Pure OCD is a term used by individuals in the OCD community to describe symptoms when everything takes place in their head. There are no outwardly visible compulsions like counting, tapping or washing. Moreover, the obsessions often are taboo, violent, or blasphemous. What this has led to is a sort of divide between the “regular” OCD community and those with Pure OCD.
However, the difference between Pure OCD and “Regular” OCD is…virtually nonexistant.
They are both OCD. They both involve obsessions and compulsions. They are covered on the same page in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). They get the same diagnosis code for insurance purposes.
Do I have a problem with people using the term Pure OCD? Kind of. Here’s why.
The term was originally coined by Dr. Steve Phillipson. It’s taken on a life to stand for purely obsessional OCD. The idea is sometimes that these individuals have only obsessions, not compulsions. However, research has since shown that there are in fact compulsions. They just aren’t outwardly visible. They could include tasks like replaying an event in your head, repeating a word or phrase, praying compulsively, or trying to check a memory. The list of possibilities is pretty endless. Invisible compulsions are still compulsions. Still, the term Pure O stuck and a community within the OCD community has developed.
Yes, the term allows those with these types of obsessions and non-outward compulsions find one another. People who have been struggling can suddenly find out they aren’t alone. That is a good thing. But the problem is the term perpetuates myths that Pure OCD doesn’t involve compulsions, is different from “regular” OCD, and is treated differently than “regular” OCD.
I am not a medical professional, but according to the International OCD Foundation the gold-standard, research supported treatment for OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy and/or medication.
ERP can be applied to any obsessions and compulsions OCD throws at you. An ERP specialist will be able to help you with imaginal exposures, script exposures, etc. Please find an OCD/ERP professional in your area or willing to do Skype therapy.
In summary, let’s use this term with caution. And perhaps we should find a new term.
Note: The inspiration from this post came from watching a Facebook interaction in which someone asked how ERP is applied to Pure O, and someone replied that ERP doesn’t work for Pure O. Making Pure O it’s own thing can lead to this confusion.
For help finding an OCD specialist, visit: https://iocdf.org/find-help/
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