Pure O: ‘Spikes’ and ‘Ritualizing’


New member
Oct 18, 2012
In popular culture, OCD has largely been thought of as a mental illness in which a person indulges in certain compulsive behaviors. Continuously checking whether the tap is off, or washing hands over and over again in an attempt to kill all the germs are some of the common compulsions that people know about. However, a significant percentage people with OCD deal with a ‘silent’ form of OCD, known as ‘Pure OCD’, or ‘Pure O’. Pure O: ‘Spikes’ and ‘Ritualizing’ In Pure O, there are no overt compulsions; everything happens in the mind of the person. This is one of the prime reasons why there is ignorance about the prevalence of this form of OCD among people. In Pure O, a person has compulsive thoughts, known as ‘spikes’, which cause ‘anxiety’, and in order to deal with this anxiety, the brain goes into overdrive trying to find a ‘solution’ to the spike. In OCD parlance, this is known as ‘ritualizing’. Research and studies over the years, have found that it is common for a person to spend around 6-8 hours on an average on ritualizing. Let us take an example to understand the process of how Pure O affects a person. A Pure O sufferer’s wife has boarded a flight from New York to Chicago. After seeing his wife off, the man heads to his workplace. While in office, he gets a thought or a spike that “what if the flight crashes”, or “what if it is hijacked by terrorists”. This causes anxiety to the man, and in an attempt to alleviate this anxiety, he engages in ritualizing. He logs on to the internet, and looks for information that will provide some comfort to him, such as “when was the last time a plane crashed”, or the odds against a place crash taking place on that particular date. After he has the assurance that there is a very minimalistic probability of a plane crash taking place, he uses this as a weapon against the recurring thought. In other words, his mind is engaged in a continuous battle – on one side is the anxiety producing spike that the plane might crash, and opposing it is the ritualizing aspect that the chances of the plane crashing are slim. As Pure OCD has ‘Compulsive’ in it, the thought keeps on recurring, which in turn, makes it necessary for the man to engage in reassuring himself. Treatment Will Help As the symptoms of Pure O are so oblivious, psychologists and psychiatrists often fail to identify it. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Pure O suffers fail to recognize that they are engaging in covert compulsive behavior. The threat that the spikes pose are so logical and real that it takes a while for a person with Pure O to identify the problem. However, over the years, research in this field has sensitized psychiatrists to this form of OCD, and with the help of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Exposure and Response Prevention, a lot of people with Pure O are being able to lead normal, fulfilling lives. Seeking treatment for Pure O is important for the well-being of mental health. This post will not be complete without the mention of Dr. Steven Phillipson of Center of Cognitive-Behavior Psychotherapy in New York. He was among those few psychiatrists who could unmask the true nature of Pure O, and since then has helped a lot of people in coping up with it. In fact, his 1991 article, Thinking the Unthinkable is considered to be one of the well-researched articles on Pure O. All his articles are on Pure O are on the website he has created – ocdonline.com. You can find a lot of information about Pure O, and the treatment options on this website. Pure O is often called the ‘doubting disease’. It affects millions of people around the world, many of whom are not aware about it. Coming to terms with Pure O takes a lot of courage, but it is essential for a true recovery. Years of research and scientific innovation has ensured that people today have a great chance of coping with Pure O. Although Pure O is a vast topic, and this article might not be ground-breaking in any sense, I hope that it helps in spreading awareness about it. Grace Wilson is a contributor at Foods4BetterHealth. She is a fitness aficionado, and has been writing articles on health and fitness since she was 18. Grace believes in doing her bit to spread awareness about healthy living, and she does it through her writing, one article at a time! You can find Grace on Twitter