Twitter @AshleyFulwood ashley@ocduk.org

Time to ditch the term ‘Pure O’?

I was going to give this the title Controversial – Time to ditch the term ‘Pure O’ but actually it really should not be controversial. I know some of you reading this will suffer with ‘Pure O’, but before you dismiss my post, please take a moment to read it and try and understand where I am coming from, because if you do, you will see I am not being controversial at all, I am just trying to do what is right for everyone with OCD.

I first published this on the OCD-UK forums a couple of days ago.

A couple of weeks ago a subject about the methods of private therapists was being discussed, and somehow the topic moved on to a discussion about the term ‘Pure O’. Further to that discussion I am even more convinced of the belief that the term ‘Pure O’ needs to be resigned to the history books, and replaced with another term/phrase.   My reasons for this are not new, I have been harping on about it for some time now. But the primary three reasons are:

  • It’s technically inaccurate.
  • It’s not a medical term.
  • It confuses people into not recognising their own condition accurately.

Now don’t get me wrong, it may be helpful in helping people identify an aspect of OCD that they may not have been aware of  perhaps, but that’s not a good enough reason to continue with a factually inaccurate term, especially if a better and more appropriate phrase can be used instead.

The fact is, and this is backed up by lots of anecdotally evidence from people I speak to through the charity that they mistakenly think they only have purely obsessional thoughts, i.e. that it is Obsessive Disorder (OD) and not Obsessive COMPULSIVE Disorder (OCD). The problem here is if you are failing to recognise symptoms of your own condition, it’s going to make it incredibly more difficult to move forward, which is why I feel strongly about this.

Whilst it’s not a medical term, most OCD specialists will understand what you mean, but for people going to their GP or local therapists and talking about ‘Pure O’, it’s more likely to have therapists confused and scratching their heads, and I am not sure we can blame their lack of training in OCD for not recognising a non-medical term!!!

I know my suggestion that we ditch the term ‘Pure O’ will not be popular with a lot of people, and I suspect some commercial therapists here and in the US will not buy into this, because for some it allows themselves to create a market for themselves by claiming to be ‘Pure O ‘experts. In fact going off subject slightly, my advice to anyone seeking therapy is if you come across any therapist claiming that they’re a ‘Pure O’ specialist and don’t declare on their website or within the first sessions of treatment that it is just standard OCD then I would give careful consideration to ditching them because they’re educating you and arguably they’re not being honest with you. And dishonest therapists should be avoided at all costs, and sadly there are a few of those about, but I will revisit that subject another day.

But going back to ‘Pure O’ there are too many sufferers that read articles online that are led to falsely believe they don’t suffer with any compulsions at all. The fact is it is simply not true, ok so they may not be ‘washing their hands’ but they will engage in at least one, if not most of these:

  • Checking things on Google
  • Checking for reassurance from loved ones or friends
  • Checking own body for arousal or other sensations
  • Physical ‘avoidance’ of people, places or objects
  • Attempt to force and check for ‘feelings’

See the trend here, there’s a physical action taking place, that’s right, a compulsion and if someone, anyone, with any form of OCD wants to recover they have to be able to identify and recognise their illness.  I once said that most forms of OCD include ‘checking’ as a compulsion, and the aforementioned badly and inaccurately named ‘Pure O’ is no different in the fact there is always ‘checking’ taking place. In fact, I might even argue on another day that the average person with what they call ‘Pure O’ will engage in more compulsions than people with other aspects of OCD.

So, a more factually accurate term fore ‘Pure O’  might be Obsessive ‘with less obvious, but still there’ Compulsive Disorder. Now I grant you that’s not as catchy as ‘Pure O’, but it’s a lot more accurate.  I don’t have an answer for what it should be rephrased and renamed to, but maybe it shouldn’t be renamed at all and just ditched.  One of my forum moderators made a good suggestion on the previous discussion that should refer to all forms of the illness the same, i.e. ‘OCD with a theme of……’.  That’s actually not a bad way to bring more awareness and recognition to ‘all’ aspects of OCD when we talk about the subject in the media.

But the bottom line is this, if people are being led to the false misrepresentation that ‘Pure O’ differs from others aspects of OCD, and they are made to believe they don’t have any compulsions, then I am afraid they’re not being helped at all.  So maybe it’s time we drop the term ‘Pure O’.