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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by a cycle of recurrent and intrusive thoughts and behaviors. These thoughts or obsessions can lead to uncontrollable behaviors or compulsions.

In the mind of a person with this mental health condition, the compulsions should help alleviate the obsessions. However, they rarely do.

Instead, the person performs the compulsions over and over again without resolution. Thoughts and compulsions can interfere with a person’s ability to:

  • perform daily tasks
  • keep a job
  • leave your house

In most cases, these intrusive thoughts are worries or anxieties about things that might happen. you guys might leave the oven on and light the fire.

Sometimes, however, these obsessions can come from thinking about something that has already happened. This type of OCD is called real event OCD.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, true-event OCD is not a single diagnosis. It is OCD that develops by responding to real events.

True event OCD occurs when you have obsessive thoughts about an event that has happened in your life. This real-event OCD obsession-compulsion cycle may look a little different from other types.

Primarily, the compulsion is the inability to stop thinking about the event. You play it over and over in your mind, searching for answers you can’t find.

But like other forms of OCD, real-event OCD can often be treated if it’s recognized and addressed. Read on to learn the symptoms of real-event OCD and who can help treat it.

The driving force behind OCD is self-doubt. You can ask yourself questions like:

  • Did you turn off the stove?
  • Will the stove start a house fire if you don’t put it out?
  • Did you close the door before you got into bed?
  • Will you be robbed (or worse) in your sleep?
  • Is your apartment door handle dirty?
  • Can you clean the door handle well enough to keep germs away?

These are some types of obsessive thoughts. They usually deal with theoretical situations or something that may arise.

However, with real event OCD, the recurring thoughts are of a specific event that happened to you. That means the obsessive thoughts and compulsions are often related to something you did or didn’t do.

Symptoms of true event OCD include:

  • Mind review. People with real event OCD spend too much time replaying events in their minds. They analyze them from all angles and perspectives. They replay every word, action, and event in their minds. They often try to decide something black and white about the event: Do their actions make them a bad person? Did they make the right decision?
  • Search for tranquility. People with real event OCD cannot respond to your concerns. Therefore, they may bounce events and their feelings off of other people in their lives to seek reassurance that the worst things they are thinking will not come true or have not happened.
  • Catastrophism. People with real event OCD create cognitive distortions. In other words, they take something that would flash through another individual’s mind and sit on it for longer than they should. They often twist or change it, which is why they find problems with it. From there they draw the worst conclusions about what happened and about themselves.
  • emotional reasoning People with real event OCD confuse feelings with facts. People with this condition may convince themselves that because they feel guilty, they must have done something wrong.
  • Urgency. For people who experience this cycle of intrusive thoughts, finding a solution to situations can become increasingly important. You may feel that you have to find the answer now. This can make the compulsions worse.
  • Increase. People with this condition may find it difficult to separate from the importance of an event due to the intense focus on the event. In other words, an inconsequential choice becomes very important and significant due to distortions caused by OCD.

It’s not clear why some people develop real event OCD and others don’t. Even two people experiencing the same event together may have different responses. One may develop OCD while the other may not.

For that reason, it’s hard to know precisely what kinds of events trigger real-event OCD, but anecdotal evidence suggests these situations may play a role:

  • abuse
  • negligence
  • family breakup
  • changes in relationships or interpersonal problems
  • traumatic events

On the other hand, the event may not amount to a single major life event. It can be the result of a chronic stressful situation or a stressful life event such as moving.

Although events like these are common, for someone with OCD the stress can be so significant that it triggers obsessive thoughts and compulsions.

For example, someone with real event OCD may focus on an interaction they had as a student decades before the time the obsessive thoughts begin. This approach may be the result of a similar experience.

It can also flare up again if you see the other person again or if something happens to them.

OCD is a persistent state of doubt. Everyone has doubts from time to time, but people with this mental health condition face doubts and anxieties that are obsessive and intrusive.

In fact, they feel that they cannot handle them. That, in turn, can interfere with daily life.

Your doubts and worries about something that happened in your life could indicate real event OCD symptoms if you:

  • feeling “stuck” thinking about the same events over and over again
  • can’t control thoughts
  • i can’t find resolutions
  • seek reassurance but not find enough support
  • experience significant problems in your daily life because of these thoughts
  • have trouble concentrating or being productive at school or work
  • have strained relationships from their obsessive thoughts and doubts
  • have previously experienced OCD

Real event OCD can be treated. As with other types of OCD, it may take a combination of treatments to find something that helps. But you don’t have to live in this cycle.

The most common treatments for true event OCD include:

  • Medicine. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are sometimes prescribed for people with OCD. These medications affect the brain’s natural chemistry to help stop or slow hyperactive thoughts.
  • Psychotherapy. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and habit reversal training are used to treat OCD. These guys help people with real-event OCD learn how to stop and redirect intrusive thoughts before the compulsive cycle begins.
  • Exposure and response therapy (ERP). This type of psychotherapy is often used with OCD. With this therapy, a mental health professional will develop ways to expose you to your triggers. Together they will learn to separate the real event from the feelings that have caused so much doubt and anxiety.

In addition to traditional treatments, other practices can help you eliminate obsessive thoughts. These include:

  • awareness. Blocking or stopping thoughts may not work. Mindfulness practice encourages people to experience thoughts and feelings, and to “sit” with them. They can experience thoughts as they happen and push them out.
  • Mental exercises. With a mental health professional, you can try mental health exercises to stop your binge-watching. They may include refocusing or negotiating with your mind. It will take time and attention to make this work, but recognizing compulsive thoughts helps stop them.
  • Take care of yourself. A tired mind can be difficult to manage. Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. These practices can help your overall health and treatments.

If you think you are experiencing true event OCD, consider speaking with a healthcare professional to determine next steps. These resources can help:

  • Your health care provider. Talk to a doctor, nurse, or other clinician to find a mental health professional in your area who can help you answer questions and find treatment.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Their treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP or 1-800-662-4357) can connect you with resources in your area. His Behavioral Health Treatment Locator can also be a good resource.
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH Mental Illness Help Page lists a variety of resources that can guide you to the best providers.

Many people experience these feelings due to past events:

  • to regret
  • shame
  • stress

That’s typical. But what is not typical is the inability to stop thinking about those feelings.

People with real event OCD can’t always handle their obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. They often seek to clarify what happened and find a “resolution.” But that is not always possible.

However, with ongoing mental health treatment and exercises, people with real-event OCD can relieve their obsessive thoughts.

And they can manage their daily lives without worrying about these doubts and anxieties invading their minds.