Fear of Harming Self and Others
In this episode, I am going to discuss the fear of harming oneself and the fear of harming others as they are very closely linked. These fears fall under the subcategory of OCD commonly known as “Harm OCD”. These fears are kept in the dark by the sufferer for fear of judgment or repercussion, but it is important that we begin to understand them objectively so we can avoid misdiagnosis and move towards recovery.
So in this episode, I’ll cover the fear of harming yourself or harming someone else, some common behaviours that reinforce this fear, and how the treatment process works.
All right. Hello. And welcome back to another episode. So my name is Matt Codde and I'm in this episode, what I want to talk about is the idea of fear of hurting yourself or hurting someone else. Right? And so this is a common fear typically in that, um, kind of OCD spectrum. Well, you know, we'll call it, you know, you kind of have these intrusive thoughts about what if I hurt myself or what if I hurt someone else. Right. And, and the thing that I want to point out about these specific fears, right? This is the thing that makes these fears and not like the difference between fears and impulses are this idea of these thoughts being ego-dystonic. Right. So I really want to separate that for a second. So the first thing I want to talk about is what's egodystonic versus egosyntonic and ego syntonic thoughts, right.
Are thoughts that align with who, you know, you are in who you were, things that you want. Right. Um, they're aligned with, you know, what your ego, right. Um, and then dystonic, right. Ego, dystonic, or thoughts that don't align with that they're the opposite. Right. And so when we talk about these fears of having thoughts about hurting yourself or hurting someone else, it's important to understand that these aren't like, Hey, I want to hurt myself and, you know, feeling, you know, or like, and then having a response to that, right. And actually having desires to hurt yourself or hurt someone else. These are thoughts of, like, I have this intrusive thought
That, you know, what,
If I did this, what if I snapped and hurt myself? What if I snapped and hurt someone else? And the thought is so distressing because you, you know, you know, it's the opposite of what you really want. That's what makes, makes the thought ego-dystonic right. And so, um, the, when, when we're working with a fear like this, right, it's important to understand. Right. So kind of, um, a couple of components here, right. The first is, is that we need to understand the thoughts of ego-dystonic and egosyntonic, so that's like the first thing that we want to look for, if someone's dealing with that. Um, and the fact that someone's anxious about the thoughts is generally a good indicator that the thoughts are actually ego-dystonic right. Because people who really want to hurt other people, they aren't bothered by those thoughts. Right. That's it aligns with what they want.
Right. Which is, you know, if that's what, uh, you know, you're dealing with, or you're seeing someone who's experiencing that, and that that's, uh, you know, it's a, like a big red flag. Right. And I've, you know, had a situation like that, where, you know, I was asking the person, you know, they're coming to me and talking to me and they're asking me like, Hey, you know, I'm, I'm having these thoughts. And I, and, and I just kept asking like, okay, you know, like really trying to understand what's going on. And the thoughts had no bother to the person. They're like, no, I want to do this. You know? And so that, just to separate that for yourself, really, that responsive anxiety to the thoughts is a good indicator. That those thoughts are probably ego-dystonic. So then once we understand that, that's what we're actually dealing with.
Then we begin to understand about the idea of diffusing from the thoughts themselves, because one of the big things that causes people to, um, you know, really get stressed out about thoughts is thinking that the thoughts that they have are them right there, that voice in their head is like, it's them producing the thoughts, which is why it's so alarming, but realizing that a lot of thoughts that we have, you know, I mean, we have tens of thousands of thoughts a day. They just, they happen, right. They're just random occurrences in some instances, in most instances. And, um, when we understand that, we begin to understand that we're the observer of our thoughts. Right. And we can respond to the thoughts. You know, we have conscious decision of how we respond to our thoughts, not necessarily the thoughts that we experience. So once we begin to shift our focus as to, we're not trying to control the thought, or even our emotional reaction to the thought, but the behavior that we're engaging in when that thought happens.
Right. And that's where we want to shift our focus, right. To controlling the behaviors. Right. Always coming back to that. And so if you're doing a bunch of mental, right. So that's, that's step two, right. So first is, um, you know, the separation of between ego-dystonic and egosyntonic, and then beginning to diffuse from that voice of the mind and shifting our focus to, you know, behaviors. Right. You know, like, what are the behaviors we're doing, um, that are perpetuating this, right. Cause it will happen with these thoughts is people will get locked into a cycle, right. So they'll have these harmful intrusive thoughts pop in, and then they'll engage in certain behaviors. Now these behaviors can be things like avoiding sharp objects, right. Because if you, if you're have a intrusive thoughts about like, you know, knives and things, then you'll generally avoid knives. Or if you're, you know, if they're revolve around driving, you know, oftentimes the person will avoid driving.
So anything we're avoiding is going to be something that's going to reinforce this. Right. And then also, um, there's also mental behaviors that people engage in. These things can be things like trying to push the thoughts out of our head, trying to replace them with good thoughts, silently pray, um, as well as, you know, counting, um, distracting yourself, analyzing like, Oh, Hey, like going through your whole past to see if you ever did anything like that. But, you know, or like, I mean, there's so many things, um, you know, people can engage in and that's why really understanding those behaviors is, is critical to your success. Um, as far as, you know, overcoming this particular fear, because what we have to do is we have to start systematically eliminating those, um, those behaviors through exposure and response prevention. And then, um, once we begin to do the behavior treatment, right, then it becomes more about acceptance and commitment as well to, you know, learning, to accept the presence of thoughts that you don't like.
And, um, and what that means is really allowing the thoughts to surface, right. Not engaging the behaviors and committing to living towards your long-term values. And, um, and I know that's a very general overview, but I mean, I just want you to kind of understand the fear from a high level, because these fears of intrusive thoughts, whether they're towards yourself of harmful thoughts, right? So you could have fears that you might hurt yourself or fears of hurting others. Um, the, the real big shifts for people when it comes to getting better from this is understanding the ego-dystonic. And egosyntonic part learning to recognize when the thoughts happen, your external triggers, as well as what behaviors you engage in. And one of the things that, where people, um, you know, really struggle with is really identifying all the different behaviors that you engage in. And so, um, you know, over at restored minds, we have, uh, additional resources for you.
Um, you know, whether it's, uh, behavior inventories, as well as, um, you know, additional trainings on how to actually, you know, identify all the different behaviors you do, um, further trainings on, um, you know, that voice in the mind and, and really breaking free from that. So, um, you know, if, if this is something you struggle with, we really encourage you to check those out. Um, we have some links down in the notes below, and, um, if you found this video helpful, we'd always appreciate you sharing and liking and subscribing because, you know, again, that helps us get this out to people that need it. So, um, thank you for taking the time to be with us today. And I hope you guys have a great week. I'll see you in the next episode.