Sometimes, magical thinking can serve as a symptom of an underlying mental health condition. This type of magical thinking usually feels uncontrollable and creates a lot of distress.
Here’s a look at how magical thinking can pop up in different conditions.
Magical thinking (also called magical ideation) commonly occurs as part of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD typically engage in specific rituals, or compulsions, to quiet the obsessive thoughts they experience.
Someone might believe, for example, they’ll get into a car accident unless they tap the hood of their car three times.
While some people with OCD perform these rituals without really believing they have power, others have a strong conviction that failing to perform the ritual would have negative consequences.
For example, you might:
- spend a lot of time worrying about outcomes that are less likely or realistic
- believe planning for every possible negative outcome can protect you against those outcomes
- find it hard to take concrete action because of your worries