While you may have initially thought that your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) diagnosis just applied to your physical compulsions, like hand washing, this issue can also be related to any increasingly dark thoughts that you have. These dark thoughts are actually a subcategory of a general OCD diagnosis called "Harm OCD." If you've noticed that you've been obsessing over incredibly violent, inappropriate, or negative thoughts towards yourself or others, take a look at how you can get a handle on these ruminations.

Understanding the Evolution Of Therapeutic Approaches Can Help Set You Free

NPR has a new podcast called "Invisibilia," which explores abstract concepts that influence human behavior. Recently, they hosted an interesting show called "Dark Thoughts," which looked at a few OCD patients' experiences and how modern therapies were helping them cope. One of the great points that the show made was that even though OCD is still not widely understood, modern therapies and counseling sessions were still able to help these patients find success.

Before you start your own adult counseling sessions, it may help if you understand a brief history that was outlined in this podcast about of how therapists used to approach dark thoughts and how they currently approach dark thoughts. During the days of Sigmund Freud, some therapists assumed that since thoughts held meaning in the mind, they must intrinsically be apart of who a person was or who they wanted to be. As you can imagine, this kind of view would be incredibly disheartening and disturbing to OCD sufferers, who thought that maybe they really did want to do horrible things to themselves and others.

However, the father of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), Aaron Beck, wondered if Freud's approach to these thoughts was correct. He proposed that maybe people shouldn't take their thoughts too seriously; perhaps instead of looking for deep meaning into the psyche, people should take their thoughts at face value: that they were just automatic negative thoughts. Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) is now a term in the psychiatric community that just refers to thoughts that are involuntary, effortless, or non-conscious in nature. Once Beck told his patients to just acknowledge these thoughts and their arbitrary and irrational natures, his patients were actually able to function better! So if you are struggling right now trying to reconcile how you can be a good person with negative thoughts, this second wave of psychiatric therapy should give you comfort. Therapy today is not a judgmental approach; rather, it recognizes that patients may have dark thoughts, but their thoughts do not make them bad people. While it may seem counter-intuitive to say that your thoughts don't define you when many avenues may say that they do, this idea is important to your healing and acceptance of your situation.

What Could Work For You: Meditation and Exposure Therapy

While CBT can be very successful with OCD patients, you also have the option of seeking out counselors that teach mindfulness and conduct exposure therapy. While CBT spends a bit more time acknowledging thoughts, mindfulness is more about meditating and just letting your bad thoughts float by. Since you may struggle already with trying to stop dark thoughts, you may inadvertently be creating a vicious cycle where they come on stronger as you obsess about your inability to stop them. Mindfulness is great because you can just let your train of thought happen naturally--whether that's good thoughts or bad thoughts. Some patients may prefer mindfulness if they have extreme anxiety when it comes to modifying behaviors. If you get anxious easily, mindfulness may be the way to go since meditation can lower stress levels and boost your immune system.

Exposure therapy is similar to CBT in that the patient is more upfront about confronting thoughts and changing behaviors. In essence, this therapy is about facing your fears. For instance, if you often think about throwing a loved one or yourself off a high place, the therapist may have you climb a staircase in a tall building and just stand for a few minutes as you look over the railing. If you don't feel comfortable doing something like this unsupervised, the therapist can work with you in his or her office first and build up to it. These exercises will show that even though you may have dangerous thoughts, you can overcome the anxiety to act on those thoughts.

Keep in mind that while therapies can help you function and heal, this may be a life-long condition that you will have to manage. However, there is hope, and finding a counselor you are comfortable with is a good place to start.