OCD can be an alarming and confusing diagnosis to receive, on top of the distressing experience of OCD itself. I want to reassure you though, if this is you, that you are not “crazy”. OCD IS treatable: there are science-based therapies which have been proven to treat it effectively and safely. Also, you’re not alone; millions of people all around the world are affected by OCD.
The “obsessions” part of OCD are the unwanted and intrusive loops of thought (words and/or images) that show up relentlessly, over and again. The “compulsions” part of OCD are the actions taken to “cancel” these thoughts, or reduce or neutralise their discomfort. These actions work for a short time to give you a little relief, but in the longer term they keep the obsessions, and the discomfort, firmly in place.
Compulsions can take various different forms, for example physical (washing, blinking, clapping etc), or they can be cognitive, such as over-analysing, checking, seeking reassurance, or repeating the same phrase over and over again. You might not even realise you’re doing these compulsions; there can be many, and they can be quite subtle.
The good news is that you don’t need to master it all, to begin living your life more fully. Also, the skills you learn in therapy will be applicable to whatever thoughts, images and compulsions show up at any time, and no matter how distressing these might be.
Again, until you understand OCD better, it might feel like you are going mad or that you’ll lose control. I want to reassure you that neither are true. The “disorder” part of OCD is not about you, your inherent goodness or your character:
We all have unwanted thoughts from time to time and we all have rituals that save us time and energy. When this “normal” experience of coping with unwanted thoughts and rituals begins to impair functioning, causes severe anxiety, takes up significant time, and steals the enjoyment from work, leisure, and relationships, then we call it a dis-order. – Jon Hirschfield
The resources below may be helpful for you, depending on what your particular struggle is:
- Overcoming harm OCD: mindfulness and CBT tools for coping with unwanted violent thoughts, by Jon Herschfield. Jon has other resources at his website, including a blog.
- Everyday mindfulness for OCD, by Herschfield & Nicely
- The mindfulness workbook for OCD, by Herschfield & Corboy
- Break free from OCD, by Challacombe, Bream Oldfield and Salkovskis
- Your anxiety toolkit is a podcast focusing on OCD and related topics, by Kimberley Quinlan. Do check out her website for resources as well. This episode of Kimberley’s podcast explains beautifully what Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is, and the science behind why this works.
- You could also check out Mark Freeman’s You Tube videos on managing OCD.