Homepage Forums Support From Our Forum Community Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Any success in overcoming Existential OCD?

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      Sorry for the long message. I’m just wondering if anyone has had any success in overcoming Existential OCD? I’ve had barely any sleep for the last couple of nights with existential / philosophical thoughts whirling around my head. I find that while I’m able to at least go through the motions of rejecting rumination during the day, as soon as I go to bed and have no distractions, my mind quickly starts mulling things over again.

      Earlier I became sort of addicted to reassuring myself with what you might call ‘positive mantras’, like “I have faith that the mind can be understood”, “existential fear leaves room for existential hope” etc, the idea being that by finding the ‘right’ perspective on existence, I could justify to myself accepting its downsides.

      Eventually I realised that I need to cut that out though, as it’s just another compulsion that ends up being doubted before long anyway. However, I’ve now sort of gone the other way by trying to make sure I agree with the ‘worst case scenario’ for what any thoughts might represent, with the fear that if I don’t, then there might be something even worse implied by them that I would actually find ‘unacceptable’. So I’ve now switched over to telling myself things like “the true nature of existence could be fundamentally bad”, “my existential fears could be true” or “accept the risk that your thoughts might represent an existential threat” etc.

      The problem is that these things work for a while, maybe up to a few days, and then I just get hit by a crushing sense of doubt that sets me off trying to define new ones. People say things in articles like ‘you need to unconditionally accept the uncertainty, and holding onto even the slightest bit of reassurance will just lead to everything falling apart’. I understand that (and I’ve experienced it directly), but it feels soul crushing to try to just ‘exist’ while reminding yourself constantly that it might not be ‘worthwhile’. I can’t even try to define a purpose for myself without immediately starting to ruminate on what it means and whether its ‘justified’. For a time I was OK with telling myself that life’s purpose could be to ‘understand the mind’, in that way sort of excusing the time I’ve wasted on this so far, but after a while I started thinking that almost certainly wouldn’t be possible, and ‘what did I mean by understand anyway’ etc. If I tell myself to focus on something less abstract, like having a happy life, then I just start to wonder if I’d just be deceiving myself, living in a happy bubble oblivious to the true nature of reality, and that just makes me unhappy again!

      It almost feels like to remove all reassurance-seeking behaviours you’d need to trade OCD for depression (which I think I’d be willing to do if that’s what it took, but ultimately the depressing feelings just drive me back to OCD anyway).

      Part of the benefit of ERP/ CBT, as I understand it, is that people learn to resist their feelings of fear and see that the fears themselves don’t materialise, but I’m not sure how that would work with Existential OCD, as realistically I know we aren’t going to find any answers anytime soon (weirdly I can write this without really feeling any anxiety, but the concept is still the overarching driver of all of my obsessing).

      Anyway, I’m super-tired and not sure exactly what I’m asking here, I mostly just wanted to lay my thought processes out. I sometimes wonder if I was on the right track with trying to find positive mantras or perspectives, and it’s just that my brain is currently so hard-wired to worry that I can’t quite last long enough without ruminating to feel the benefits. I also have ADHD, which I think contributes to my mind being so busy at night, and sometimes I wonder if that is the underlying cause, like ADHD is depriving me of dopamine, so I feel unmotivated, and become desperate to find a purpose.

      Any thoughts welcome anyway – thanks in advance!


      P.S. For completeness, my latest ‘lean into the thought’ (negative) mantra is to tell myself to “accept the risk that existential fears might be true, and that by ignoring them I might be making them true”. I know from just writing it out that it’s clunky and probably useless, basically just acting as a new form of reassurance that I’ve understood the implications of what I’m accepting, but I just don’t get how I can ‘make the thoughts acceptable’ otherwise. Should I just categorise them as OCD thoughts, or categorise them as existential thoughts and try to leave it at that? I’d like to be able to just tell myself ”nothing in my thoughts can change the true nature of existence”, but then (typically) I start to think, what if everything is in my mind and it’s all influenced by my thoughts. I don’t actually believe that, but even the possibility just seems to undermine my reassurance mantra.


        Good morning,

        You explained your experiences so clearly and I hope, if nothing else, describing your thoughts in this way helped a little.

        My daughter has OCD and ADHD, and is also diagnosed with autism – she ruminates a great deal at bedtime, dwelling mainly on life and death. She has seen a psychologist through CAMHS for a couple of years, focusing on CBT and ERP (sadly, with minimal effects). As she has just turned eighteen, she is being discharged from CAMHS and feels completely abandoned. I am going to look at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with her (ACT) – have you heard of it? It looks quite interesting and sounds as though it can help with ERP as well – here is some information on how it might be useful with existential thoughts: Existential OCD (

        Very best wishes!


        Forum Moderators


          Forum moderators here; we’re sorry you’re going through a difficult time now. Please don’t ever think you’re alone – OCD Action is here to help you.

          And please remember that you can also contact the OCD Action Helpline to talk to or email someone who understands OCD.

          Our Helpline volunteers provide confidential help, information and support for people with OCD (and anyone who thinks they may have OCD). Most volunteers have personal experience of OCD; all understand how it can impact your entire life. Contact our Helpline by:

          • phone: 0300 636 5478 (this is a UK number).
          • email:

          And please remember that you’re never alone – OCD Action is always here to help and support you.

          Best wishes,

          Forum Moderators

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