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Man having an existential crisis

Existential OCD

Man having an existential crisis

Confronting the Abyss: Navigating Existential OCD

Existential OCD grapples with deep philosophical concerns about life’s meaning and mortality, leading to severe distress. Sufferers often find themselves obsessively questioning existential themes, which can disrupt daily living and emotional stability.


What is Existential OCD?

Existential OCD is a lesser-known subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder, marked by debilitating preoccupations with the philosophical aspects of life such as the meaning, choice, death, and the freedom of existence. Individuals grappling with this form of OCD often find themselves caught in a loop of profound existential questions that others might consider only fleetingly. These intrusive thoughts can lead to significant distress, as the individual struggles with the fear that life may be meaningless or that their existence has no purpose.

For those affected, everyday activities can become overshadowed by these existential concerns, impacting their ability to focus on work, personal relationships, and enjoyment of life. The intensity of these thoughts can lead to a constant search for answers that can never fully satisfy their doubts, resulting in feelings of isolation and despair. Unlike more visible forms of OCD, Existential OCD involves a battle with unseen but overwhelming fears that can make one feel trapped in an endless philosophical maze.

Symptoms & Diagnosis of Existential OCD


  • Persistent and intrusive thoughts about life’s big questions.
  • Excessive need to find answers to existential themes.
  • Emotional distress regarding thoughts about existence and purpose.

Diagnostic Criteria

  • The presence of obsessive existential questions that cause significant anxiety or distress.
  • Compulsive behaviors related to seeking answers or avoiding existential thoughts.
  • Recognition by the individual that their preoccupations are excessive and not solvable through ordinary contemplation.

Impact on Daily Life & Emotional Well-being

Individuals suffering from Existential OCD may experience a profound disruption in their daily functioning. The obsessive quest for answers can consume much of their mental energy, leaving little room for other thoughts or activities. This can lead to withdrawal from social activities, decreased performance at work or school, and strained relationships with loved ones who may not understand the depth of their internal struggle. Moreover, the intense anxiety and depression that can accompany these existential concerns might lead to a reduced sense of personal fulfillment and a pervasive sense of being disconnected from the world.

Treatment Options for Existential OCD

At Bethesda Therapy, we offer specialized treatment plans for those dealing with Existential OCD, focusing on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). These therapies are designed to help individuals confront and gradually reduce their fears by facing the existential questions without engaging in mental compulsions.

Key Treatment Approaches

Coping Strategies

  • Engaging in mindfulness practices to stay grounded in the present moment.
  • Establishing a routine that includes time for reflection balanced with activities that bring joy and fulfillment.
  • Limit the time spent ruminating on existential themes to specific periods during the day.
  • Participate in group therapy or support groups where experiences and coping strategies can be shared.

Bethesda Therapy’s Dedication to Specialized Contamination OCD Treatment

Local Resources in Maryland, DC, & Virginia

Bethesda Therapy offers specialized treatment plans for individuals suffering from Contamination OCD in the Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia areas. We provide access to experienced therapists who are skilled in delivering personalized CBT and ERP treatments. Additionally, local support groups and community resources can be instrumental in providing support and encouragement through recovery.

Expert Care for Profound Questions

At Bethesda Therapy, we provide a tailored approach to treating Existential OCD, employing techniques that address both the philosophical and emotional aspects of this condition. Our goal is to empower you to lead a fulfilling life, despite the challenging nature of your thoughts.

A Path to Meaningful Engagement

We are dedicated to helping our clients find ways to engage with life meaningfully and joyfully, moving beyond the paralyzing effects of existential fears.

Upholding Evidence-Based Practices

Our treatments are based on the latest clinical research and practices in OCD treatment, ensuring that you receive the most effective care possible tailored to your unique needs.

Getting Started with Bethesda Therapy

We understand that seeking help can be a big step, but remember, you’re not alone. We’re here to support and guide you on your journey towards a more manageable life. Scheduling a consultation with us is straightforward and the first step towards recovery. Reach out to us either by phoneemail or our website form to book your appointment. Be assured, your confidentiality is our top priority, and we’re committed to providing you with the highest level of care. Take that first step today – we look forward to assisting you.

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What Colleagues Say About Us

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Rose Bleiweis


Melissa is determined, hard-working, and provides a range of therapeutic interventions. She is committed to professional development to further her clinical skills.

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Jen Lodico


Melissa’s skillset was empowering to work with. She is professional and supportive. Melissa is a fantastic therapist who I cannot recommend enough!
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Beth Cocker


Melissa Murphy is a wonderful therapist. She is kind, non-judgmental and empathetic. She truly understands her client’s needs and takes into account the whole-person. I do not hesitate to refer clients to Melissa and enjoy collaborating with her on cases. She is an excellent therapist with expertise in anxiety, depression, and OCD.

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