Ego Dystonic Thoughts

Ego Dystonic Thoughts

When talking about OCD it is important to understand the difference between Ego Syntonic and Ego Dystonic thoughts.

It is important to recognize that obsessions are Ego-Dystonic.

As Dr. Richard B. Joelson explains,

“Ego Syntonic –  Ego Syntonic refers to instincts or ideas that are acceptable to the self; that are compatible with one’s values and ways of thinking. They are consistent with one’s personality and beliefs.”(1)

“Ego Dystonic – Ego Dystonic refers to thoughts, impulses, and behaviors that are felt to be repugnant, distressing, unacceptable or inconsistent with one’s self-image” (1)

Here is a quick example:

Let’s pretend you were eating lunch and saw someone drop a necklace. Then you had the thought, “What if I stole a necklace?”

To a person who is a thief, stealing a necklace would be considered ego syntonic, meaning that it comes naturally to them, there is unlikely to be any conflict about stealing the necklace, and there would probably be little guilt that follows. On the other hand, for someone who does not identify as a thief, stealing would be ego dystonic, the idea of stealing that necklace would not align with that person’s self-image and if they stole the necklace they would most likely experience tremendous guilt.

So when we talk about obsessions, we need to recognize that they are ego-dystonic and are not a representation of who you really are.

Video Transcription:

00:00 All right, hey there and welcome to this video and in this video I'm going to talk about this idea of ego dystonic versus egosyntonic thoughts. And so when you're, when you're looking to treat someone with ocd, one of the things that we look for when it comes to thought patterns is this idea of ego dystonic and egosyntonic thoughts. And so oftentimes people with OCD will be coming to my office and things like that and there'll be worried about specific thoughts that they're having and nice thoughts might be harmful thoughts or you know, sexual thoughts that they don't want or you know, a variety of, of different things. Right? And one of the first things that we talk about is we look at the idea of, of, okay, are these thoughts egosyntonic or are they ego dystonic? And so let's just break that down real quick.

00:44 So Ego, ego, syntonic and ego dystonic. If we break that down, first is the idea of the ego, right? Which is really your self concept. Okay? And then this tonic means that it doesn't align with your self concept and syntonic means that it does align with yourself concept. So a quick example of this would be if, you know, I was walking down the street and I saw a person on a bench, right? And I had a thought pop in my head like, oh, you know, what if I snatch that person, ran away with it, right? And, and stolen. Right now I don't identify and I'm not someone who practices theft. Right? And so I don't believe in death and that doesn't align with my character. And so when I had that thought, I would realize that, oh, that, that's, you know, just a thought that I had.

01:26 It's ego dystonic, right? It doesn't align with who I am now. Someone on the other hand who doesn't have a problem stealing and has no problem acting out on, you know, dishonest behavior might have the thought, the thought would align and they would generally act on that thought. Right. You know, so to speak, because egosyntonic are generally thoughts that you're more likely to act on. So one of the things that we look at is, is when people are experiencing these thoughts with ocd, you know, be at whatever they are and just the fact alone that the thoughts caused them as much distress as they do is one of the things that actually signifies that it's, that it's ocd in that the thoughts are ego dystonic. So if someone's having harmful thoughts and they're just, you know, full on, straight face so they don't bother them, that's when I actually get really concerned about the person, you know, that that's having harmful thoughts and start taking steps to really, um, you know, address that in a different way, but it, when someone's having harmful thoughts and they're generalized and generating a lot of anxiety and fear for that person and they're really worried about the idea of having that thought in the first place, then we know it's a different problem and it's generally treated more along the lines of, you know, the OCD treatment.

02:32 So that right there is just kind of a quick example and explanation of it. Hopefully that helps. Again, I have some more information and resources on the link below this video over at my website so you can check that out if you want. And, uh, I just want to say thank you for watching. If you enjoyed this video, be sure to like the video and subscribe and comment below and I'll see you guys on the next video.


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