Episode 16: Superstitious OCD

Episode 16

Superstitious OCD

In this episode of Purely OCD, you show hosts Lauren and Kelley discuss Superstitious OCD. They review obsessions, compulsions, and exposure ideas. They also explore ideas related to this subtype and answer your questions.

ALSO – This Episode of Purely OCD was sponsored by NOCD.

In keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day celebration and the lore surrounding four leaf clovers and good luck, Lauren and Kelley dedicate this episode of Purely OCD to Superstitions OCD.

Individuals with superstitious OCD tend to do compulsions related to good and bad luck.

Superstitions OCD bleeds into many of the different subtypes.

The behaviors that show up in this subtype also come up in the general population. For example: plenty of people knock on wood.

Examples of obsessions in Superstitious OCD include:

  • Something bad is going to happen if I don’t do ___________.
  • If I don’t do this now, later tonight my thought will come true.
  • Something bad will happen if I:
    • Step on a crack
    • Break a mirror (7 years bad luck) 
    • If I throw something away
    • If I start walking with my right foot

Obsessions can be tied to

  • numbers (666 in religion)
  • colors
  • black cats
  • a favorite baseball cap. 

With OCD and Superstitions, compulsions involve a very clear exchange.  OCD is demanding something (like “Avoid cracks in the sidewalk, or else.”) and you say, “Ok”, so that something bad doesn’t happen or so that something good happens. 

Compulsions in Superstitious OCD might look like:

  • Feeling the need to say prayers incessantly or a certain way 
  • Saying, “I love you” before hanging up the phone so that your loved one won’t die.

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) involves exposing ourselves to the things that cause us anxiety and then not doing compulsions.  

Kelley says she does “crack” exposures (not to be confused with either crack cocaine or butt cracks) where she and her client go outdoors and intentionally step on cracks.  Lauren points out that people with this type of OCD don’t react well to manufactured exposures. The exposure is more effective when people are triggered on the fly and do not do compulsions in response.

In true Kelley and Lauren form, the two get rebellious in the face of OCD: 

“We are not going to do the compulsion and we are going to accept the consequences.  Yep, everything is going to be bad. We can’t wait, bring it on.” 

Moral of the story: When possible, stand up to OCD with attitude.

How else might exposures look? Let’s say the number 666 was anxiety provoking to you. You might:

  • Write 666 on Post-it notes and place them all over your house.  
  • Create a 666 phone reminder.  
  • Put 666 on a piece of paper in  your wallet.  

No matter what the subtype, the goal is to stick it to your OCD.


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Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

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