What is ‘Pure O’?

13-19 October 2019 is OCD Awareness Week.

Most people will have heard of OCD, but how many have never heard of ‘Pure O’? And what is it?

Pure O stands for ‘purely obsessional’. There is some dispute whether Pure O actually exists, or whether it is merely another name for certain symptoms of the mental health condition, Obsessional Compulsive Disorder more commonly known as OCD – so a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, without the compulsive part. It is true that Pure O is not listed officially as a medical condition, but those who suffer from Pure O experience many of the same symptoms as those with OCD. It is therefore often referred to as just OCD.

For those suffering from Pure O, leading a normal life can be a real challenge.  Sufferers experience intrusive thoughts, which can often be of a violent, sexual or shocking nature. The sufferer would never carry out such thoughts, but they can cause immense distress and doubt in the mind of the sufferer as they question where the thoughts have come from. Unlike someone with full-blown OCD, who would react to these thoughts by undertaking obvious or visible rituals such as repeated hand washing or checking locked doors to compensate for these intrusive thoughts, sufferers with Pure O will undertake mental rituals which are invisible to others to ‘cancel out’ the thoughts that they are experiencing. These rituals may take the form of repeating certain phrases or numbers in their mind or checking how they feel about certain thoughts and whether the thought is still valid, questioning whether it is in fact part of who they are.

There is an argument that these internal rituals will inevitably also involve other compulsions, such as avoiding certain places, people or situations which may trigger the intrusive thoughts. This supports the view that the condition is actually a form of OCD, as it involves both the obsessional and compulsive symptoms shown in OCD. The way therefore to successfully treat the condition is to use the same treatments used for OCD.

Appropriate treatments can include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – a talking therapy which looks at the way we act and think when faced with problems; Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – a therapy which involves facing fears head on and developing ways of coping with those fears; or the prescription of SSRIs – medication which helps relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

If you or someone close to you may be suffering from the symptoms of OCD, please get in touch. Our consultant psychiatrists have many years’ experience in diagnosing and treating patients with symptoms of Pure O and of OCD and can help find ways of overcoming the far-reaching effects of this debilitating illness.

Further information on OCD and on Pure O can be found on the OCD UK website. You can also view a video of Dr Winbow explaining the symptoms of OCD and how they can be treated on our YouTube channel.




We use cookies, just to track visits to our website, we store no personal details. ACCEPT COOKIES What are cookies?