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The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts Hardcover – January 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychologist Baer (an associate professor at Harvard) turns the spotlight on a little-known but common form of obsession, "bad thoughts." According to Baer, these "intrusive" thoughts fall into a few basic types: violent, sexual and blasphemous words, and images of a religious nature. Borrowing from Edgar Allan Poe, Baer blames such mental torment on "the imp of the perverse," that little devil inhabiting all human minds, cross-culturally and across time, "who makes you think the most inappropriate thoughts at the most inappropriate times." For most people, the imp proves no more than a "fleeting annoyance" most of the time, but for Baer's patients, these impish thoughts create extreme fear, guilt and worry. Attempting to suppress them only makes them stronger, leading the afflicted to avoid places, people and situations that provoke them. A new mother who obsessively thinks about harming her infant, for example, may increasingly avoid daily caretaking activities. Tending to be perfectionist and "overly conscientious," these people are highly unlikely ever to act on their bad thoughts, Baer explains. The most successful treatment, he says, involves desensitizing individuals by increasingly (and safely) exposing them to the situations that provoke their "bad thoughts"; cognitive therapy is also helpful for many patients. Finally, such prescription drugs as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, like Prozac, have also proved highly effective in the treatment of this disorder. With an easy-to-read style, Baer offers a comprehensive and accessible look at this fascinating topic. (Jan. 15)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Lee Baer, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert in the treatment of OCD and related disorders. Author of Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions, Baer is an associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and the director of research of the OCD unit at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as of the OCD Institute at McLean Hospital.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525945628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525945628
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Tim P. on December 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first and only book that I have found that actually deals with obsessive negative bad thoughts. Most of the OCD books that I have found deal with compulsions and rituals and hit very lightly on obsessive negative thoughts. Great book that offers lots of good strategies for dealing with obsessive negative thoughts.
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Format: Paperback
The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts, breaks tremendous ground with those of us who have suffered at one time another with what Dr. Lee Baer refers to as 'Obsessive Bad Thoughts'. Some have objected to the use of the term 'bad thoughts' as judgemental of OCD sufferers, or their intelligence. I don't find this to be true, though, as Baer uses the term to refer to images and feelings that the perceiver him/herself is disturbed by (as well as the feeling of -being- disturbed), so in essence it's no more judgemental to call them bad thoughts than say someone has 'bad feelings' when they sprain an ankle.

The book is a very powerful first step for people who suffer from thoughts; be they violent, sexual, blasphemous, or otherwise directly in opposition to their own personal taboos. Baer explains in scientifically validated yet easilly accessible language that sufferers of this problem are not criminal or amoral, as they may fear themselves to be 'deep down', nor are they alone. This very reveal can be liberating for someone who has suffered in silence and isolation, feeling unable to talk about their afflicting thoughts for fear of being looked at as insane or treated as a pariah.

Baer explains that the very act of trying to suppress thoughts that are taboo is what reinforces them and causes them to develop into obsessions in the first place. He uses many case examples of patients he has worked with in the past, as well as data collected from large surveys to show that not only is this phenomenon widespread and common, but that sufferers are NOT the things they obsess and fear themselves to be and that those fears run the gambit of all extremes, from worrying about bestiality to becoming a serial killer!
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85 of 94 people found the following review helpful By obsessive thinker on March 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For those of us who are plagued with obsessive bad thoughts, this book is very important. Since I was very young I have been bothered by obsessive religious thoughts, especially during prayer-time. Because of these thoughts, I have gone through periods in my life where I had to stop praying, because it seemed like the only way to minimize these thoughts. This is not something I have ever discussed with anyone, even though I was in therapy and on medication for depression for several years. It really just seemed too terrible to talk about. I always wondered what was wrong with me, and even wondered if I was possessed. This book has put my mind at ease, by letting me know that it's my brain, and not "me" that is the problem. I don't have these thoughts because I am evil, I have them because there is something wrong with my brain. Thank you for writing this book, Dr. Baer, because it seems like the other books on OCD focus on behaviors, and don't give an indepth discussion of obsessive thoughts which can be just as disturbing as counting, checking or hording.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've read a lot of books about OCD, and most of them focus on compulsive BEHAVIOR (handwashing, checking locks, hoarding, etc.) rather than what to do about obsessions -- intrusive thoughts that can depress and often cripple people. As someone with OCD obessions but not compulsions, this book has been a huge help to me. Best of all is to read Baer's detailed descriptions of real-life patients with a variety of different obsessions and to recognize just how common these thoughts really are. If you've ever felt guilty, depressed, or flawed because of your obsessions, read this book ... the mere recognition that you are neither evil nor alone in having these thoughts is, in itself, a major step towards healing.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Charles Copen on February 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I only had to read about three pages in to this book to realize that this was the BEST book written thus far on intrusive thoughts. Dr. Baer does a wonderful job of reaching the reader through case studies that he has encountered over his long career. I would strongly recommend that anyone who suffers from this torturesome side of OCD to buy this book. It has been a true gift to me.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I've read many books on OCD. What I liked about this
one was the way Dr. Baer calls OCD: "bad thoughts".
I think that's more compassionate. Dr. Baer makes you
feel like you're not the only person suffering from
this illness, and that suffering from it is not the
worst thing that can happen to you. After all, they
are only bad thoughts :-)
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By OCD in Texas on February 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
Until I read this book, none of the treatments my therapist and I were covering were really sticking. I couldn't identify well with other books because they spent so much time covering compulsions. I kept falling into the spiral of obsessive thoughts and thinking no one would ever really understand what was really going on in my head. I even questioned the doctor's diagnosis. I cried when I read an example of someone going through exactly what has been happening to me, because for the very first time I did not feel alone. I really do have OCD and it is treatable. Thank you Dr. Baer, for writing a book that addresses obsessive thoughts separate from obsessive compulsions.
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