Self-Help - Overcoming OCD
7th Nov, 2019
In the previous write-up, we have discussed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and its implications. How does it occur? How do I know if I have OCD? , and What are some of the common disorders that come out of OCD? In this blog, we are going to discuss some of the things that can help ease our OCD. Nobody wants to live with a disorder which directly or indirectly affects their everyday life. So, how can we overcome OCD?
How deep is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is considered or can be comparable to that of chronic disease. OCD itself isn’t a disease but currently recognized as incurable. Chronic illness means illness is persisting for a long time, or it can be regularly recurring, which means that either it comes back after getting cured or takes a longer time to get cured.
It is said the cause for an Obsessive-Compulsive starts before 19 years of age and could be visibly seen or felt after that. OCD could be because of comparisons, abusive childhood, paranoia, drugs, childhood trauma, and loads of other factors. As discussed in the previous blog, OCD affects the everyday life of people who has it. You can also identify people with OCD through motor tics, which they wouldn’t be able to control by themselves. They are anxious, engaged in some deep thoughts about their obsessions.
What are some of the ways to treat OCD?
Below are some of the ways to treat OCD patients.
- Brain Stimulation Therapies
- If you don’t want to know more about practices that are used to treat OCD currently, you can move to the last section, where we will discuss Self-Help
These are the primary treatments available outside for OCD. If you go to a therapist, medication or psychotherapy is usually suggested depending on the severity or whether they are a clinical psychotherapist or an applied one.
Many of the industry-wide medical treatments for psychological disorders are suppressants or sedatives. Suppressants could also be a sedative. I have seen treatments for schizophrenia and severe mental disorders. It mainly involves keeping them sedated, and the sedation level varies from moderate to high depends on the severity of the problem involved. These drugs make the person dull and keep all their senses in a constant state of sedation when taken.
There are a variety of side effects for medication. Sometimes, drug leads to risks and also have benefits. When it comes to treating mental disorders, it is all about trial and error. Many of them get risks while few receive the benefits. Medication at times could also lead to suicidal thoughts, worsen OCD even further, and so on.
People resort to drugs and alcohol themselves to suppress obsessive thoughts or compulsive behavior. The drugs and alcohol are nothing but a sedative and keep them calm if they want to or can turn them violent. Let’s leave the medication part to clinical psychologists and focus on some of the insights that I can offer based on my studies.
Psychotherapy is a vast field, and there are many ways and means for treating OCD. Let us see some.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Exposure and Response Prevention
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g., thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. CBT is a combination of the basic principles of behavioral and cognitive psychology. CBT is a “problem-focused” and “action-oriented” form of therapy, meaning it is used to treat specific problems related to a diagnosed mental disorder. [Wiki]
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP or EX/RP) variation of exposure therapy is the resolution to refrain from the escape response is to be maintained at all times and not just during specific practice sessions. Thus, not only does the subject experience habituation to the feared stimulus, but they also practice a fear-incompatible behavioral response to the stimulus. The distinctive feature is that individuals confront their fears and discontinue their escape response. The exposure therapist identifies the cognitions, emotions, and physiological arousal that accompany a fear-inducing stimulus and then tries to break the pattern of escape that maintains the fear. [Wiki]
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a form of counseling and a branch of clinical behavior analysis. It is an empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase mental flexibility. The objective of ACT is not the elimination of painful feelings; instead, it is to be present with what life brings us and to “move toward valued behavior.” [Wiki]
Brain Stimulation Therapies
Brain stimulation therapies can play a role in treating certain mental disorders. Brain stimulation therapies involve activating or inhibiting the brain directly with electricity. The electricity can be given directly by electrodes implanted in the brain, or noninvasively through electrodes placed on the scalp. The voltage inducing is also by using magnetic fields applied to the head. While these types of therapies are less used than medication and psychotherapies, they hold promise for treating certain mental disorders that do not respond to other treatments. [NIMH]
I am personally against this kind of practice, which involves electric/shock treatments irrespective of the results that they yield.
Some other Self-Help practices followed
The above ways of treating OCD is what is available these days. Be it medication, CBT, ERP, ACT, or Brain stimulation. But is there any other way to use some necessary steps at home to take care of my OCD? The answer is yes, but it takes a lot of discipline and determination to follow something a routine that is against your compulsion.
Snapping Rubber band
A couple of months back, I watched a movie named “Mile 22”. In that movie, Mark Wahlberg is someone who has OCD, and to remove obsessive thoughts; he has a rubber band on his wrist. Check the video here. Every time an obsessive idea comes, he pulls it and slaps it against his wrist. Which means a way to enforce and stop those thoughts. I checked for it, and some say it helps while the majority says that it’s not.
There are many relaxation techniques available. Meditation, Mindfulness meditation, body relaxation, deep breathing, exercising, running, aerobics, muscle relaxation, and so on. Techniques like Hypnosis can help with complete body relaxation with in-depth suggestions that can help with eliminating both obsess thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Many people practice yoga, which helps with relaxation, and some workout heavily in the gym or take up running a marathon.
Let us first do something for the obsessive thoughts as it is the one that is most disturbing and annoying. Like lightning before the thunder, it’s the thoughts that drive behavior.
Some of the common obsessions could be fantasizing thoughts, distractions of the same kind of things, thinking the bad/good things over and over again. It’s your mind trying to communicate with you in some form. It could be displaying images, a voice which tells you, a feeling which you want to feel again, etc. Start with a small observation of these thoughts. I want you to be consciously aware of this. Proceed next only when you are consciously aware of the driving factor. Answer some of the questions below to get awareness. From now on, I suggest you write down everything from now. It helps you to analyze once after.
- When do I get these thoughts?
- What is the reason I get these thoughts?
- When was the first time I got these thoughts?
- How do I usually behave when I get these thoughts?
- What my body does when I get these thoughts? (Like increased breathing, agitation, nervousness, restlessness, shout at people, anger trigger, leads to biting nails, biting lips, etc.)
- How long do these thoughts stay when they come?
- In a day, how many times I get these thoughts? (If you don’t know, spend a day or two and see that on an average, how many times do you get)
Conscious awareness is the first step in solving anything related to the mind. Be it a counselor or a therapist; they help you understand this first. Every emotion thought, or a feeling is associated with clues that happen in your body, you know them first, and you can manage your feelings easily.
You need to believe that you have a choice. Be it an obsession or a compulsion; it doesn’t happen without you choosing it. You choose to do even though it comes as a compulsion. You are doing it because you like to do, or you have been doing it for so long, and so you continue to do. Either way, you need to understand that it is your preference to do it, and it comes from you. That is why one of the outcomes of OCD is guilt.
First, let’s go to the Self-Motivation blog and identify “Token.” If you haven’t read that blog, I suggest you read them once. Then, find another object or a toy that makes a different sound. A click pen does the job if you couldn’t find anything. Zip open and close sound will also be an ideal choice. You can even snap your fingers. Find an everyday object that you use to make a sound, which also is handy. It could be a squeeze toy, a tic tac noisemaker, a small blow horn, etc. Let’s call it a toy.
Make the thoughts unattractive.
- Identify the most unattractive thing for you. Make sure it’s disgusting. It could be one of the many like an overflowing gutter, someone sneezing at you, people spitting on the road, etc. Find what disgusts you the most.
- Close your eyes, and bring the obsessive thought that bothers you. Identify all the parameters of your token and enrich your experience. It could be Visual, Sound, Feeling, Smell, or a Taste. Open your eyes. Name this thought “Obsession.”
- Close your eyes again, and bring the most disgusting thing that you can think. Identify all the parameters of your token and enrich the experience. If it’s a disgusting smell or an image or a sound or a feeling or a taste, increase the experience to 100 times more disgusting. Open your eyes and name this thing as “Disgusting.”
- Now close your eyes again and bring the obsession right in front of you. Zoom out the obsession as tiny as you can. Use the toy to make a sound. Zoom-in the disgusting thing as big as you can, like a blow-up screen, after you hear the sound. Repeat this process as many times as you can until your obsession becomes disgusting.
From on then, whenever the obsessive thought comes, it will be a sickening feeling that you hate the most. As you continue to make it a disgusting thing, it becomes one. The obsession will slowly wear off. During the initial days of trying this out, you can keep the toy with you. Whenever an obsessive thought comes, you can use the toy to make the noise, so it creates a sense of disgusting. You will then come out of that obsession, as soon as possible. You can use the same Disgustion trigger with the same toy for many obsessive thoughts. It takes at least some weeks as an obsession has to wear off slowly. Give the amount of time needed to eliminate the obsessive thoughts.
We will see next about compulsive behavior. The behavior could be biting lips, biting nails, smoking, drinking alcohol, drug intake, taking selfies, social media addiction like Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and so on. Conscious awareness is everything when it comes to change. Ask yourself whether you are okay with giving up this behavior. You should be 100% sure to give up this compulsive behavior.
I was a chain smoker, and every time I give up smoking because someone else wanted me to give up. So, naturally, I get the behavior back because I like to smoke. One way to understand is to ask yourself whether you are okay in giving up the compulsive behavior. If yes, proceed. If not, ask yourself if the action is helping or hindering. If it is blocking, then understand its nature and its causes. Understand what benefits you are going to get by giving up this behavior.
It is hard to get rid of habits, once formed. Many therapists suggest that existing habits should be replaced with a new one to increase the possibility of getting rid of it. Interesting, right?
Bringing in a new habit by replacing an old habit is the same as changing behavior. Check this blog and follow the steps mentioned for transforming an old habit.
You can change anything that you wish, and you do have the potential within. OCD is just another limiting belief that people do have. How you look at things can improve outcomes exponentially. You need to have an open mind to challenge your ideas, and so they can change with proper learning and experiments. They say OCD is chronic, but if you have the will to change, you can change. The limit only exists in mind. I used to tell people who go for any treatment that, “You need to believe that you are going to get cured first. Everything else comes next”. One needs to believe.
People who pray to God are less anxious because they trust and believe God so much that the result is so apparent to them. Belief and hope are what keeps humans running on their toes in this busy world.
I know there will be questions like,
- What is stopping people from doing this and curing themselves?
- What makes you think this is going to help?
- If this works, why other practitioners are not helping people with such things?
- And much more
You need to understand that this is business when it comes to hospitals, therapists, and practitioners. Information is free and should be available for every individual to learn and implement things for their welfare. I started writing self-help because everyone needs help on one or other items. I am a Coach, and I consider this as my responsibility to help and empower individuals.
People hide things when it comes to any problem related to psychology or mental illness. They think that others will consider them as a nut case. It’s a taboo that persists. So, self-help and self-care can individuals help in moving forward. As I have mentioned early, “Accepting things and asking help is the only way to move forward.”. I suggest moving forward. This article is not everything. But, definitely a starting point. Be persuasive when it comes to helping yourself and be perseverance.
What do you believe? Believe that you can, and anything is possible. Believe that you can help yourself. Everything is curable.
What do you hope? Well, make a list, don’t wait for me to tell you. See you in my next article.