What Is Real Event OCD?

Real Event OCD

Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States? Roughly 40 million American adults over the age of 18 are impacted by anxiety disorders every year. There are many different types of anxiety disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is believed to affect roughly 2.2 million adults in the US. This is about 1% of the population. While many people with OCD are fixated on issues that could happen in the future, there is a specific type of OCD called real event OCD where the focus is on a specific past event.

People who suffer from OCD experience a cycle of intrusive and recurring behaviors and thoughts. These can lead to compulsive, or uncontrollable, behaviors.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about real event OCD.

What Is Real Event OCD?

In most cases of OCD, the worries and anxieties experienced as intrusive thoughts are in regard to things that could happen. For example, you might forget to turn the oven off and start a fire in your kitchen.

However, sometimes these obsessions actually come from fixating on something that did actually happen in the past. This is what we call real event OCD.

Real event OCD is when you have obsessive thoughts about a specific event that you experienced in your life. This might look different from other types of OCD.

The primary compulsion and real event OCD is that an individual is completely unable to stop thinking about the event. They replay it over and over again in their mind. However, real event OCD can often be treated, much like other forms of OCD, if it is recognized and addressed.

Real Event OCD Explained: The Symptoms

Delta is the driving force behind OCD of all kinds. A person with OCD might constantly be asking themselves questions that reflect this doubt. Wondering if you will be robbed in your sleep, if your apartment door handle is dirty, or if you turned the stove off in an obsessive manner are all OCD-type thoughts.

When it comes to real event OCD, though, the recurrent thoughts are not about something that you’re worried might happen in the future. Instead, they are about specific events that did actually occur in your life in the past. Typically, these excessive compulsions and thoughts are usually related to something that you either did or that you did not do.

Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of real event OCD.

Mental Review

People that suffer from real event OCD will spend an excessive amount of time replaying certain events in their minds. They will tear apart the events and analyze them from every possible perspective and angle. They will replay each action, word, and moment of the event in their minds over and over again.

Frequently, the individual is trying to determine something concrete about the event. Questions like “did I make the right choice?” or “do my actions make me a bad person?” might completely occupy their mental space.


Individuals with this disorder end up creating cognitive distortions. What this means is that they focus intensely on something that most people would not dwell on long. They often take the event and change it or twist it in a way that allows them to find problems with it. Then, they are able to draw the worst possible conclusions about themselves and about the events that occurred.

Reassurance Seeking

An individual that has real event OCD will struggle to have the ability to answer their own worries. This means that they often will seek reassurance from other people in their lives in order to have an outside perspective tell them that the worst scenarios they have envisioned aren’t true.


It can feel incredibly urgent to an individual who is experiencing intrusive thoughts that the situation must be resolved immediately. There is a sense of emergency that makes them feel as though they need to have the answer right now. This can make compulsive activity worse.

Emotional Reasoning

When a person has real event OCD, they often confuse their feelings and emotions for a fact. For example, a person that feels guilty might feel that they, therefore, have done something wrong.


Because people with real event OCD are so hyper-focused on the event, they can have a hard time separating themselves from the significance of the event. Basically, a choice that is ultimately inconsequential can become highly meaningful and significant because of the cognitive distortions they create.

Types of Events That Trigger Real Event OCD

At this point is unknown why certain people will develop real event OCD while others will. In some instances, two people could experience the exact same event but have completely different responses.

It is therefore very difficult to understand precisely what types of events will trigger real event OCD. Anecdotally, however, there is evidence to suggest that incidents like neglect, abuse, family disruption, traumatic events, or relationship changes, or interpersonal changes can play a role in the emergence of real event OCD.

Real Event OCD Treatment

Real event OCD can be treated, but you might find that you require a combination of different treatments. Some of the most common treatments for this OCD are psychotherapy, exposure and response (ERP) therapy, and medication.

You can also pick up practices in your daily life to help manage it. Things like mindfulness and mental exercises to stop compulsive examinations are practices that can help you manage your symptoms. It’s also important that you are eating well, exercising, and sleeping enough, which can help support your overall health and treatments.

Are You Looking For Mental Health Treatment?

Real event OCD can interfere with your daily life. For this reason, seeking treatment can help you to heal from this condition and be able to find relief from your obsessive thoughts.

At the Mental Health Center of San Diego, we offer individualized treatment tracks that are designed to fit each person’s unique situation. Here you can get the help you need in order to recover from OCD and take charge of your life.

Is it time for you to seek treatment for your OCD? If so, contact us today.

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