Will I know for sure when I recover?
OCD sufferers are filled with doubt. A woman washes her hands for the thirtieth time today because she doubts her hands are uncontaminated. A man checks the stove is off repeatedly because he is unsure if it is off. Another sufferer is filled with doubt about thoughts she has that she sexually abused a child two years ago. Doubt binds Obsessive Compulsive Disorder together. It becomes the main motivator for doing compulsions.
Sufferers considering doing something about their disorder are too filled with doubt. They doubt medications will work. They doubt CBT will work. They even doubt they have OCD, therefore any work they do will be for naught. They know they are filled with doubt and many who are considering taking the first steps toward recovery want to know if the doubt will finally go away when they get better. In other words, they want to know if they will ‘know’ for sure when they are mentally well.
This is often seen with False Memory OCD, where a sufferer really wants to know if she will reach a point where she knows for sure she did not do something dastardly that she has been ruminating over for months or years. But this desire for a complete lack of doubt can come about no matter the OCD theme present. Do recovered sufferers, do ex-sufferers become positively sure about the nature of their past intrusive thoughts? This is the type of question asked by sufferers considering steps toward recovery.
There is no hard and fast answer. Some people will come to realize their intrusive thoughts were not real, not threatening and not true. But for many others, the simple fact is, once they have recovered, they simply no longer care about the truth or trueness of their intrusive thoughts. They simply don’t care anymore.
I suffered from OCD for close to 40 years. For much of that time I suffered from Pedophile OCD, where my thoughts pushed me to believe I was a pedophile. Also during that time, I suffered from horrendous Harm OCD thoughts, where my mind was filled with thoughts, images and mind videos of disgusting acts of harm against other people. I recovered. What people want to know is, was there a time, a day, a moment when it suddenly dawned on me that I was not a pedophile? Was there a time when I realized I was not going to stab a random person in the face with a sharp knife? The answer is, not really.
Over time, as a I recovered (and it took quite some time to get there), my desire to know whether I was a pedophile or not, my desire to know if I was going to harm other people or not, simply dwindled and eventually went away. Am I a pedophile? No. I know that now but it’s not like this bolt of sunshine came out of the clouds one day and I suddenly realized it. It just didn’t happen that way. As I recovered, my doubt began to subside and I found myself spending less and less time with questions about who I was and whether my thoughts were true or not.
When you stop asking questions, you stop looking for answers. You get on with your life. You no longer care about meaningless intrusive thoughts.