Overcome OCD“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be a difficult, confusing experience. To overcome OCD, you need a clear understanding of how OCD works.”
The Ultimate Doubting Disease
“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder bedevils millions of people with repetitive thoughts and rituals. It’s the ultimate doubter’s disease. Overcoming OCD will require you to work differently with uncertainty and doubts.”
“Like all anxiety disorders, OCD works by tricking you. You need to understand how this trick works if you’re going to overcome OCD.”
The OCD Trick
“The OCD Trick is this: you experience doubt, but respond as if it’s danger.”
- You experience Doubt
Here’s how it works.
“You experience an unwanted thought which suggests the possibility of a catastrophic problem. For instance:”
- What if I left the stove on, and the neighborhood burns?
- What if I got insecticide on my hands, and my family gets poisoned?
- What stops me from taking the carving knife and stabbing my spouse?
- What if I got poked by a needle infected with HIV?
- What if I ran over a pedestrian and didn’t notice?
“These are thoughts about catastrophes. Naturally, you want to set them aside, and assure yourself that all is well.”
“And you try. You try very hard, very repetitively, to persuade yourself that all is well. You probably recognize that the thoughts are pretty exaggerated, even silly. But you keep trying to get rid of them. You try to feel absolutely sure that they’re false. Even though you’ve never experienced these problems in the past, you want somehow to be certain that they will never happen in the future.”
You treat it like Danger
“You end up treating the thought as if it were a mortal threat, a mad dog that has to be killed or captured. You fight the thoughts.”
“And you lose. Fighting thoughts is always a losing game. When you deliberately and forcefully try not to think of, say, Elvis Presley, your head will soon be filled with Elvis imitators.”
“This pattern has to change if you’re going to overcome OCD.”
“Some people struggle in their heads, without any change in their visible behavior. For instance, a person who is afflicted with thoughts of killing loved ones or accidentally burning down the neighborhood may continually think about it in an effort to reassure himself, or to somehow “undo” the thoughts, but otherwise doesn’t do anything differently. This is what therapists usually refer to as an “obsessive only” type.”
“Others take specific actions they hope will get rid of the thoughts. A person who fears stabbing loved ones may put all the knives away, or avoid the kitchen, in an effort to get rid of the thoughts. A person who fears accidental fires will repeatedly check the stove to make sure it’s off, even if he hasn’t used it that day. These actions are what therapists refer to as “rituals”.”
“In both cases, the person is desperately trying to stop thinking the unpleasant thought. The behavioral rituals, such as repeated checking of an appliance, are aimed at the same purpose as the invisible arguing with your thoughts. Either way, however, the thoughts typically become more persistent as a result. The efforts to get rid of the thoughts just make them more persistent. If you’re going to overcome OCD, you need to change this pattern.”
“There’s no substitute for being an informed patient. Your understanding of OCD, and of the treatment method, will be a key to your progress. If you’re going to overcome OCD, you need to become an informed consumer.”
“Be selective in your use of the Internet. There are many sites where people simply complain and post despairing messages about their symptoms. There are also many scams which sell false hope at high prices.”
“Whatever you do, here are three key guidelines. Your efforts to overcome OCD should follow these guidelines.”
“Your recovery work should emphasize taking an accepting stance toward the thoughts. You don’t have to accept the apparent meaning of the thoughts, just the fact that you have them. The only real meaning behind obsessive thoughts is that you’re nervous, and you already knew that.”
“Your recovery work should emphasize postponing the rituals and resistance. The obsessive thoughts always include the idea that you had better do something about the thoughts, or they’ll continue to bother you indefinitely. But this is probably not so. As you get involved in your ordinary activities without going out of your way to bring the thoughts to an end, they will bother you less and less.”
“Your recovery work should include the practice of regular, scheduled exposure to the obsessive thoughts. This can take the form of written scripts that you read, audio recordings that you listen to, and other forms of routinely working with material that can trigger your obsessive thoughts.”