Quick tips to deal with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

anger and obsession
Anger - Photo by: Patrik Nygren

Overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a true challenge, and a disorder that puts people affected under extreme stress. These tips are here to help you do so.

Re-evaluate your responsibilities

Most OCD symptoms are either caused or made worse by an increase in the perceived responsibility. The higher the level of responsibility you feel, the more you’re likely to check, was, and/or assume that your thoughts are particularly important. Interrogate yourself about how responsible you feel for the parts of your life that are associated with your OCD and take a step back from the problem noting down all other potential causes. For instance, a person that repeatedly checks his/her appliances is likely to feel completely responsible for protecting his/her family from a fire. If such an individual were to adopt a broader perspective, he/she would come to the realization that other members of the family, the weather, neighbors, and the electrician responsible for wiring in the home, the company that made the appliances, and others should actually share in the responsibility.

 Limit repetitions

Repetition only makes you less sure about what you have already done. It is quite bizarre considering that people often check and/or ask questions repeatedly to have more confidence in what they have done. However, OCD researchers in Canada and the Netherlands have discovered that once repetition increases, it tends to backfire and can lead to very significant declines in people’s confidence in their memory. To correct this, you can try to conduct an experiment. On a particular day, force yourself to limit your repetition to just a single time. Later in the day, rate your level of confidence in the memory of what you have done on a scale of 0 to 10. Repeat the same behavior the next day but rate it several more times throughout the day. People that try performing this experiment later discover a decline in their urges to engage in compulsive behavior since they learn that they become less sure the more they repeat something.

Fight off intrusive thoughts

Treat your thoughts like that: thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are perfectly normal, but can easily turn into obsessions if they are given too much importance. The cognitive theory actually states that obsessions are the result of catastrophic misrepresentation of the importance of a person’s thoughts. The metaphor often used to describe this is a very old radio, for which you would attempt to find the best signal perhaps even try harder to ignore the noise. Take a week to make the distinction between the OCD thoughts (noise) and the thoughts linked to the things that you actually do or would like to do (signal) and observe what happens. It may be that you need OCD treatment.

Practice strategic disclosure

OCD sufferers fear that others will judge them as harshly as they do themselves if or when they disclose their unwanted compulsions or thoughts. Unfortunately, this leaves the person suffering alone without knowing that 90 percent of people experience unwanted, upsetting impulses, images, and thoughts related to OCD themes as well. Consider telling somebody in your life that has supported you during difficult times about the actions and thoughts that you have been struggling with. Let the person know how these upset you and how they are not consistent with what you actually want in life. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by how they respond. If not, you should at least give it one more try with a different person. It almost always never takes more than 2 tries.

Reduce your self-criticism

Observe your behavior and how it matches up with your character. People that struggle with OCD tend to either consider themselves as bad, mad, and/or dangerous or fear that they will become one of these. So, they usually go to great lengths to ensure that bad things never happen either to themselves or the people that they love. But it is important to ask yourself how an observer is likely to judge your values based on your actions. If you spend a few hours every day attempting to protect those that you love, are you actually a bad person? If you spend significant amounts of time and effort showing how much you care, how you want others to be happy and safe, and how faithful you are, perhaps you aren’t so dangerous or bad after all. In terms of being crazy, nothing is senseless about OCD. Sometimes people don’t understand how logical and rational compulsions and obsessions can be. Keep in mind that your behavior and values best reflect who you are and not the unwanted noisy thoughts.