If you have OCD with no obvious compulsions, you might think you have “Pure O” OCD.
This can mean you’re mentally fixated on a subject (i.e., an “obsession”) but show no outward signs of acting on it.
Some think OCD is caused by anxiety. But is “Pure O” a real diagnosis? The jury is still out.
What we do know is that by learning more about Pure O, you’ll gain further insight into your OCD.
How do you know if you have Pure O?
You might think you have what’s called Pure O or purely obsessive OCD if:
- You ruminate constantly
- Large chunks of time are devoted to going over details
- Your mental obsessions are interfering with your daily life
- You are fixated on persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses. These could be around religion, a specific task, germs, sex, aggression, and more.
The other aspect of Pure O is showing little or no outward signs of compulsions.
By compulsions, researchers mean concrete actions taken to lessen the obsession. One example is excessive hand washing to ease anxiety.
OCD thoughts can feel intrusive and cause anxiety or distress.
Pure O is not recognized as a distinct type of OCD with unique symptoms. More on this below.
What is the difference between OCD and Pure O?
OCD is made up of two parts: Obsessions and Compulsions.
- Obsessions refer to the mental fixations that those with OCD experience. These can be intrusive and persistent thoughts, for example.
- Compulsions refer to behavior such as frequent hand washing, checking locks, pacing up and down, etc.
The difference in Pure O vs OCD is that there are no observable compulsions in the former.
Those with Pure O have mostly mental compulsions.
Compulsions can include mentally reviewing events for signs of danger and reassuring oneself internally that everything is alright, as two examples.
Can you be obsessive but not compulsive?
The answer depends on how you define compulsive.
If by compulsive you mean external actions, then yes you can be obsessive but not compulsive.
But if you include internal actions such as ruminating, mental review, and more, then no.
These are still compulsions because those who have them can feel powerless to stop.
Semantics aside, Pure O and OCD share such similarities that treatment is the same for both.
Why does pure OCD happen?
Today, roughly 2.2 million American adults experience OCD. Why is this the case?
There hasn’t been enough research on Pure O OCD to know for sure.
But the causes are assumed to be the same as for OCD.
Here is what we think may cause OCD:
- Brain abnormalities
- Physical environment
- Childhood experiences
- Level of chronic fear during development
It may take years before researchers untangle the web of variables that cause OCD.
Luckily, there are effective treatments today.
The Truth About Pure O OCD
Did you know that Pure O isn’t an official diagnosis?
The truth is that Pure O hasn’t yet been clinically distinguished from OCD.
And it may never be, due to the high overlap of symptoms.
The main difference in Pure O vs OCD is how the compulsions are expressed.
With Pure O, the compulsions are mostly confined to mental processes.
So, it’s helpful to remember that Pure O is a layman’s idea.
It helps simplify and communicate someone’s symptoms and needs without a deep explanation.
But be warned: the term “Pure O” has gotten pushback from the scientific community.
Some see it as needlessly causing confusion and doing more harm than good.
Is Pure O Common?
Due to the nature of Pure O, it can be hard to get accurate statistics.
Admitting that you have obsessive thoughts or worries about relationships or contamination can be hard to admit, even to oneself.
OCD affects 1.2% of the U.S. population, about 2.2 million people.
Because the symptoms and causes are so similar, Pure O OCD, if it does exist separate from OCD, may have a percentage of this amount.
At any rate, Pure O is less common than other mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
And the important thing to know is that if you think you have Pure O, you’re not alone.
There are millions of people around the globe who are experiencing what you are, and help is available.
Is Pure O OCD Curable?
The common treatments for OCD and Pure O are therapy and medication.
Pure O CBT
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used therapy method.
With the help of a trained therapist, CBT helps you recognize and challenge limiting thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
There is a particular form of CBT that is helpful for those with OCD and Pure O: Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
In ERP, you will be safely and gradually exposed to an OCD trigger. This helps break the cycle of trigger-compulsion-repeat.
At Destination Therapy, our Houston therapists treat OCD most commonly with mindfulness-based CBT.
In this modality, you’ll get help observing your thoughts with detachment.
Over time, the thoughts that trigger OCD can be stripped of their power.
This is because in mindfulness you can see that they are just thoughts, nothing to be afraid of.
We also provide trauma-informed CBT.
This is a way to say that we take your life experiences into account.
By honoring your history and using experiences as clues to your present symptoms, we provide effective therapy for OCD.
Medication for OCD
There is also the option of using medication for OCD diagnoses.
Note that Pure O isn’t an official diagnosis. You’ll need to meet the diagnostic criteria for OCD or another diagnosis to be treated with medication.
The available medications for OCD include anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medication) and antidepressants, depending on your presenting concerns.
Your therapist will be able to talk about your options with you and recommend a prescribing doctor if needed.
Lastly, be aware that it may take multiple attempts to find a medication that works for you.
How to treat pure O OCD: Supplemental Ways
Other ways to treat OCD at home include OCD workbooks, stress management, and support groups.
Workbooks can help you get to know your OCD on a deeper level and reframe it as a positive experience.
Stress management, such as exercise and meditation, can process excess energy that might otherwise fuel your obsessions and compulsions.
And support groups are a great way to see that you’re not alone. There are others just like you dealing with the same symptoms.
Having support can reduce any shame you may feel about your OCD.
There you have it: the truth about Pure O is that it’s a layman’s term, not an official diagnosis.
Now that you know this, you’ll be better prepared to avoid unsupported information and get the support you need.
You’ve also learned 3 different ways to tackle your OCD, so you don’t get stuck in fruitless efforts.
If you’re ready to get help for your own OCD, reach out today for a free phone consultation.