Struggling with persisting intrusive thoughts. Any tips on how to avoid giving into compulsions would be very helpful!

I haven't wrote on HealthUnlocked before so I'm a newbie, so hello everyone, and I hope you've all managed to have a good Christmas.

I thought I'd write my first post tonight because I'm really struggling at the moment with continuous intrusive thoughts, and I'm finding it extremely difficult to forget them and get on with my day. As much as I'm trying to fight the urge to do the compulsions, I'm finding that I'm not only completing the compulsions but that the intrusive thoughts are worsening and the compulsions are not even reducing my anxiety anymore. I am literally suffering with severe OCD from the moment I get up until I can drop off to sleep, and feel really overwhelmed and completely lost in OCD.

Any tips on how to try and avoid giving into the compulsions, especially compulsions regarding contamination would be really, really appreciated. What do others do to keep their mind distracted?

Thank you in advance for your help!

Jess x

16 Replies

Hi jess,

I suffer the intrusive thoughts too, so I know just how you feel, I have good and bad days but since having cbt my good far out weigh my bad. The best tips I can give is to challenge the compulsions, when you get a thought don’t react to it, my councillor told me to use this as an example, think of a bus and say to it ‘I see you there but I’m not getting on you today’ I know it sounds a bit crazy but it really does help, it distracts you from the thought. The main thing to stop the thoughts is to not feed them with the compulsions, it’s not easy and you will feel very uncomfortable at first but I promise you it will subside if you distract yourself from them. Remember, if you don’t do a compulsion what ever the thought is will not come true, it’s taken me a long time to realise this but by not feeding the thoughts my days are a lot easier now, sorry for the long reply but I want to help those who are going through the same as me as I know how painful it is to have ocd and there is hope out there.



Thank you so much for replying, I really appreciate your help and advice, so thank you.

If you don’t mind me asking, I’ll understand if it may be difficult for you to answer, but how long have you been struggling with OCD for, and how does it mainly affect you? Have you found reading books have helped you?

Jess x


No problem Hun, I’ve had it since I was around 10 but it started with rituals and then progressed into intrusive thoughts when I was around 18 (I’m 31 now) the main affect I have is the intrusive thoughts and when they are really bad can take me hours to get the simplest of tasks done because of the convulsions, but the tips I was given has really helped! I haven’t actually got any books but I have been looking at buying some as definitely something I feel I should get as I’m sure there’s more help in them :)

How long have you been going through this?

Anytime you need to talk I’m always here :)



Thanks for replying again, it’s so nice to hear from someone who really understands and can relate to.

So you’ve been suffering for a long time then. I’m really sorry to hear that, but I’m glad that you’re now getting more good than bad days at the moment, and that CBT is helping. How do you manage to do the tasks you need to do, do you ask others to help you? How long have you been having CBT?

Thank you for your tips, I’ll think of the bus metaphor when I’m struggling. I struggle to see thoughts as just thoughts, so I need to work on separating myself from them and like you said remembering to think that the things I believe are going to happen aren’t actually going to happen.

I had a mental breakdown two years ago but have been suffering with OCD and anxiety since around 16, I’m now 23, so I’ve been receiving help for the past two years. It started initially with checking things, then led into concerns about knocking people over when I was driving, then into contamination worries.

I’ve read so many books over the past two years, so here’s some of the books I’ve read and thought were helpful, and I hope they’ll help you to-

- Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, by David Veale and Rob Wilson. This is actually a book that can be prescribed so you may not have to buy it.

-Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers

-This Book Will Make You Fearless, by Jo Usmar

I’ve also got Overcoming Perfectionism and Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, maybe these may help you too but the ones above are really good regarding OCD and facing fears.

What’s your name by the way?


1 like

No probs, anytime xxx it’s so nice to beable to talk to others that understand what you are going through xx


Sorry I’ve just realised I didn’t reply to your last reply to me! Thank you so much for the book ideas, I’m going to have a look at ordering a couple :) with regards to the tasks I don’t ask others to help as only my husband knows about my rituals and where I’ve done the CBT I find using the things I learnt allow me now to not take so long doing them. The one thing that is hard though is when I’m having a bad day I do struggle with the intrusive thoughts and so make my compulsions stronger.I’m sorry to hear about your breakdown, that must of been awful.

I did CBT for a few months and was well worth it :)

My names is Corinne by the way x


Hi Corinne, thanks for replying, it's ok, no worries! Ahh that's really good, I'm glad the CBT has really worked for you. Yeah, that must be horrendous for you and so tough then to be able to see things logically I bet.

It's nice to hear from you anyway. I'm always here if you need a chat or some other book advice, I've got over 10 self help books!

Jess x

1 like

Thanks Hun, really appreciate it x


That's the problem with giving into the compulsions. It offers temporary relief, but the OCD comes back for more. It's like a protection racket, where you pay someone to leave you alone, and they keep coming back demanding payment!

I think most of us have been overwhelmed by OCD to the point where we're not functioning. I have been there myself. The contamination thing is particularly difficult because you are afraid of touching anything before you've 'decontaminated' yourself. It isn't so much germs with me, as washing off intrusive thoughts. I try to keep it down as much as I can though.

I have been taught a few methods which I have found helpful. One is to think of the panic as being like a wave, or clouds overhead, or leaves on a stream or anything else you can think of that is similar. The clouds are right overhead, the wave reaches a peak, the leaves are right in front of you but they move on and disperse. Panic does that as well and so it can be worth putting up with it knowing it will disperse. Another one is to think 'I'm not going to worry about it now, I will worry about it at half past three' or whenever. Then half past three comes and goes, and you've forgotten.

Since there isn't a mention of medication in your post, are you on any? It can really take the worst of the OCD off and make you more able to deal with the CBT.

On contamination, I have areas I allow to be 'dirty' so I am free to do things there and don't have to wash my hands as much. It can be hard to do things when you feel you need to wash, but keeping busy as you can manage helps to distract your mind, as long as it isn't something too boring or repetitive.

I'm pleased that the book Overcoming OCD has helped you, as it has me. It's one I have often suggested to people on this site.


Hello, thank you for also replying to my post. I really appreciate all help and advice :)

I know, you're so right when you said it's like where you pay someone to leave you alone, and they keep coming back demanding payment- OCD can have you in all ways if you let it! Yeah, it's so hard to think logically when I panic, but as you said, I need to try and keep in mind that with time it will decrease, and that's something I need to work on really.

With what you said about telling yourself, right, I won't think about this now until half 3 for example, do you find the thoughts are still very persistent, or that because you think you are eventually going to think about the thoughts, even if you don't necessarily think them when it comes to the time you set to think about them, are the thoughts not as intrusive then, and may subside completely with practice do you think?

I've tried about 8 or 9 different tablets, including SSRI's and Tricylic antidepressants, none have made much difference to the anxiety and OCD. I've also tried beta-blockers on and off for two years and take sleeping tablets regularly. At the moment, I've been taking Mirtazapine 15mg for about two weeks and I will be increasing dosage with time. I'm also taking 15mg of Diazepam daily as well at the moment to help with the anxiety.

If you don't mind me asking, what medication do you take? Do you have or have had CBT? What other support have you had that has helped you? How long have you suffered with OCD?

Yeah, it must be really tough to allow certain areas to be 'dirty' as such, so I really, really applaud you for being able to do that and stick to that idea, and you've obviously found your own ways to deal with the contamination thoughts. What do you do to keep busy? I'm glad the book has worked for you too! It definitely gives you all the information you need I think. Have you read any other books?

Again, thanks for replying- I really appreciate your support,

Jess x


The thing with the not worrying about something until say half past three is that you promise yourself to allow yourself to worry then. But crucially you are also giving yourself permission not to worry! In fact, most likely you are busy doing other things and even if you do remember the likelihood is that you have forgotten what it is you were supposed to think about at half past three! It's a technique I have used for quite a while.

The problem can be that in the midst of a panic fit you can't think clearly at all and all you can think about is the panic! So I mostly use that technique when I have the urge to do something over again, and often over and over, rather when I'm having a panic attack.

I have been on sertraline for about ten years. It's an SSRI and I have found it a good one for me. I took clomipramine, a tricyclic, for quite a few years before that, and it was a good one, though it made me feel constantly dopey. I am now on a very high dose of sertraline, 300 mg per day, boosted with 5 mg of aripiprazole which is an antipsychotic. I'm not psychotic, but a low dose of aripiprazole makes the sertraline work better.

I did take diazepam for a while, but didn't think it helped much and besides it is very addictive. I'm a bit concerned about your taking sleeping pills as they can disrupt the kind of sleep you have. They are best taken only occasionally. I know it can be hard, as I have insomnia.

I have had OCD in a really disabling way since I was 21, although I can trace it back to when I was a child. I have had CBT which has helped, although it isn't easy to do! I did go into hospital for four months a couple of years ago and am better for it, as it meant a quite intensive regime of CBT. There is a unit there at Springfield Hospital in Tooting, and they take patients from around the country.

On 'dirty' areas, it is really a coping mechanism so I don't wash my hands after everything I touch. I also have 'clean' areas where nothing I think of as 'dirty' goes.

I still struggle a lot. I've just come back from a shopping trip which wasn't easy but I still managed it!

I do quite a lot of writing, and anything you enjoy that keeps your mind occupied is good. Creative things are helpful. Another book that has helped is called Mind over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A Padesky. It isn't just for OCD but is a good CBT-based book which helps with a lot of the feelings that people with OCD have.

I hope this is of help. Do reply or post whenever you like and keep us informed of how you are doing. Sally x x x


Hi Sally,

I'm glad you've found medication that works for you. I haven't heard of aripiprazole before, and I didn't know that you could take two types of tablets together to try and make a tablet more beneficial for your mental health. I've tried both Sertraline and Clomipramine, neither did anything for my anxiety unfortunately.

Yeah, I'm only taking Diazepam for a short period of time. I try and take it when I absolutely have to because of their addictive nature, plus the Diazepam is only temporarily masking the real issues that I need to be facing. Insomnia is an awful thing, as you must know, do you have a bedtime routine to try and help you nod off? I've been prescribed Zopiclone for a week every couple of weeks recently as my sleep has been so bad, and I have tried Phenergan in the past temporarily too. I find it hard to go back to sleep once I've woken up so many times through the night, so I try and play on Sims 4 or Bejewelled for a while to distract the thoughts and try and make me tired enough to drop off again.

Oh, have you? I'm so, so sorry to hear that. How old are you now, if you don't mind me asking? Can you? Has that helped you to understand the history? Was it surprising when you looked back to realise how your OCD developed gradually since you were a child, or had you known and recognised some behaviours or thoughts for a while before you were 21? Also, if you don't mind me asking you Sally, are you able to work at the moment?

Awwh that's good, I'm glad CBT worked for you, but I agree with you it's isn't easy; it's so tough to endure and to stay motivated. Oh, did you? How did you find the intensive regime you tried there? Was it hard to maintain what you learned when you left? I wanted to be referred to a clinic specifically for OCD in Bristol, and it was for people where all other treatments had not worked, but as I had not 'exhausted' all options in my local area, my referral was declined. I have been referred to Secondary Care now, and have a lovely Mental Health nurse who is my care coordinator, and I see a psychologist weekly for CBT, but I would really consider looking into going to a centre for intense therapy, like the one in Bristol, or the one you mentioned you attended if I could as I am struggling to make progress.

If you don't mind me asking, how did you sort out your stay at Springfield Hospital in Tooting? Did you have to be referred by your GP? Did you have to pay privately or was it NHS funded? As I'm living in South Wales would you know if I would be eligible to be treated for my OCD? Or would I be out of area for NHS funding? I understand if you may not want to reply to this, but what sort of things did you do over your stay at the hospital? If you are able to, I'd love to hear about any information and obviously about your experience in the hospital, or if you know of any other institutions, specifically for anxiety and OCD.

That's a really good way of dealing with contamination thoughts, so thank you for telling me that. At the moment, everything in my mind is just 'unclean', so I'm constantly avoiding touching things, going into the kitchen, past bins, and spend as little time in bathrooms alone as possible. I also use cans and cans of Dettol antibacterial spray and hand sanitiser on everything and everywhere I can possibly use it.

Have you? That's brilliant! I bet it was so tough for you, but like you said, you went, endured the anxiety and managed to get through the day and you should be really proud of yourself :)

What sort of things do you write? I'm quite creative too. I like colouring, knitting, watching make-up tutorials and writing, but my writing currently just consists of writing a diary everyday at the moment. Yes, I've got Mind Over Mood too, but thanks for recommending it to me.

Thank you so much for replying though, and for your advice and support Sally, I really do appreciate it.

Happy new year to you too. I hope it's a happy, healthy, and exciting 2018 for you!

Jess x

1 like

I had symptoms of OCD from when I was a kid, but didn't recognize them as such. But it really got bad when I was doing really boring office jobs and I think it was the repetitive nature of the work that triggered it off. Then I couldn't function properly. But I didn't know it was OCD until I was about 27 and read about it in a book my mother gave me. I had been going to a really useless therapist who didn't even tell me what I had! I told him I got a better response out of my dog!

I didn't get anything like the right sort of treatment until many years after that. I'm 59 now. Eventually I got CBT and that really has helped, but it's a struggle to do the exercises! The Springfield Hospital OCD unit does take people from all over the country, so they might be able to take you, though there is a waiting list as the ward doesn't have room for more than 14 patients. I got referred by my mental health team.

At Springfield I got intensive CBT which for me included going out. It is tailored to your particular OCD problems. There are also group activities, like relaxation and mindfulness, quizzes and occupational therapy with an art session every week. It took me a while to get into things, because at home I am constantly doing things, like the washing up, cooking as well as writing and I couldn't do that there! I love reading and I took books with me, but I did miss doing things! The staff were very good. By the way, it was all courtesy of the NHS.

I have an occasional job as a life model mostly at an art college and at an art group. It's sporadic but that suits me and brings in some much needed money. For me much of the problem of work is actually getting there as I have panic attacks when I'm out and about, and it's embarrassing to do rituals in public. It is stressful and exhausting. In fact, OCD is an exhausting thing to have altogether as I'm sure you know!

I've found that OCD does a bit of shape shifting. I've always had the problems going out, with stopping, going back and retracing my steps every so often, but some obsessions come and go and others take their place. I didn't always have the hand washing thing, but some other rituals have gone.

Contamination OCD really sucks, though, because of being afraid of contaminating everything you touch, even though you know it doesn't make rational sense. I've opened doors with elbows or knees because I didn't want to contaminate the door with my 'dirty' hands before I could wash them.

I do think that writing helps. It can be whatever you feel like doing, but at the moment I'm trying to complete a shortish story. It helps if it takes a bit of effort, as the concentration takes your mind off the OCD. I've always loved needlework and want to get back to doing some of that.

Exercise is supposed to help your mental health, but that's a problem when you can't go out easily! I can just imagine myself going running and having to stop, go back and start again! I think I could run an entire marathon on about 100 yards of pavement!

For me I try to get past the insomnia with a nice bath, then read in bed for a while. But it's getting off to sleep that's the problem. Maybe I should try reading something really boring, like the Terms and Conditions of my bank account to get me off!

Maybe ask about sertraline in combination with aripiprazole. Meds aren't for everyone, but if you can take them then they really can be a help.

I hope this post isn't too long. Maybe read it if you can't sleep to get you off again! But I do hope that this year is better for you. I forgot to ask, do you manage to work?

Sally x x x


Hi Sally,

I'm sorry to hear you've suffered with OCD from a child and even when you initially began receiving help the therapist was useless! I went through a similar situation myself, and it really put me off seeking help for a while, but I'm so glad you finally got the right treatment for you eventually.

Do you still go for CBT now? Yeah, I bet it is a real struggle to do the exercises when you're mind is telling you to do the complete opposite thing! Oh, that's good! I hadn't heard about Springfield Hospital OCD unit until you mentioned it, so thank you so much for telling me about it. So they only accept a small number of referrals at a time then. How long did it take for you to be referred and then to go? Aww right, ok, so you did lots of different things during your stay then. What do you think helped you the most? Were you taken out and helped to learn how to deal with things in society? How did you find the group activities? I'm very socially anxious so I think I would struggle with that. So would you say you had a temporary break from society as such then, and simply had time to recover, get the help you needed and left feeling able to live a bit more easily knowing you had the tools and support you needed? Again, sorry if this is so personal. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and advice but I completely understand if you don't want to answer my questions- I'd understand, honestly!

Oh wow, that's an interesting job! I'm glad you've found a job that suits you. Is it? I'm so sorry to hear that. That must be awful for you. I completely understand how you would feel being embarrassed to do rituals in public, I feel completely the same. Aww, I bet! Unfortunately I do know how exhausting OCD is, but Sally, fair play to you for still going out when you can, and trying even though it's so tough for you to deal with the panic attacks and the urge to do the rituals.

Yeah, it definitely does! OCD started initially with me through checking when I was 16, then that led to me not being able to drive alone, contamination concerns, worries about being alone at home and in public. I need to help to do everything at the moment and if I have to be left alone I have started filming myself on my laptop or on my phone, which is so stupid but I'm so scared to be on my own. It's true that if it's not treated OCD can spread like wild fire unfortunately.

So can you go out alone now, or do you need someone with you for support? It must be horrendous for you to have to go back and retrace your steps; is it that you doubt what you have done, or may have done something wrong? I'm so sorry that you have to go through that. Yeah, contamination OCD really, really sucks and really messes me up most at the moment. I live in a world where I believe nearly everything is contaminated, and that I have contaminated others, and I seem to always be waiting for someone to get seriously ill or die as a result, it's exhausting.

I'm glad to hear that writing works for you, yeah needlework would definitely keep your mind busy. Exactly! Aww, no! :( Are you able to do any exercise at all at the moment? I'm hoping to start running with my cousin soon to aim to lose 5 stone, (with the help of Slimming World too) and to run a half marathon when I'm well enough. My problem is similar to yours, I think, in that if my cousin will be in front of me jogging, or isn't keeping an eye on me, I'll have to go back and check I haven't done anything wrong or harmed anyone and then I'll literally just be running around in circles!

Having a lovely bath must be good, and I'm glad it relaxes you! My problem with having a bath is that I'd think that I wouldn't be clean and would be sitting in a bath filled with germs so I try and shower, even though that is a nightmare to do at the moment and has been for months. Do you use Lush products? Their bath bombs are supposed to be nice and I've recently started using their Twilight body spray and their Sleepy moisturiser at night and also throughout the day just to keep me calm. Yeah! Haha! :)

Yeah, thanks for your advice Sally. I did speak to my care co-coordinator today and asked about introducing an anti psychotic as well as the increased dose of Mirtazapine I take so she's booked me for to see the Dr to discuss that.

No! I really appreciating you replying- It's lovely to hear from you and to hear about your experiences and how you deal and have dealt with things. Sorry for my long reply too! I hope 2018 will be good for you too! No, not for the past two years. I did my degree at 18 then went straight into doing my Masters and by the November I had a mental breakdown and OCD and anxiety had taken over my life in so many ways that I couldn't work and still don't work at the moment, but I'm obviously hoping to be able to in the future!

Jess xxx


I feel the same Jess. I am so worried it won't get better. How are you feeling ?


Hello Kayla, thanks for commenting on the post. I'm feeling pretty awful at the moment, if I'm being totally honest, and it's so tough to believe things will improve and you can live the life you want to. How are you feeling at the moment? Are you getting any help and support?


You may also like...