OCD is difficult to understand if you haven’t experienced it. How can someone simultaneously feel that something is true, yet know that it’s not true? When I was younger my OCD took the form of thoughts that I could kill people by doing or not doing an unrelated action. For example, I felt that if I put my hand down in the wrong place, my mum would die. On some level I knew that was false, but it ‘felt’ true, and it terrified me so much that I did what OCD ‘told’ me to.
One of the reasons OCD is such a horrible illness is that generally we know that what we are doing has no connection to reality, but we do as OCD ‘asks’ anyway. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy – why can’t I stop this? The answer to this question is complex, but one part of it is difficulty tolerating uncertainty.
You can tell a person with OCD that there is a 99.9999% chance that their fear is unfounded, and all they will think about is the 0.0001% chance that their fear could be true. ‘What if?’ is a huge component of OCD – I was almost certain that I couldn’t kill my mum with my thoughts, but what if I was wrong? It would be intolerable to ‘know’ that I was responsible for such a terrible occurrence (this is inflated responsibility, a way of thinking that is common in OCD).