Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Most People Have Unwanted Thoughts, International Study Finds

Difference for people with OCD is how they react, experts say


Almost 94 percent of the students said they'd had unwanted and intrusive thoughts during the past three months. "For most people, it was more than once," Radomsky said.

The surveys defined intrusive thoughts as having to do with subjects like contamination (worrying about germs, for instance), aggression (such as thinking about hurting someone else), and doubt.

An expert who praised the new study said people with OCD carry these thoughts further.

"The difference between individuals with OCD having a violent thought -- for example, thinking of pushing someone in front of a car -- is that they worry about the fact that they have the thought: 'What does this mean? Why am I thinking this? Does this mean I might actually do it?'" said Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation.

By contrast, he said, someone without OCD might respond by thinking the thought was peculiar but go on with their day.

Why would evolution give humans the ability to have fearful and unwanted thoughts? It may have something to do with people's natural ability to multitask and "think all sorts of things," study author Radomsky said.

The study acknowledges several caveats that could affect the reliability of its findings.

For one, the surveys were taken in different countries with different cultures and languages, potentially making it hard to directly compare the responses. Also, the survey questions may not have turned up an accurate number of intrusive thoughts among the participants. And the study only looks at college students, not older or younger people.

The study authors call for more research to confirm the findings and discover how they compare with scientific theories about OCD.

The study appeared in the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders.

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections