Dealing with Aggressive Thoughts

Affecting both boys and girls with OCD, unwanted violent images and thoughts are a particularly troubling and common adolescent symptom. For parents, this OCD symptom can produce enormous worry because of fears that the teenager may act on his aggressive thoughts and harm another person or himself. In the vast majority of cases, this fear is unwarranted. The youngster's imagined scenes, in which he inflicts harm through his deeds or thoughts, are no more “real” than any other type of OCD obsession.

Because obsessions involving violence and aggression are so common in teens with OCD, it's important for you as a parent to be prepared for their likely appearance in your teenager, if they aren't present already.

One fourteen-year-old boy says: “I'm mad at my little brother for messing up my room. Then I see him getting hit by a car. When a car hits him, it will be my fault. I'm afraid I'm going to kill my little brother.”

A violent thought of this variety brings a great deal of fear and shame to the teenager that experiences it, especially as the thought is replayed over and over in his mind in the course of a day, or longer. His shame can then get in his way when he tries to carry out an OCD exposure exercise focused on the recurring “bad thought.” Before he can begin, he may have to allow himself to sink into his feelings of shame, letting it “take over his mind,” so the obsession gets neutralized or, put another way, until he becomes bored with it.

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