Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by having unpleasant and repetitive intrusive thoughts, images and ideas about hurting oneself. This is also accompanied with compulsive behaviors that can affect one’s life. People with OCD also experience cognitive distortions that repeatedly play inside their heads.
Cognitive distortions have been defined by Aaron Beck, a seminal cognitive-behavioral therapist as errors in thinking and are often experienced by people with mental disorders, including OCD. These can also come with anxiety and mood disorders. Here are some of the cognitive distortions prevalent in OCD sufferers:
Over-Estimation of Danger
This cognitive distortion has something to do with thinking that danger is about to happen if an action is incorrectly done or inaccurate. A person with OCD will be thinking that he or she might lose his or her job even on a slightest mistake done. This can result to having repetitive behaviors since these actions can reduce the anxiety that goes with one’s distorted cognitive thinking. And although these fears are justifiable, most of the time, these are just product of overly estimation of potential danger.
Over-importance of Thoughts
OCD can also manifest by way of a sufferer putting much importance on intrusive as hurting their loved ones or oneself. While other people who are not suffering from OCD can also have intrusive thoughts, OCD sufferers believe that they really want to act out what they have on their minds. These thoughts also make them feel that they are not good people and others will label them as such. This is also one of the reasons OCD clients try to avoid getting treatment.
Over-Estimation of Consequences of Danger
Apart from overly thinking of potential danger, cognitive distortions in OCD can also mean that an individual believes that if he or she will be face-to-face with danger, it will be very hard to get through it and even might lose his or her mind. An example can be falling from the stairs, not being able to walk again, losing one’s job and becoming homeless.
Importance of Certainty
OCD sufferers feel the need to be certain and that they can achieve this by doing certain rituals and get reassurance from others. This inevitable need is felt by the client regardless if it is possible or not. What makes this cognitive distortion disturbing is when one keeps on seeking reassurance from family members and almost every individual the client interacts with. In the end, other people will be affected as well to the point of avoiding the client.
Fear of Negative Emotions
Another type of cognitive distortion is not having the tolerance to feel emotional discomfort. For the client, having this feeling is so embarrassing and can even drive him or her crazy. This is also related to the OCD sufferer feeling the need for reassurance so as not to experience negative emotions.
Over-Estimation of Responsibility
A person who is suffering from OCD can have distorted cognitive thinking that if he or she will not be able to complete a task or if he or she will be absent from work that something bad will happen, say, a horrible accident. This is when obsessive behaviors like rituals come into the picture. Client will be repeating phrases or make a sign of the cross several times to prevent the situation from happening.
Another cognitive distortion is the belief that an untoward incident that has happened will be happening over again and become a cycle.
Polarized or Black-and-White Thinking
OCD clients can have this type of cognitive distortion in which things are either black or white and there is no gray line. If he or she does not accomplish something or at least falls short, this person will self-loath and think he or she is a total failure.
In this distorted thinking, the client will be dealing with negative details and disregard whatever positivity there is; He or she will always linger with these thoughts to the point of distorting reality.
This cognitive distortion can be likened to paranoia in which a person thinks that the actions and words of other people are directed to or caused by him or her. This can be as uncommon as thinking that a person’s being late for work has caused the delay in delivery, which, in fact, has nothing to do with the OCD client.
OCD patients can also experience cognitive thoughts of believing whatever they feel are true, such as, feeling they are stupid or unworthy. Even without manifestations or truth behind these thoughts, OCD clients really feel that they are who and what they think they are.
This cognitive distortion becomes one when a person easily jumps to conclusions and believe that a situation or event will turn out to be a disaster or something negative. Another example is how an OCD client will be thinking or concluding that another person dislike him or her simply because of how he or she feels.
Feeling Responsible with Things
An OCD client can also have the cognitive distortion of being the one responsible for almost every mishap or an event or situation even if it is not true. This is seen in a person who will always feel that he or she is the reason why a co-worker is not having a good day or if someone else is unhappy.
A person with distorted cognitive thinking will always blame other people for his or her behavior. An example would be telling another person that he or she is the one to blame for the OCD sufferer’s anger or reaction. It can also be that the patient feels bad about oneself yet he or she blames another person for it.
Being Right All the Time
A person with this cognitive distortion never accepts defeat or yields in an argument. When a person has this type of thinking, he or she is always correct and will never bow down or concede even at the expense of hurting other people.