The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts

The Imp of the Mind - Lee BaerIn The Imp of the Mind, a leading expert on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) explores a hidden epidemic that afflicts millions of Americans.

In the first book to fully examine obsessive bad thoughts, Dr. Lee Baer combines the latest research with his own extensive experience in treating this widespread syndrome.

Drawing on information ranging from new advances in brain technology to pervasive social taboos, Dr. Baer explores the root causes of bad thoughts, why they can spiral out of control, and how to recognize the crucial difference between harmless and dangerous bad thoughts.

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…. With an easy-to-read style, Baer offers a comprehensive and accessible look at this fascinating topic.

The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts is available at and other stores.