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OCD and Its Different Masks

By February 18, 2021April 6th, 2021Blogs, Tanya Abughazaleh, Psy.D.

OCD can be defined simply as an unwanted thought, urge, or sensation that you become preoccupied with that is accompanied by a behavior you engage in to relieve yourself from feeling the discomfort. OCD can be scary, embarrassing, shameful, and very confusing. Yet it is important to know, OCD is not who you are nor, does it define you. OCD however is a real good trickster that likes to boss people around and get them to do things that sometimes may not make much sense to them. You might ask, “How does OCD boss people around?”. To put it simply, OCD lives and breathes off of fear and makes people do certain things, so they no longer feel scared. The OCD trickster makes the feelings feel so real that you think that listening to your OCD will make you less scared and anxious. At that point, you are willing to do anything because of how terrified you feel at that moment. This means if your OCD tells you that you must place your book in a certain way on your desk to make sure that you won’t contract an illness or avoid all sharp objects because if you don’t you feel as if the thoughts about harming your sibling will come true, you’re very likely to do whatever OCD says. Why? Because you are scared of what could happen if you didn’t and you are not willing to take that chance. This is understandable because OCD is a good at its job. It will continue to trick and boss people around until it can control your every move.

Because OCD is a trickster, there are few different masks that it likes to wear to scare you. Some may seem more obvious while others may feel too scary to even say outload. Here is a list of the masks that OCD wears to be aware of:

1. Harm: Mask of harm makes you fear that you may harm yourself or others, blurt out insults or act on unwanted or embarrassing impulses, be responsible for something bad happening, or experience violent or horrific images.
2. Contamination: The mask of contamination makes you become excessively concerned with bodily waste, secretions, blood, and germs. This mask can also make you become concerned with environmental toxins, house cleaners, and even animals and insects, or sticky substances. Wearing this mask can also make you concerned with contaminating others.
3. Sexual: This mask focuses on having unwanted, repeated thoughts that share a forbidden or perverse sexual theme.
4. Hoarding/Saving: The mask of having lots of things focuses on creating distress when throwing out seemingly unimportant items. The mask tends to trick you into believing you need everything until your room and space becomes so cluttered with items that sometimes it might be hard to get around or find things.
5. Religion/Morality: The good/bad mask focuses on intrusive thoughts that surround excessive concerns about right and wrong.
6. Symmetry/Exactness: This mask likes it just right and perfect. Wearing this mask can make you excessively concerned with calculations and handwriting being perfect, possessions not being aligned properly, or items being moved.
7. Somatic: This mask makes you excessively concerned with possibly contracting an illness or disease despite reassurance. Sometimes, it also can make you become excessively concerns about parts of your body or your appearance.
8. Miscellaneous: The mask with no face encompasses many different fears. This mask can make you feel an excessive need to know or remember unimportant details, fear saying certain words or not saying just the right thing. This mask can also make you feel some discomfort with certain sounds or noises and believe that there are lucky or unlucky numbers.

As you can tell, there are many different masks OCD wears to trick you to believe things about yourself, others, and the world that aren’t true simply to get you to act in a way that it wants. Now that you know all its disguises, it’s time for you to take back control and stop listening to what your OCD has to say. At your pace, move yourself towards what is scaring you and not away. Remember, OCD lives off fear. Once you start showing your OCD who’s the real boss your OCD will lose its power because you now can call its bluff.