Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD
OCD subtypes
Harm OCD

How to Overcome Harm OCD: The Most Effective Treatment

4 min read
Dr. Keara Valentine
All types of OCD include obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, feelings, urges and doubts, while compulsions are repetitive physical or mental actions performed in an attempt to relieve distress and anxiety.

If you or a loved one are experiencing harm OCD, it can feel terrifying and overwhelming — it’s scary to have thoughts that make you feel like you may hurt yourself or others. You may also feel like you have no one to turn to, especially if you’re worried that you may be judged for your intrusive thoughts.

Like many other subtypes of OCD, however, harm OCD can be treated effectively so that you can regain control of your life. Finding the right therapist will allow you to discuss your symptoms in a safe place — you will never be judged for your intrusive thoughts — and learn how to better manage your obsessive-compulsive cycle. 

Before we dive into the treatment options for harm OCD, let’s take a closer look at this disorder.

What is harm OCD?

Harm OCD is a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in which the OCD cycles center on thoughts of harming oneself or others. 

It’s not uncommon to experience thoughts about harming yourself or others, even if you don’t want to hurt anyone. For someone without harm OCD, a thought that they might harm a loved one may pop in their head for a few seconds, only to disappear and never be thought of again. If you have harm OCD, however, these harm-centered thoughts can feel impossible to escape, and you might start to worry that you will act on them, regardless of whether you have a history of violence or actually want to hurt anyone.

Because the intrusive thoughts seem so convincing, you may become preoccupied with preventing yourself from acting on them. This can lead to a variety of compulsions, such as seeking reassurance from others that you won’t actually harm anyone or avoiding the person you think you might harm.

Ultimately, these thoughts are not reflective of your character, nor are they indicative of any real desire to harm anyone. In fact, because you are so worried about preventing any harm from occurring, it’s very unlikely you would ever act on your thoughts.

How do you treat harm OCD?

While harm OCD can feel overwhelming to live with, it doesn’t have to be — there are a handful of effective treatment options to help you cope with your symptoms. 

The most highly recommended treatment option is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. ERP is considered the gold standard treatment for all types of OCD and has consistently shown to be incredibly effective in helping those with OCD reclaim a sense of freedom over their lives.

If you begin ERP, you can expect to work with your therapist to identify specific things that trigger your obsessive-compulsive cycle and begin to be exposed to these things in a safe environment. This allows you the opportunity to experience your intrusive thoughts and learn how to stop your compulsions.

The goal is for you to begin accepting your intrusive thoughts instead of compulsively trying to neutralize them. Over time, your obsessions may still cause some discomfort, but will likely fade into the background. ERP teaches you that you can handle the distress and tolerate the uncertainty without turning to your compulsions.

How to begin treatment

While ERP is the most effective way to treat your harm OCD, it’s important to find the right therapist for you. You’ll want to work with a therapist that has experience treating OCD as well as specific training in ERP therapy. Finding a therapist that’s a good match for you can be challenging, but one of the easiest ways is to use NOCD.

NOCD offers a nationwide network of therapists that all have direct experience with treating OCD and have received ERP-specific training. After a free call with the NOCD clinical team, you’ll be matched with a therapist who you can begin seeing via one-on-one video sessions or calls. Whoever you begin working with will help you better manage your intrusive thoughts to ultimately live a life free of compulsions. You can also join our HARM OCD community and get 24/7 access to personalized self-management tools built by people who have been through OCD and successfully recovered.

Dr. Keara Valentine

Dr. Keara Valentine specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, panic, and depression. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, providing psychotherapy in the mood, anxiety, and OCD clinics and participating in research on novel OCD and Hoarding Disorder treatments.

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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
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NOCD Therapists specialize in treating Harm OCD

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Taylor Newendorp

Taylor Newendorp

Network Clinical Training Director

I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.

Madina Alam

Madina Alam

Director of Therapist Engagement

When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.

Andrew Moeller

Andrew Moeller

Licensed Therapy, LMHC

I've been a licensed counselor since 2013, having run my private practice with a steady influx of OCD cases for several years. Out of all the approaches to OCD treatment that I've used, I find Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy to be the most effective. ERP goes beyond other methods and tackles the problem head-on. By using ERP in our sessions, you can look forward to better days ahead.

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