Intrusive thoughts and the compulsions - My OCD Community

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Intrusive thoughts and the compulsions


Hi, this is my first time on here and I am hoping to learn more ways to cope with my OCD and anxiety and to read other people's stories to understand I'm not alone because I feel like an outcast sometimes because of my OCD. I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 9 and I am currently 20. I am moving to a new apartment on my own soon and I'm hoping to get my OCD a bit under control beforehand.

Apart of my OCD are intrusive thoughts saying "If you don't do this action or compulsion, harm will come to your loved ones". These thoughts are constant and even when I try to calm myself down by exercising or other things that I love, the thoughts would rise again causing me to become anxious and not enjoy myself. An example of this would be "You have to do 10 pushups right now or something bad will happen.", and this happens with almost everything I do.

I've been working on not giving into the compulsons a lot recently due to my future move. Actually, writing this post was something my OCD told me I wasn't allowed to do. I was wondering if anyone has any stories where they were strong enough to push away their OCD and not let it stop you from living everyday life, or if anyone has any strategies to calm down the racing thoughts and to be able to push through not doing the compulsions? Stay strong everyone.

7 Replies

yes, I do understand - my ocd is a bully and tries to intimidate me at every turn, but I push through it and nothing bad does happen. It always lies to us!

I would like to welcome you to the OCD Support Network.

We are here to help and give hope to each other.

We are in this together.

I wish you good health.

The new technique that I am trying , is to let the OCD thought be there, but pushed into a corner.

There has to be no more discussion with the thought.

In the beginning there will be high anxiety, but it will get lesser.

The thought will slowly fade away.

We are leaving the thought just open, without giving any answers to it.

When I had taken therapy in the past, I was taught to sit with the feared consequences of the obsession, in a room, to try to focus on it.

Also, to write down the feared consequences on a paper, and keep reading it.

This way the anxiety reaches its maximum level.

Slowly, you will get desensitized to the feared consequences.

Thus, the anxiety will get lower.

I hope this helps.

I know the feeling, where it says, "this is bad", "it must be this way or else". "that the wrong way". The best way is to let yourself experience the anxiety and the thoughts and prove that it is not bad, just posting this proves that, though it is hard. As for things to do there are a lot, I have actually find that developing your own ways to handle it. I have a few different way to handle it. I mean you can imagine the thoughts as a wave,or imagine them as anything really, but imagine that you are the one is there in the though and let it go. It takes practice but eventually you will see it as something manageable and within your power, honestly, where I let my mind go I have kind of gotten to a point where I just let it be and just flow with it, not easy to explain it more a personal experence.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy has helped me considerably and is really the one proven method for getting OCD under control long-term (medication can also help). If you don't have any experience with it, there are lots of online resources and self-help books that cover it.

Essentially you are to expose yourself to the triggering fears and then resist the urge to do compulsions. It's a simple concept but there are strategies and techniques that make it more doable and effective. As you resist compulsions, you show your brain that the compulsions are not necessary to keep your fears from coming true, and gradually it stops giving you the urges and anxiety.

It sounds like you are already trying that to a degree. Here are a few things that have helped me resist doing compulsions (and note that these can be applied to whatever topic your OCD is making you obsess about):

1) Establish from the outset what is real and what is OCD. Do this in a rational moment while you are NOT having an obsession. For example, I think at some level you know that almost certainly nothing bad will happen to anyone if you don't do 10 pushups, or whatever. I say "almost certainly" because you have to accept that you can't be 100% certain. There may be some never-before-known metaphysical force that causes your pushups to prevent bad things from happening, just as it may cause a million dollars to appear in front of you when you finish. But both are so unlikely and nonsensical that no one should spend their lives thinking about such things.

2) Once you have established a baseline "reality," hang on to that when an obsession hits, and immediately relabel the obsession as an anxiety problem, not a reality problem. So if you start to reach for a blue pen, and your OCD says you must use a black pen or something bad will happen, you immediately say to yourself, "Oh, there's that anxiety again. Using the blue pen will make me FEEL like something bad will happen to someone. I have to decide if I will use the blue pen and feel anxious about that or use the black pen and get relief. Feeling anxious now will help me recover from OCD in the long term, while giving in to the compulsion will only make OCD stronger. Either way, my choice of pens doesn't affect anyone in any way. This is only a choice about whether to tolerate anxiety or not."

3) Try to make step 2 automatic. As you have no doubt noticed, logic and reason don't work too well in the throes of an obsession. OCD is a wily opponent and will come up with all sorts of reasons that each new obsession is somehow different and meaningful. If you argue with the intrusive thoughts, you'll likely lose. Just accept that they're there, relabel them as anxiety, and try to ignore the feelings of doom and guilt that inevitably show up when you go against OCD's demands. At the time it may seem like those feelings won't ever go away unless you do your compulsions, but they will, and that experience will help your brain realize that the compulsions are unnecessary.

4) Try to be consistent. Don't be down on yourself when you give in and do compulsions, but realize that every time you do compulsions you are reaffirming OCD's messages, while every time you resist you are proving to your brain that those messages are false and meaningless. So take every opportunity to resist compulsions -- particularly the little ones that aren't very powerful but maybe you do them anyway out of habit and because they don't cause you any great inconvenience. The more you resist the weak compulsions, the easier it will become to resist the strong ones.

5) Have faith that even though resisting compulsions will make life stressful in the short term, eventually you will get more peace of mind (much more than if you keep doing compulsions!). I have recently been battling intrusive thoughts that show up while trail running and hiking, which are things I've always loved doing. As I've done ERP I have successfully resisted a lot of compulsions, but my activities still weren't much fun anymore because I was so anxious. After a few weeks, though, I find I still have some obsessions but they are getting fewer and farther between, they are less powerful, and I'm more relaxed and enjoying myself again. Keep at it and it will pay off!

Good luck. It's great that you are trying to get this under control now. I started with OCD as a kid and it's come and gone over the decades. I'm now in my 40s and getting serious about therapy for the first time. I wish I'd done it years ago instead of spending so much time worried and limited by my anxiety. If you have trouble doing ERP on your own, try to find a therapist trained in OCD to help you. There's no need to live with constant anxiety.

Finally, here's a website with some good resources. There are lots of good well-known therapists with information online. Reid Wilson has been one of the most helpful to me.

LuvSun in reply to MothFir

This is a very clear response and explanation to how ERP works. Thank you for all your great advice.

ballet1234 in reply to MothFir

Thank you so much for this. It really cleared up ERP for me. I will definitely be coming back here to refresh on these steps. Thank you so much again!

Welcome! I have the same problems with OCD telling me what and what not to say or do or else something bad will happen. Everyone is very helpful in this Forum and has helped me a lot.

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