Fear of Death and OCD Treatment

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Reader’s Question

I am hoping I can get a fresh opinion about my unusual Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Five years ago, a relative of mine died in a car crash. After that tragedy, I started thinking that everyone believed I was dying. So, I have been living with a constant fear of dying since I was 13; I’m 18 now. I was even prescribed a medication to help calm my nerves.

This fear has literally ruined my life. I went for some therapy sessions three years ago, and I was able to enjoy life anew. But I relapsed about two months ago. I think the reason for my relapse is that after I finish high school I will go to study abroad. This is something I used to be very excited about. But lately I’ve started thinking that I will die in the country I am going to because I have always dreamed of living there but fear it will never happen.

You will probably wonder, why do I think I will die there? Well, that is because I have read two stories of two people who died after achieving their dreams. One was a guy who dreamt of going and living in France, and he got killed there. The other was a woman who died after having her dream of building a shelter for the poor come true.

I seem to apply things that happen to others to my own life. That might sound silly, but the thought is killing me. It started with a small thought, but it has evolved until I’m obsessed with it. For me, not having something to wait for means death. So after one has his dream realized, he will die because he has nothing to wait for.

I can’t seem to keep my mind off thinking these strange thoughts. And every time I feel better, I start getting these thoughts again, and my mood changes for the worse.

I have no clue what is going with me. And the more I try to find a solution, the more powerful and the stronger these thoughts seem to become, and the more real they seem. I wonder all the time if I will really die. I try to feel better, but then I think I might really be dying within a year.

My questions are:

Is this pure OCD? Will I really die? Do I have to give up the thing I have dreamed to be safe? I have given up lots of things to this fear, and I am afraid I will have to give up this dream too. Oddly, it seems to me like I either have to die or live in pure hardship.

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I’m hoping for a refreshing insight. Any help would be appreciated.

Psychologist’s Reply

Obsessive thinking can accompany depression and can even be a part of post-traumatic stress. And obsessive fears are not uncommon in individuals who have yet to fully, emotionally recover from emotional trauma.

You indicate that problems began for you with the sudden death of a relative. And you also indicate that for a time, you experienced some relief in therapy. Hopefully, your therapy involved current methods not only for dealing with obsessive thinking but also for giving some attention to the effects of trauma as well as any possible unresolved emotional issues regarding the experience itself. It would likely be in your best interest to invest yourself more firmly in therapy and to work with someone who has experience with helping individuals who have experienced emotional trauma.

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