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…there is a lot of comfort and support to be gained from knowing that somehow we are all in the same ship.

Dear all,

I want to remain anonymous, because I have a story which is still difficult to tell. (I hope I can make myself clear as I am not a native speaker.) I am a 41 year-old male living in Europe, and have been dealing with OCD symptoms from a very young age (3rd grade). Like many others, I have come to know its different types (contamination, sexual orientation, pedophilia, harm, relationship) and all of them were and still are equally nasty to me. I have been lucky enough to receive professional help (since I was 22) and with medication I function reasonably well. What I want to write about here is an OCD variation I did not read about yet, on the web or in books, but one that has been bothering me since I was 16.  It is an embarrassing type because it is focused on racism and antisemitism. In fact it is so embarrassing, that I almost feel compelled to stress here that I am not a racist or an anti-Semite (as I used to promise and swear to myself when I was younger).

I grew up in a progressive Christian family (I am non-religious now), and my parents always taught us to do the right thing and be there for others. They also showed this in their own behavior: Our family lived in Africa for a couple of years where my father was a tropical doctor, and my parents are still very active in helping refugees. As a kid I learned that racism and prejudice were not acceptable, and in school I learned about the Holocaust as the ultimate evil. And then, as a late adolescent, I started to get these unnerving thoughts. It is very difficult to put them in words, because they were vague and not very outspoken. But somehow they made me doubt the wrongness of antisemitism, and racism more generally, which I found shocking.

I remember a night after these thoughts first appeared. I was lying in bed wide awake, and had this internal discussion with myself. After a long time I fell asleep, and when I awoke I found that the thoughts were still there. Unfortunately, I started to live all by myself soon after this (as I moved to another place to become a university student), and I spent many hours obsessing about these thoughts, about antisemitism, racism and prejudice. One thought that always popped up was: ‘How can people say the Holocaust was so bad, if so many people tolerated or even approved it?’  And to my great dismay, I didn’t have a satisfactory answer to this terrible question. And the distractive impact of the thoughts became larger and larger. Somehow I got the compulsive idea that I should conduct anti-Semite acts myself as well, although I also realized that if I would do so, I would probably be unable to live with myself. If I learned that someone in my environment was Jewish, I became immediately afraid that I would harm him or her. And if I read (what I assumed to be) a Jewish name or saw a picture of a Jewish person I became immediately distracted and had to perform some kind of internal discussion. I once visited a former concentration camp, and watched movies like Schindler’s List hoping somehow that this experience would ‘convince’ and ‘cure’ me. These experiences did have some value for me: ‘Luckily’ I could feel compassion for the victims and see the horror of it all. But of course the thoughts did not go away.

Sometimes, my anti-Semite OCD traded places with a racist (anti-Black) OCD revolving around slavery and the fear of harming Black people. This other type was equally gruesome and unnerving. The only positive thing about this was that I never experienced both obsessions at the same time. When obsessed with racism, I didn’t worry at all about antisemitism, and vice versa. Probably, this is an experience that other people with multiple obsessions have as well, and it is relieving in a strange way. (It is difficult to be a child-molester, racist, contaminator, and anti-Semite at the same time, as psychiatrist once suggested to me).

Despite my obsessions, I have (had) meaningful relations with Jewish people and people of various racial backgrounds, and, as could be expected, these relations have proved my fears wrong. Luckily, I don’t have to convince you (or myself anymore) that I am not an anti-Semite or a racist. But still, the thoughts have never gone away.

I am curious if there are more people with ‘my problems’ out there. It is great that there is a platform to share a story like this. Even if our specific themes differ, there is a lot of comfort and support to be gained from knowing that somehow we are all in the same ship.

Best wishes to all of you.

Comments (15)
  1. I also have similar problems sir. I’m from the United States of America, and was born in Baltimore, Maryland. My OCD and Tourrette’s started at a very young age. My Tourrette’s used to be the focal point of my problems and I used to be primarily Tourrette’s than OCD. During that time, I was made fun of in school and was pretty much a weird nerd who ticked. After a while however, my Tourrette’s started getting better and unfortunately during my Tourrette’s, I learned to scream racial comments from others with Tourette’s in a camp in Atlanta, Georgia called Ticks of Georgia. I also learned how to cuss and say mean things about people in public and in my family household. Since I am a darker person in the United States, I’ve been teased for all of these reasons and unfortunately these things have contributed to my OCD which is now my focal disorder. I experience racist OCD thoughts now based on how I look versus different types of people. I call myself an African-American but I don’t really have the typical “look” you would think. My hairs a bit straighter and frizzy, and my skin is more brown than black. I have a freckle on my nose on the very tip that makes me look Hispanic, and I’ve been called THAT all my life. So, really I’ve had OCD thoughts about race I really am and I’ve asked my parents if I were adopted cuz my brothers look a little different from me, for they have a little more of the quote “African” features, though one’s very light skinned. My Grandma and people from my school have always treated me differently from blacks in general and even from my brothers, and I’ve noticed this. Due to this, I’ve had this self entitlement in my head for quite a while and it became OCD not too long ago. Due to this, I’ve had racist thoughts toward Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and everybody pretty much. This has sucked because I don’t want to have any of these thoughts and I wish they didn’t exist and could be burned in Hell. However, I’ve realized with the help of my therapist and others that these thoughts cannot be controlled. I’m also a present Christian whose gotten a lot of help from Jesus Christ with my personal problems and I believe that Jesus can help you too. He’s done many miracles even when I’ve done wrong. One time I’ve had the compulsion due to my OCD to run over my brother because he’s darker skinned than me. I’ve hated these thoughts to the upmost, and with trial and error I’ve figured out how to deal with them. I used to not even touch my own mother because of the OCD thought that she was too dark for me too, even though we’re similar in skin color. My thoughts have been a burden and something I’ve really just started to ignore. I acknowledge that they’re there, but I just don’t listen to them, and try not to feel like a racist or anything like that because I’m DEFINITELY not. A miracle I’ve experienced with God that has to due with my OCD was when I was in my bathroom on the verge of tears because of the intensity of my thoughts. I cried out to God to help me and to give me strength to deal with them, and that even if He chose not to, I would still love him. The next second I felt something like a hand on my head, and my thoughts just disappeared. I felt the love of God fill me with joy and happiness that is rare to feel. I’m telling you today, God has your back even if you mentioned you’re not a practicing Christian. God has the power to do amazing things and through His power, He can change you! Trust me! God can do anything, and with Him others cannot distract you from His path. God be with you my friend and brother from Europe!

  2. This may be more common than you think. I’ve noticed in my own behavior the urge to break taboos can overwhelm your better judgement. It often seems to be linked to having an “ear worm”, that is to say, a song that loops in your head. Thankfully I’ve been able to suppress it but it’s a struggle.

  3. I can relate to you, my friend. I’ve struggled with Pure O most of my adolescence and adult life. There were times I’d avoid cracks on floors when I was younger but I mostly deal with sexual, blasphemous, and, yes, racist/anti-Semitic thoughts. Unfortunately I do have family members who have used terrible slangs for black people or Asians. I know they are not really racist because they treat them like anybody else and have privately told me they are moral people. They grew up in a tough time during the US when we had Vietnam and civil rights, people carry what they’ve heard or said at the time. Recent events haven’t helped either with the alt-right or Black Lives Matter or Palestinians threatening Israel. Any kind of person can be a racist these days.

    For a long time I’ve thought of these slurs or stereotypes about people but I’ve never referred to others with such despicable language or believed in those awful beliefs. For a while, I’ve been telling myself: maybe it’s okay to think of these things. You are brining self-awareness to things which are immoral and it’s good you know they are such. Think of it as a reminder for yourself. Just because you thought of something doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy. It’s like watching a movie.

  4. My son is exactly the same. He has to do compulsions to neutralise his intrusive thoughts about non-Caucasians and Jews. He has to do it with gender too so my husband and I take the brunt of it as we can’t watch the TV easily, read iPads and phones or have photos/leaflets around the house as he can’t cope with images. He has to neutralise to keep safe before and after watching the TV for instance. This has now become intertwined with toilet rituals too. He sleeps most of the day and does compulsions most of the night. Drinking lots of water over and over again too. All in numbers and counting in even numbers etc until it’s right. He’s so consumed with it he just can’t help himself. He’s been taught ERP but he’s high functioning autistic too and he cannot get his head around it for some reason as he doesn’t think the same as us. Our family is at breaking point and I really want to see him healed. He has been brought up a Christian too and I am born again. Just makes me think….

    • Hi Vicky,

      Thanks for your message. Sorry to hear your son is going through it, but I’m happy to know he has a supportive family 🙂

      I recommend contacting the as they will be able to advise best treatment and clinicians that may be more skilled with Autism and ERP.

      All the best

  5. Hi…I most definitely have these problems….for a while I just thought that I was a jerk. Fears and thoughts would consume me …days on end……..

    • Hi thanks for your comment. OCD is very treatable with CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) and exposure and response prevention therapy which is part of CBT. Look at the charity for treatment information. There are many good books too that can help. All the best.

  6. I am dealing with the worst racist OCD in the moment. I have a serving job and the majority of our guests are African American. I was tired the other day and thought things like ‘i don’t wanna serve in an all black place.’ or ‘im annoyed with all these black people’ and for minute, it feels as if you agree and i can even feel the anger. After these thoughts my brain went insane. I don’t feel and think this way so why is my brain making me feel like i do?! Im also convinced im not attracted to black men, so i keep thinking back and seeing if im attracted to them and i feel like i am and then i feel like im not. It feels horrible. Because if im not attracted to black men, that is discrimination, but my brain is making me feel as if i NEED TO find out if im racist. I can not just let it go.

    • Hi Courtney,

      Sorry to hear you are having a tough time at the moment, it gets better.

      Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the main therapy for OCD. There is a particular part of CBT that works for OCD which is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. A CBT therapist will be able to help you get better – contact one of the OCD charities to find a CBT therapist or

      It’s worth doing some reading on OCD as it will help you understand it more and how to tackle it, I recommend the book “getting over ocd” by Dr Jon Abramowitz, or “Overcoming Harm OCD” by Jon Hershfield.

      There are also many good OCD support groups on Facebook that may help. Here’s a good one:

      OCD and anxiety are very treatable, speak to a mental health professional and they will be able to help.

      Hope that helps. ?

    • Hello Courtney,

      It sounds like you and I have almost exactly the same type of intrusive-thought OCD focused on race. I’m almost 38 years old now, but I suffered with extremely distressing intrusive racist thoughts for about 10 years before I finally got help from both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. From about age 22 to 32, I was bombarded every waking hour of the day with intrusive thoughts of racial slurs for black/African-American people, especially the n-word. At one time I honestly believed that it would never go away and that I’d have it for the rest of my life. Going to sleep was my only real break from it. In 2013, I finally got help from mental health professionals and treated my condition with a combination of exposure and response prevention therapy and SSRI medication. Today, I take 200mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) daily to control the OCD symptoms (that is the dosage needed to treat things like OCD, generalized anxiety, PTSD, etc.) I understand what you are experiencing, believe me. It has been nearly 6 years since I started treatment and I am free of the torture which plagued me for years. Through mental health treatment you can have a life which is free of these issues. A book which really helped me is called The Imp of the Mind by Lee Baer. It is great and it’s a fast read, and you could maybe get it for free online as a PDF or from a local library, or for cheap on Amazon. Give it a try, it directly addresses your struggles.
      Wishing you the best,

  7. Thanks Stuart. Do you think my message will get to Courtney? Or maybe not if she doesn’t happen to check the website?

  8. Holy crap I’m not the only one!! You have no idea how relieved I am…I was so scared that deep down I am a racist…

    • Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear you are having a tough time at the moment, it does get better.

      Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the main therapy for OCD. There is a particular part of CBT that works for OCD which is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. A CBT therapist will be able to help you get better – contact one of the OCD charities to find a CBT therapist.

      It’s worth doing some reading on OCD as it will help you understand it more and how to tackle it, I recommend the book “getting over ocd” by Dr Jon Abramowitz.

      There are also many good OCD support groups on Facebook that may help. Here’s a good one:

      Also contact the OCD charity as they will be able to help.

      OCD and anxiety are very treatable, speak to a mental health professional and they will be able to help.

      Hope that helps. ?

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