5 Things You Should Know About Harm OCD

5 Things You Should Know About Harm OCD

Harm OCD is one of the most misunderstood OCD themes. Because of this, it can feel terrifying to talk about these types of obsessions. Before delving into the collection of pottery that I make about Harm OCD…let me first explain a little bit about it in general.

5 things you should know about Harm OCD

  • Content is Irrelevant
  • There is a common saying in the OCD community, “OCD is OCD is OCD.” This means that no matter what the specific content is, OCD is OCD. There are many different OCD themes and so many obsessions that fall out of these common themes as well. It’s important to remember that whether we are obsessing about a fear of hurting ourselves or others…or if we’re obsessing over whether or not something is contaminated…it doesn’t really matter. It’s all OCD. Using these theme classifications can be helpful as they can allow us to put a name to what we are experiencing, but it’s important to remember that it is all OCD.

  • Harm OCD Does NOT Equal Harmful
  • Just because a person is having harm-related intrusive thoughts, images, and/or urges, does NOT mean the person is harmful. OCD is ego-dystonic. Meaning that OCD obsessions go against our values and do not align with who we are as people. OCD attacks what we love most. If a person is having Harm OCD about a family member…the only thing this truly, definitively, 100% means, is that this person cares about their family member. If we didn’t care about the subject of these thoughts, they wouldn’t be so sticky.

  • You are NOT Alone
  • Let me say that again…YOU ARE NOT ALONE. So so so many people struggle with Harm OCD. Though it can feel very isolating and lonely, trust me, you are not alone.

  • Your Therapist has Heard it All Before
  • This is not to say you aren’t special. Because you ARE special! But your OCD isn’t. Which is great!

    It can feel very scary to disclose Harm OCD obsessions to your therapist (or anyone for that matter). But I’ll tell you this right now and I’m sure they will too…they have heard it ALL. As long as you are truly working with an OCD specialist (make sure they are!!!) you will truly not be able to say anything they haven’t heard before. Which is very comforting and freeing if you think about it. P.s. If you need help finding an OCD specialist…check out this page on the IOCDF’s (International OCD Foundation) website.

  • Recovery is Possible
  • Alright. Listen up, cuz this is very important...

    The bad news: There is no cure for OCD.

    The good news: There is life beyond OCD.

    Recovery is possible! It’s hard but it is so, so worth it. With therapy techniques like Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), Inference Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I-CBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)…getting to a place where OCD feels like a small part of you instead of all-consuming is a very realistic and attainable goal.

    Now…how does this all relate to pottery? Why am I making mugs and jewelry with knives on them? GREAT question! Here are 3 reasons why…

  • Exposure Buddies
  • “Exposure Buddy” is a term I first heard on episode #369 of The OCD Stories podcast with special guest Nathan Peterson. It’s a term I love because I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain this concept since I started Vase Your Fears. How do I explain to people who may or may not know about ERP why I’m making these pieces with triggering things on them. One of the reasons is that they can be used as exposure buddies. Something that may be an ordinary object but triggers feelings of anxiety. Enjoying a cup of coffee out of a mug with knives on it may sound scary to someone who experiences Harm OCD and is triggered by knives. But the actual act of enjoying a cup of coffee can be a values-based decision. When we incorporate exposures with our values, it gives us something to healthily redirect our attention to. For example…if I was drinking coffee out of a mug with knives on it and I started to get bombarded by intrusive thoughts…I’d say to myself something like…”Okay brain, I hear you but I’m going to focus on drinking my delicious coffee!”

  • Art is Advocacy
  • These pieces can serve as conversation starters to spread awareness about OCD and specifically Harm OCD. The more people know that OCD can latch onto anything and that it is not a synonym for being “clean” or “organized” the better! I have had these mugs and other Harm OCD themed work at in-person markets before and people will say something like “oh, that’s cute” and I take it as an opportunity to talk with them about OCD and Harm OCD. And maybe these items could be a conversation starter for you too!

  • It’s the ERP for Me
  • I used to have Harm OCD related obsessions when I was a kid. Before I even knew that could be OCD related. I don’t struggle with it currently…but I’ve noticed when making this work…my OCD brain will try to interject some magical thinking type thoughts about making these pieces. So here we are…the very act of making this work…and even now…the very act of writing about this is triggering for me. But my value is spreading awareness through these different artistic avenues. So bring it on brain! OCD ain’t got nothin’ on me.


    Check out my shop to find some Harm OCD *themed* items!

    And if you'd like to read more about art + advocacy...check out the "Art and OCD Recovery: Embracing Imperfection" blog post that I wrote for the IOCDF.

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