Magical Thinking

OCD Subtype

What is Magical Thinking?

Those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) feel a sense of responsibility to keep themselves and others “safe.” Individuals experiencing magical thinking perform compulsive behavior because their brain is communicating to them that it will prevent their fears from coming true. Even when OCD sufferers know their thoughts and behaviors are irrational it provides them with short-term relief and a false sense of safety. Magic and superstitions can also be an alternative way to feel safe and prevent “bad” things from occurring. Magical thinking is present when the individual believes their thoughts, ideas, wishes, or actions directly influence the events in the physical world. This belief is present despite there being no concrete evidence a thought or action will impact the real world. OCD sufferers with this subtype likely perform both mental and physical compulsions.
Magical Thinking

Common Obsessions

  • Fear if they do not do things in a certain way, something bad will happen to them or a loved one (Fear if they don’t put something in the right place it will cause a loved one to die in a car crash for example).
  • Superstitious thoughts and rituals (needing to do something in a certain way so a desired outcome occurs).
  • Preoccupation with connecting dots from situations in the past or current situations
  • Fear failing to think or say certain words, phrases, sounds or numbers will cause harm to oneself or others.
  • Believing one must cancel out or neutralize “bad thoughts” or “bad memories” by thinking or saying “good thoughts” or “good memories” to prevent negative consequences.

Magical Thinking

Common Compulsions

  • Repeat certain words, names, sounds, or numbers
  • Trace back steps to undo any potential harm that could be caused to others
  • Walk in a certain way to avoid cracks on the floor or sidewalk
  • Follow a certain ritualistic pattern repeatedly until anxiety diminishes
  • Performing certain compulsive behaviors at a particular time of day (i.e., morning or bedtime  rituals)
  • Placing or arranging certain items in a distinct order, or making physical contact with certain items to avert harm or create good luck (i.e., knocking on wood in an exact pattern or certain number of times)

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