Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: The Mind On Replay

Fear-based thoughts.

Individuals with an obsession surrounding fear-based thoughts struggle with anxiety about thoughts about the future or dreaded events. They may also be obsessed with taboo thoughts they’re not supposed to have (such as those dealing with sex or violence) or regarding any harm that might befall them or someone they love.

Common compulsions arising from obsessions can include:

Repetition of words and phrases to prevent what they fear from coming to life.
Whatever a person with OCD fears, they may try to prevent it from happening by repeating words, phrases or numbers as a way to prevent these fears from manifesting.


Malcolm had a reputation for being studious. He would study late hours into the night and his friends would always crack jokes about what a nerd he was. But they didn’t know that a lot of the time he spent studying were actually spent repeating words and numbers in his head, over and over again. Perfection. 100. Aced it. 100. Extraordinary. 100. Perfection. 100. Aced it. 100. Extraordinary. 100.

He repeated this pattern of words and numbers until he felt a small sense of relief that he would ace his next exam. But the fear would always rise up in his chest again, and he would find himself having to start writing them down just to reassure himself that he was as brilliant as he thought he was.

Unbeknownst to Malcolm, childhood bullying and a verbally abusive father had taken a toll on him. They had affected his levels of confidence about his intelligence. Part of his obsession with these words and numbers had a lot to do with the disparaging remarks he had heard as a bully victim. They were his way of reclaiming his power as an adult and as a way to control his own self-perception. These early childhood experiences were inevitably part of the pattern of his compulsions.

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