thoughts or compulsions, which can further limit their ability to interact with others. Finally, the shame and embarrassment that often accompany OCD can make it difficult for people to open up about their symptoms, leading to feelings of isolation.

Physical Health Problems

Intrusive OCD can lead to physical health problems in a number of ways. For example, people with intrusive OCD may develop anxiety or panic attacks in response to their intrusive thoughts. This can lead to a number of physical symptoms, including increased heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing.

One of the most serious complications of intrusive OCD is that it can sometimes lead to suicide. This is because the intrusive thoughts can be so overwhelming and distressing that people feel they cannot cope with them any longer.

Skin Picking Or Hair Pulling Habits 

Intrusive OCD can lead to a number of different compulsions, including skin picking and hair-pulling. These habits can be extremely intrusive and cause a great deal of distress for the individual.

Skin picking is a common compulsion associated with intrusive OCD. Individuals may pick at their skin in an attempt to relieve anxiety or rid themselves of imaginary dirt or debris. This can often lead to open sores and infection. Hair-pulling, another common compulsion, can result in bald patches and permanent damage to the scalp.

Left untreated, intrusive OCD can have serious consequences. It can interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.

How Can Therapies Help?

how can therapies help 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common type of therapy used to treat intrusive OCD. It helps people learn to recognize and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their OCD.
  • Exposure and response prevention (ERP) involves gradually exposing yourself to the things that trigger your OCD. For example, if you have intrusive thoughts about germs and contamination, your therapist may have you touch doorknobs or shake hands with someone while you resist the urge to wash your hands afterward.
  • Another therapy is Acceptance and commitment therapy. It teaches people to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment and to commit to actions that improve their lives despite having OCD. For example, a person with intrusive thoughts about harming others may be asked to stand close to someone without acting on the urge to hurt them. As they learn to tolerate the anxiety and discomfort that comes with this exposure, their intrusive thoughts will likely lessen in intensity.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) emphasizes the importance of accepting both positive and negative experiences, even though it may be difficult to do so. It teaches skills like mindfulness, which can help people become more aware of intrusive thoughts and learn to let them go.
  • Group therapy is also helpful for people with intrusive OCD. It provides support and guidance from others who understand what you’re going through. It can be helpful to share your experiences and learn how others have coped with intrusive thoughts.
  • Family therapy may be recommended if your family is struggling to support you in your OCD recovery. It can help improve communication and problem-solving skills within the family, as well as provide support for everyone involved.

Intrusive OCD can be difficult to overcome, but with the aid of the right therapy effective treatments are possible.

How Taking Medications May Help?medications

Taking medication may help you overcome intrusive OCD by reducing the number of intrusive thoughts you have, as well as the compulsions and rituals you perform.

Medication can also help to improve your mood and anxiety levels, which can make it easier for you to cope with intrusive thoughts when they do occur. Some common examples include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): This type of medication is often used to treat intrusive OCD because it can help to reduce the number of intrusive thoughts you have. SSRIs work by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain, which can help to improve your mood and anxiety levels.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs):  TCAs work by reducing the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain, which can help to reduce the intensity of intrusive thoughts.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs work by inhibiting the activity of monoamine oxidase, which is an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine and dopamine. This can help to reduce the intensity of intrusive thoughts.

If you are considering taking medication for intrusive OCD, it is important to speak with a doctor or mental health professional about your options so that you can find the best treatment plan for you.

How Self-Care Tips Can Help?self-care tips to cure intrusive OCD

  • Identify your triggers: What sets off your intrusive thoughts? Once you know what triggers your intrusive thoughts, you can start to avoid those situations or be prepared for them.
  • Challenge your intrusive thoughts: Once you know what your intrusive thoughts are, you can start to challenge them. Why do you believe that thought? Is there evidence to support it? If not, the thought may not be as true as you think.
  • Focus on the present: Intrusive thoughts often focus on future events that haven’t happened yet. Instead of worrying about what could happen, focus on the present moment and what’s happening right now.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for intrusive thoughts. Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

Bring some lifestyle changes such as:

  • Get proper sleep: Lack of sleep makes intrusive thoughts worse. Make sure to get enough rest every night.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating nutritious foods improve overall mental health. Avoid sugary and processed foods, which can make intrusive thoughts worse.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. A moderate amount of exercise is the key to maintaining mental health.
  • Limit screen time: Too much time spent on screens increase anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Make sure to take breaks from your devices throughout the day.
  • Spend time in nature: Being in nature reduces stress and intrusive thoughts. Take a walk in the park or simply sit outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Following these tips may help you get intrusive OCD under control.


Intrusive OCD is a very real and debilitating mental illness that should not be taken lightly.  Intrusive OCD is a serious mental illness that can have a profound effect on every aspect of a sufferer’s life if left untreated.

However, there is hope. With proper treatment, intrusive OCD can be managed and eventually cured. If you think that you or someone you know may have intrusive OCD, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help. Get the solution as soon as possible and intrusive OCD will not have a chance to ruin your life.

Professional Guidance is the first step in order to move toward your healing journey. You can try reaching Mantra Care to seek expert help in the comfort of your own home. Our therapists will help you get a solution to manage and overcome your problem. You can book your online therapy and talk directly to your assigned mentor. You may also download our free Android or iOS app.

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