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Pure OCD: when pure isn't necessarily better

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

It is widely known that OCD consists of obsessions and compulsions. In more cases than not, obsessions are mental and

covert (hidden) such as thoughts about harming others, health, contamination, relationships, sexuality or suffering. Whereas the compulsions are overt (physical, obvious, visible) such as repeating, checking, avoiding, cleaning, counting or praying.

Pure O describes OCD where the compulsions aren’t visible. For this reason we see Pure O not so much as a sub-type, but as a symptom set, since people with Pure O can have the same obsessions as people with physical compulsions. Pure O compulsions might involve:

  • Going over conversations mentally

  • Trying to recall events just as they happened

  • Trying to recall a memory perfectly

  • Trying to order events according to a timeline

  • Mentally counting

  • Mentally neutralising (replacing a negative thought with a positive thought)

  • Re-ordering thoughts

  • Re-ordering words before speaking

  • Mentally avoiding

  • Mentally replacing thoughts

  • Obsessively thinking (ruminating)

  • Problem solving

  • Analysing

  • Evaluating

  • Comparing

There are some subtype