Sorry, Terri* - did not mean to confuse. Your questions are great though.
Obsessing is one thing - it's thought. ONLY thought. And it's also called Rumination. It has something in common with post-trauma states - thoughts come like flashbacks, unbidden (well, consciously unbidden. I, of course, believe they're always bidden by unconscious thoughts, but that's an entirely other argument, lol).
Obsessive thoughts that just won't go away but that do not require you to DO anything are just obsessions.
Obsessive/Compulsive behavior however, is a symptom state that has some Action going along with the obsession. It can be obvious like having to wash one's hands over and over, check the stove 100 times, etc. or more esoteric like having to "undo" some "process' - sometimes a person will make a right turn in the room, and suddenly be filled with anxiety and cannot remove that anxiety till they "UN-do" the action - i.e., they must then turn to the LEFT. Or counting. Sometimes a person will think something that makes them horribly anxious and then feel COMPELLED to count to 50 in their head.....silently, but desperately...and they believe they cannot calm down until they "obey"
That's the C part of OC (obsession = thought; compulsion = action). But the Action need not be something physical - the action can be another thought. My point above was that very often dp types have a magical system at work that they never admit to - certainly not to their therapist, lol....they often think "I'm having that awful fear that I really am going insane...the last 20 times I had that fear, I looked up a bunch of websites about madness and that scared me, but I didn't go insane. So now that I'm scared of this again, I'm going to do the SAME thing again - i.e., it "worked" before"
Clearly, the person is not going to have all that thinking so detailed. But if the person is honest with himself, he'll ask "okay, I know it scares me to do this....what would happen if I didn't do it?" the honest answer might very well be "then I WILL go insane..." THAT is a delusion. That is magical thinking and it is a crucial piece of the symptom puzzle.
Most people who have those kinds of thoughts believe they are just TINY aspects to their otherwise anxiety based and obsessive mind. In reality, those delusional thoughts are CRUCIAL aspects of their entire illness,and if they're not addressed and really explored, chances are their symptoms will be impossible to treat.
It's the main reason OCD is SO hard to ever cure. The patient is not honest - they are not fully forthcoming, even with themselves. They keep insisting they TRY to not do the things they do because they fully realize that doing their rituals accomplishes NOTHING. But they don't really deep down believe that. At the TIME they feel the obsession and at the time they act in the compusion they DO believe they are accomplishing something with their act. THAT is the key piece of information that is necessary to share in order to begin recovery.
There was a lovely young woman on this board years ago who I befriended. We talked on the phone, etc..for a long time. She had major dp and horrible surreal and terrifying obsessions. She also had a major shrink at Oxford (where she went to school). HOwever, she had NEVER told ANYone that her obsessive thoughts were connected to magic.
There was a brand of soap in her bathroom called "CareX" - and everytime she saw it, she thought of the "x" representing poison, ie. death. She was convinced that if she looked at the soap and did NOT perform some Undoing ritual (or surrender to certain kinds of repetitive thoughts), that someone would die. This was a brilliant woman doing major academic work.
When she FINALLY started talking about the secret creepy thoughts underneath her obsesssions, she started to slowly recover. And before, she had not made one iota of change for many years.
My point, and I do have one, lol..is that obsessions are not the same as obsessions with accompanying compulsions. Many people may be like you and only obsess. BUT...I know for a fact, that there are also many others who never talk about their secret acts of un-doing or magical rituals. Those folks need to try to find a way to talk about those thoughts. The cure lies there.