OCD Pictures: About Mental Images And Intrusive Thoughts

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 06/24/2022

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a common mental health condition. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder impacts roughly one out of every forty adults and one out of one hundred children in the United States. You may have heard of intrusive thoughts and mental images as a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but you might wonder, what does that mean? In this blog post, we will explain the meaning of mental images and intrusive thoughts and provide additional information about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as well as how to find support and how to know if you have OCD.

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a mental health condition characterized by obsessions (which refer to recurring, persistent, intrusive fixations that manifest through thoughts, mental images, etc., and typically cause anxiety, distress, or other forms of disturbance) and compulsions (which refer to repetitive behaviors and rituals that someone living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder feels driven to perform). Common obsessions seen in those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder include but are not limited to order or symmetry, contamination, obsessions, and worries about the occurrence of harm or others that occur without logical reason, obsessions and worries related to relationships, obsessions, and worries related to religion, obsessions, and worries related to sexuality, and obsessions and worries related to real events. Compulsions typically pair with the individual obsessions a person experiences, though some are seemingly unrelated. For example, someone with contamination OCD may wash their hands excessively, and someone with harm OCD might engage in checking rituals, such as checking the doors to make sure that they're locked.

Compulsions are often visible, but they can be invisible, too, in which case they would be mental compulsions. Mental compulsions refer to internal compulsions, such as counting in one's head or repeating phrases. In contrast, other compulsions are visible to other people who are around you. For example, you would see it if someone was checking to make sure that appliances were unplugged. You would be able to see it if someone was asking you for reassurance, but you wouldn't be able to see if someone was counting in their head in an attempt to relieve the stress affiliated with an obsession. People living with OCD who experience obsessions with no visible compulsions are often described as having a subtype of OCD called purely obsessive OCD or "pure O."

Note that it is normal to want to prevent things like harm or contamination, and it is normal to clean or arrange things, too. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is diagnosed when a person's symptoms significantly impact their life, taking up an hour per day or more, causing clinically significant stress, or impacting their ability to function in relationships, at work, at school, and in other areas of one's life. OCD can manifest in many different ways, and there are many different subtypes of OCD, but they are all diagnosed simply as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The category that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is diagnosed under, which is called "obsessive-compulsive and related disorders" in the DSM-5, includes disorders related to OCD but are not OCD, such as body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. Until the release of the DSM-5, OCD was considered an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are common comorbidities seen in people living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but OCD is now diagnosed under the aforementioned new category.

What Are Mental Images And Intrusive Thoughts In OCD?

If you're googling "OCD pictures" or "OCD pics," it's likely that what you're thinking of is the mental images that can occur in those living with OCD. Mental images are exactly what they sound like. They are intrusive images or visualizations that enter a person's mind. These are not hallucinations; instead, they are intrusive and unwanted thoughts and mental pictures. The NCBI website details mental images and who experiences them by saying: "Involuntary images and visual memories are prominent in many types of psychopathology. Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, other anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and psychosis frequently report repeated visual intrusions corresponding to a small number of real or imaginary events, usually extremely vivid, detailed, and with highly distressing content." Note that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder were both considered anxiety disorders before the most recent version of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, which is the most likely reason why this text describes posttraumatic stress disorder as an anxiety disorder. Intrusive thoughts and mental images are a painful, difficult part of living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The good news is that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a highly treatable condition and help is out there.

How Do You Know If You Have OCD?

The only way to receive a formal diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is to see a medical or mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, who can provide you with an evaluation. Getting an evaluation for a potential diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a non-invasive process. Typically, when you're evaluated for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you will be asked a series of questions about your symptoms and will get diagnosed based on your answers. The most recently updated DSM criteria for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is what will be used to determine your diagnosis. If you're not sure where to start, many people simply make an appointment with a primary care provider or general doctor where they can express their symptoms and go from there. If you have a psychiatrist, you can schedule an appointment with your psychiatrist to discuss your concerns.

What Helps With OCD?

Types of counseling or therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure And Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, which is a type of CBT, are popular ways to treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. ERP is a well-researched form of therapy that is shown to be effective in treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. For all information and guidance pertaining to specific therapies and treatments, make sure to speak with a medical or mental health professional. Everyone is unique, so it is vital to remember that different treatments work for different people.

To find a counselor or therapist near you, you can: 

  • Conduct a web search for "OCD therapist near me," "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder center near me," or other similar search terms.
  • Ask your primary care provider or general doctor for a referral.
  • Use an online directory or provider search tool, such as the one located on the Mind Diagnostics website's upper right-hand corner.
  • Contact your insurance company or visit their website to ask who they cover.

You may also consider online counseling through websites like BetterHelp. Note that you don't have to be diagnosed with a mental health condition to attend therapy or counseling. Many people benefit from counseling and the reasons that people decide to see a therapist or counselor range dramatically. There are many different types of counseling or therapy, including counseling or therapy for individuals, couples counseling or therapy, family counseling or therapy, and group therapy. Group therapy, specifically group therapy that uses CBT as a modality, is effective for OCD. Again, the best fit will vary from person to person, so don't be afraid to look into your options, and make sure to always consult a medical or mental health provider before changing your course of treatment. In conjunction with therapy, counseling, and other treatments, you may consider seeking peer support if applicable.

Why Get Peer Support For OCD?

Peer support can't replace treatment from a medical or mental health professional, but it can be highly advantageous because it provides a sense of community and understanding. There are peer support options available for both those living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as well as loved ones of those living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Common peer support options include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder support groups and online Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder forums. There are a number of different ways that support groups can meet together. Support groups may meet online, over a voice call, or over video chat. You might be able to find a support group by searching the web for "OCD support groups near me," asking a provider in your area for a recommendation, or by using a tool such as a resource finder on the International OCD Foundation website. The International OCD Foundation or IOCDF website is a useful tool for finding resources and learning about OCD. You can access the resource finder here: https://iocdf.org/ocd-finding-help/find-help/.

Options for online forums for OCD include but are not limited to the My OCD Community forum on healthunlocked.com, the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) forum on mentalhealthforum.net, and the forums on the  OCD Action website. Make sure to check in with yourself regularly to ensure that the peer support options you choose are healthy and beneficial to you, and don't be afraid to reach out for additional support if you need it. Remember that if you are living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you are not alone.

Take The Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Test

Are you wondering if you could have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test. While taking the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test can't replace an evaluation or diagnosis from a mental health professional, it can give you insight into your symptoms, and taking the test might just be the first step to reaching out for support. Although Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can affect people of all ages, the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test is for those aged 18 and older. Taking the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) test is fast, free, and confidential.

Click the following link or copy and paste it into your browser to take the Mind Diagnostics Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder test: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/ocd-test.