Mental Compulsions or Exposure: I've had... - My OCD Community

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Mental Compulsions or Exposure

Summer6666 profile image

I've had pure o ocd for 45 years .almost.every theme but mainly harm OCD, although I should know by now they are only thoughts I still get so distressed and upset because they centre around the people I love and adore .

My problem is that since reading an OCD book by a well know therapist ....they recommended bringing thoughts up on purpose when you are with the person/ trigger they revolve around....but I get so anxious when I do this as I am desperately hoping it will make me realise they are just thoughts ....but I just feel worse when I can't get the feeling I hope for. something make my mind go blank and numb. I just cant stop doing this The book did help me in lots of ways but not sure if this is ERP as it doesn't seem to be working for me can someone . can someone please tell me where I am going wrong ?

13 Replies

I have experience with exposure and response prevention therapy, having undergone it myself when I first went to therapy. These are my own experiences, so they shouldn't be taken as medical advice, but maybe it can provide some insight.

The principals behind ERP are to expose you to situations that would heighten your anxiety in a controlled environment under the supervision of a therapist. The principal mechanism is allowing your mind to slowly acclimate to the intense and distressing situation so that it no longer produces the same anxious response. It's so that you can face that which you fear most, the possibility of loosing control and harming a loved one and become desensitized to such thoughts.

It's a really intense form of therapy, it does provide some relief but I still live with alot of anxiety and intrusive thoughts myself, but the therapy has really helped me with confronting my own obsessions.

It's a possibility that you don't have the proper guidance to create a useful exposure. Maybe you are starting with too intense a situation, maybe it isn't intense enough. You might not be doing it for the right length of time, too short an exposure won't give you the right amount. When I was doing it, exposures typically lasted an entire hour, slowly building up the anxiety until I was having a literal panic attack on the early stages of therapy, and then allowing myself to descend from that high point.

I would be performing them by myself as well nightly, an hour each night.

I don't really do them now, as I don't think they are giving me the same level of relief as before, but it is leaps and bounds much better than when I was at my lowest point. I hope this helps.

Thank you so much for your help, I think after reading your reply I will try to find a therapist myself, as I have been trying for years to manage myself, but after reading your response its made me realise that I would be better with some help, especially as I have had this such a long time,,, its almost become a habit , a horrible habit!Its good to hear that therapy helped you and you have certainly helped me gain insight ,so thank you again.

I recommend you search out therapists who specialize in treating OCD. Regular therapists don't have the necessary training to help individuals like us. There are alot of clinics that can perform therapy with video chat, so you don't even need to leave your own home and it makes it so much more accessible if you live in an area where such therapists might not reside in.

I myself am greatly troubled by my own obsessions. I am considering including medication into my resources. After 10 years of dealing with my OCD without it, I feel it is the next step in my treatment. Having a therapist can greatly improve your condition. Think of it as an investment in yourself, the most valuable one you could ever possibly make.

I wish you luck with your treatment.

You might read some of the articles on this website:

Dr. Greenberg makes a great point that people often confuse "intrusive thoughts" and "active rumination." Intrusive thoughts are the unwanted thoughts of harm that just pop into your head. Those are involuntary, you can't stop them, and you shouldn't try. Rumination, however, is a form of compulsion that you must stop in order to recover from OCD. If you are spending time ruminating on the intrusive thoughts (why am I thinking this, what does it mean, would I really hurt someone, etc.) you are actually performing compulsions that only perpetuate the cycle and make the intrusive thoughts stronger.

I think a healthy approach would be to spend time with people you care about, just as if you didn't have OCD (i.e., do exposure). Expect that you are going to have disturbing thoughts, and don't try to keep them away, but don't engage with them. Dr. Greenberg points out that that is what people without OCD do all the time. Most every human has unwanted disturbing thoughts, but most people respond by thinking "Whoa, that's weird" and then immediately forget about it, because they know the thoughts don't reflect who they really are or what they really want to do. That is what those of us with OCD need to learn to do -- treat the thoughts as the irrelevant mental detritus that they are.

At first this will feel wrong because you'll feel like you're ignoring an important issue. But you know you don't really want to hurt anyone and the thoughts do not reflect your real wishes -- you only have the disturbing thoughts because you are a human being, and you are only bothered by them because you have OCD. The more attention you give the thoughts the more you will notice and be upset by them, but the less attention you give them the less you'll notice them and the less they'll bother you.

Also I agree that getting a good OCD therapist would be a big help. Good luck!

Summer6666 profile image
Summer6666 in reply to MothFir

Thank you so much , you don't know how much you have helped me

Thank you all for this conversation. I feel for you deeply. The OCD symptom that stuck and hung on with me was also harm OCD (postpartum - 40 years ago. My beautiful baby boy is now anticipating a baby boy of his own. ) I didn’t get properly diagnosed for 7 years. It was then that I connected with a therapist who was trained in the proper treatment of OCD, specifically ERP. He was kind and he went very slowly with me over the course of a year. He did a good job developing a rapport with his clients. (He himself had dealt with panic attacks). Gradually I went from hiding sharp implements in a tool box to being able to use them again. One of his key reminders to me was, “You don’t have to be comfortable to function.”

Having OCD is hard. Thank God for the wonderful OCD community and for forums like this. I am now a retired elementary school counselor, and I facilitate an online OCD Support Group that meets once a month.

This is a challenging time for me, personally. I am now a grandmother of a fun and active toddler from my younger son, with a baby boy to be born in a few months. Old OCD memories and worries have cropped up - I knew they would - and I have experienced lots of anxiety. I have reconnected with my therapist, and in fact will meet with her this afternoon. She challenges me to practice self-compassion. I get that, though I can easily revert to shame and guilt. And I must admit that “provoking the thoughts” seems antithetical to what feels natural. But then I remember, “You don’t have to be comfortable to function.” Just do your best. Baby steps. We’re all in this together.

By the way, both of my sons were diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (mild) in elementary school. There is often a comorbidity of Tourette’s and OCD. My younger son has also been diagnosed with OCD, and my older son has a tendency toward rumination. There is definitely a genetic component!

My best to you all. You are not alone.

Summer6666 profile image
Summer6666 in reply to Tcba

My story is so much like yours in so many ways, except I have never been to therapy, my harm OCD came about after having my first child, it gradually slipped away as my children got older then came back as my beautiful grandchildren came along .

My younger sister has this too, and my mother suffered from anxiety so yes I agree I think its definitely genetic, but I will never understand or come to terms with the fact that I have have this horrible condition about the ones I love more than anything in this world,

However this forum and all you lovely caring people has helped me a lot , so once again thank you all and hope you all get the freedom from this horrible thing.

Tcba profile image
Tcba in reply to Summer6666

OCD finds an in with things that are most dear to us. My therapist tells me to make room for the thoughts. Everyone has them, even those without OCD. The mind of the person with OCD experiences them more intensely, and we become prone to rumination and the desire to analyze. I feel your pain. Feel free to keep in touch.

Summer6666 profile image
Summer6666 in reply to Tcba

Thank you , I will keep in touch and you take care .

I agree with finding an OCD therapist! is a really great resource! Also they have webinars on YouTube that are helpful. Their website can point you in the direction of a therapist specializing in OCD.

That's interesting , thank you for that I will look it up.

Hey there.Every while and then my OCD symptoms come back and my anxiety increases but when they do I focus on resisting my compulsions like reassuring and the more I do so the less anxiety hurts me. ERP is beneficial when you resist your compulsions that is when OCD starves because it wants you to do the compulsions

Resisting is hard yeah but I always use the strategy of procrastinating when anxiety comes. I delay doing my compulsion and soon anxiety fades.

You can't a control intrusive thoughts that come into your head but you can always control how you react to them and sometimes unfortunately they win but you gotta keep focusing on a coping strategy through which you don't get disabled from your daily work. My coping strategy is procrastinating as I've said above.

Hope this helps you. ❤️

Hi , I think it has already helped me to read how resisting the reassuring compulsions has helped you , as I think that's where my biggest problem is! I never resist the reassuring compulsions as I am so thankful something makes me feel a bit more comfortable , but of course I am doing it over and over again , then anxiety all over again, but will certainly be making more of an effort after hearing how well you seem to be coping with it , so thank you again.

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