Understanding Pure O

What is Pure O?

Pure O is the term for the mental health condition Purely Obsessional, which is a form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  Like OCD Pure O is a condition that causes unwanted thoughts, feelings and emotions, as well as compulsions. 

However, unlike OCD the compulsions do not result in physical repetitive actions but occur in their head as repetitive rituals.

Whilst we all sometimes have strange or disturbing thoughts, we generally think nothing more than “that’s weird, why did I think that?” then dismiss it. 

With Pure O, because of the disturbing nature of these thoughts you start to obsess over them and are unable to dismiss them.  In Pure O thoughts centre around subjects such as:

·      Sexual thoughts, which can be related to sexual orientation, thoughts of sexual violence or paedophilia

·      Physical harm, to yourself or others, including violent thoughts or thoughts of suicide or murder

·      Relationships, worrying you are no longer attracted to your partner, or that they are no longer attractive to you

·      Religious or moral thoughts, doubting your own beliefs or questioning your moral judgement.


Although it is not known exactly what causes Pure O it is believed the following could be factors.

A family history of OCD is believed to make it five times more common in family members.

Genetics are also believed to contribute, even though a specific gene has not been recognised to be a single cause.

MRI scans have recognised differences in nerve circuits that filter thoughts and impulses, so biology also has a part to play.

Physical Symptoms

·      Overwhelming intrusive thoughts and images

·      Trying to supress the thoughts and images

Psychological Symptoms

·      Feelings of anxiety

·      Doing or un-doing certain actions in your head

·      Fearing you are going to hurt someone

·      Mentally repeating words or phrases

·      Reviewing memories or information in your head

Behavioural Changes

·      The constant need for reassurance that they are not a bad person

·      Checking their phone as a form of reassurance

·      Checking on-line for information about how they feel and if others feel the same way

·      Avoiding things that might increase their anxiety

Self Help

Although Pure O is a condition best treated with help from your doctor or therapist, there are things you can do to help yourself whilst waiting for medication to take effect, or therapy appointments.

Support groups on-line or locally can help people cope with their symptoms, as well as helping their friends and family better understand the condition.

Learning relaxation and breathing techniques, as well as physical exercise, can help you to manage your stress and anxiety levels.  Meditation, mindfulness and muscle relaxation can also prove useful to manage symptoms and reduce stress and anxiety.

Professional Help

If you are struggling with intrusive thoughts you should contact your doctor to see how they can help you.  They might initially prescribe medications such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors), or antidepressants.

Hopefully, they will also be able to provide or recommend therapy, to help you recognise what has triggered your Pure O, and how to retrain your brain to reverse negative thinking. 

This can be accomplished with therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and ERP (exposure and response prevention) have all been proved to be very effective.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more information click above link.