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  • Catherine Benfield

How to Disclose THOSE Intrusive Thoughts

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

A heart with the blog title written in it. Olivia is holding the heart from behind.

We constantly tell people to reach out for help and to talk to medical professionals. But what about if you are experiencing upsetting intrusive thoughts? What if they're about your baby? What if you are worried social services will get involved? What if you're a teacher and are worried you'll lose your job?

What if you're a loving husband and experiencing upsetting harm-based intrusive thoughts alongside bodily sensations that your OCD misinterprets as urges? I mean how on earth do you explain that to a medical professional who doesn't understand OCD? (There's a blog coming on bodily sensations soon - please keep an eye out for it).

These are really valid concerns - loads of people don't understand the realities of living with OCD. And it is totally understandable that you would be worried about disclosing the nature of your intrusive thoughts in case you are misunderstood. Being worried about these things (although understandable) absolutely doesn’t mean you don’t ask for help but it does mean that there are extra steps you can take if you are concerned about opening up. I had no idea I had OCD when I first described my symptoms to a medical professional. I was so convinced I was a a danger to my son, I wanted them to hear everything so they knew what a risk I really was. What followed was talk of social services and a lack of misunderstanding but thankfully that didn't last. So I can say with some assurance that there are things you can do so you walk a more supportive path than I did.

I should point out here that thankfully the majority of people I hear from have had wonderfully supportive experiences of talking about their intrusive thoughts. Sadly though, we’re still not at 100%, and people are still frightened about coming forward. Again, that's a totally valid feeling. Here’s some things that may help: 1) You DO NOT need to tell your medical professional the nature of your intrusive thoughts. Only that they are causing you a severe amount of distress and are affecting day to day life. If they try to push you, say you want to speak to a specialist in OCD. 2) You can wait to talk about the nature of the intrusive thoughts until you are in front of a mental health professional who understands OCD. 3) You are totally within your rights to ask your medical professional what they know about OCD, esp the role of intrusive thoughts, before you tell them anything. 4) If you are not happy that your medical professional is able to support you - CHANGE THEM. 5) Take resources to the appointment with you. Anything that can educate your medical professional and support what you're saying will really help you. You can even use them to describe what you are going through if you find speaking about it hard. OCD Action have a whole Toolkit dedicated to helping you with self advocacy and a whole section dedicated to describing your symptoms to your GP or medical professional. OCD-UK has an excellent ice breaker tick sheet for you to fill in and show your GP.

If you are dealing with perinatal OCD I wrote an article to help with this for the British Journal of Midwifery. Take printouts from Maternal OCD with you. 6) Get advice from the charities. Maternal OCD are currently on a sabbatical but OCD Action and OCD UK will be able to help you to get help. They can also advise on how to talk to your Dr and provide you with advocates to help you speak to them too.

7) Things work differently in the UK medical system compared to the US. There's differences in insurance etc, and I'm not an expert by an means. But the IOCDF are, and they are excellent. So if you are US based pleased contact them.

Okay, I'm going to stop there for this post. I know this subject can be really frightening but there are people to talk to. Absolutely start with chatting to the charities - there is nothing you can say that they haven't heard before. They are really busy at the minute so if you don’t get through first time please keep trying. You deserve all the help and support in the world. Lots of love everyone! ❤️

Catherine x x

Further Reading

Please read this post for encouragement to get you through the tough days.

Fancy reading about some self-compassion strategies that have worked for me? Read here.

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