Is it Okay to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

 

Resist compulsions
Oh! Shiny lights…

Is it okay to use distraction in order to resist a compulsion? If you don’t know the answer to this question, keep reading. If you think you know the answer to this question…keep reading. 

The argument for distracting is twofold. 

1.) First, distraction can be used to delay the compulsion. When the urge to perform a compulsion or mental act arises you shift your attention away.

If you delay the compulsion long enough, it’s believed that you might forget all about the urge to do the compulsion. But, if you give in and perform the compulsion, at least you put it off and found a way to do it by distracting.

2.) The second purpose for using distraction is to avoid anxiety.

The evaluation of anxiety, in this example, is that it’s crippling and therefore should be avoided. Stay busy and try not to have any downtime. If while trying to push through a fear you become overwhelmed and panicky, use a distraction to get relief.

So…Is it OK to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

Authors of “Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts,” Martin Seif and Sally Winston state, “As with all anxiety disorders, avoidance of anxiety is both what maintains and strengthens it.” They advise therapists, “Overcoming the disorder means counterintuitively moving clients toward experiences that increase their distress.”

On the other hand, Fletcher Wortmann, an OCD-Thriver and author of Triggered: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  explains: “There is no shame in occasional escapism.”

Resist compulsions
Fight Flight Freeze

At this point, it’s important to note there is plenty of research that proves distraction lessens the limbic system (the fight, flight, freeze) response probably more than any other form of emotional regulation.

That’s why many talk therapists encourage clients to distract from their anxiety by hyper-focusing on the minutia of the environment (using the five senses.) Another technique often taught is to hold an ice cube until the anxiety goes away.

However, OCD therapists don’t typically teach distraction because we’ve learned: “You don’t stop OCD by distracting.” Even today I found this on the International OCD Foundation website: “The most common false fear blockers are physical and mental compulsions, distraction, avoidance, and reassurance seeking.”

Yet, studies show that focusing attention away from an unpleasant feeling/thought reduces the intensity of the suffering. Likewise, the innovative people at treatmyocd.com have created an app called nOCD, a free mobilized personal treatment app. One of its features is an “SOS” button to assist with distraction.

I downloaded the app and found it to be an excellent resource for people with OCD, especially for those self-directing their Exposure & Response Prevention(ERP) therapy. It’s hard enough to try ERP with a therapist but think about the people who have no access to an OCD therapist.

However, I was concerned about the “SOS” button. Afterall, OCD therapists are discouraged from teaching distraction.  

Consider these possible disadvantages of intentional distraction: 
Resisting compulsions
Is it ok to use a distraction to resist a compulsion?
  • You’re only learning how to avoid or delay the anxiety. New pathways won’t be created. Confidence levels will decrease.
  • Eventually, you’ll find yourself face to face with whatever drove you to distraction in the first place.  At some point, you’ll run out of the ability to distract. What will you do when there’s no way to distract? You’re only good at what you practice.
  • Focusing away from the anxiety means less attention on the opportunity to grow and more attention on living just above the surface.
  • Distracting may slow down the healing process and for some people, they can’t afford to waste any more time. OCD has already taken too much.

So…Is it OK to Use Distraction to Resist a Compulsion?

I emailed the people behind the app, who by the way have all personally lived with OCD and know exactly what it feels like to live with it each and every day. Their opinion matters a lot to me.

I want to support the app but I explained I was concerned about the “SOS” feature which is used for distraction. This was the response they gave for me to include in this blog post:

  • I understand your approach and agree that distraction isn’t the answer, but it obviously depends on the person.
  • The SOS feature has really helped people in times of intense suffering and continues to help people get through severe OCD episodes.
  • I really like what you said about teaching the brain that anxiety at all levels is not only tolerable but wanted. In my personal experiences, really encouraging the anxiety and wanting to feel the intense anxiety can actually make the episodes less intense.
  • The app saves/tracks data. Makes it so easy to share evidence-based info with your therapist or others who want to learn more.
  • It’s also important to highlight that each of our team members has personal experience with the current treatment system: it’s very difficult to find a qualified OCD specialist, it’s extremely expensive, insurance doesn’t usually help much for mental health issues, etc.

I think we’re all on the same page.

There are people who haven’t <<yet>> learned to just go ahead and experience the anxiety. Thankfully, nOCD can help people get through intense anxiety with it’s SOS feature. There’s nothing wrong with getting a reprieve from something you don’t know how to manage.

When you push the SOS button it asks if you’re struggling with an anxiety-producing thought or a strong urge to do a compulsion. The app helps you to face your fear or resist a compulsion. But, if the anxiety gets too overwhelming, hit the SOS button and the app will try to help distract you.

nOCD does far more than help with distraction by the way. The app not only teaches you how to use ERP but also takes you through each step. A video lesson is included and step-by-step guidance is given. nOCD collects and saves all your effort and provides a visual of your progress. This app is a great in-between session tool for people in therapy. For people who don’t have a therapist this app can take you through the same steps a therapist would. 

So…Is it OK to Use a Distraction to Resist a Compulsion? 

Resist compulsions
Every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day…Be ready!

Avoiding anxiety isn’t a drill that develops a skill. 

In order to beat OCD, you’ll need to develop the skill of allowing weird thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. You don’t beat OCD by distracting.

But, not all distraction is bad.

Life itself is a distraction. There are people to see, things to do and places to go. Living your life to the fullest may very well distract you from your thoughts and anxiety. Here’s a Mom who explains this concept very well: Proactive vs. Reactive Distractions

Unintended Distraction

I’ve created a Puzzle Book that is in Beta testing. I designed it to be a mild exposure exercise so that people with the doubting disease can confront their dislike for uncertainty. Some of the people testing it for me have already commented that time flies when they work on the puzzles.

Resist compulsions
Face it with a puzzle

The puzzlers expected an exposure exercise with a bit of anxiety. Although this puzzle book is by far the least anxiety-provoking of the 10, I didn’t anticipate it would be such a pleasant distraction!  

The point is there was no intention to be distracted. Sometimes an exposure exercise ends up being easier than thought. It makes it easier to go on to the next exposure. Always build momentum.

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Deliberately hitting the “distraction” button when you feel overwhelmed needs to be seen as a stepping stone, not a crutch. If you intentionally distract to avoid and continue this strategy…well, read the disadvantages above again. 

If you hit the “distraction” button, learn from it. Maybe you tried something too hard. Find an exposure exercise that challenges you–but doesn’t cause panic.

Be self-reflective about your motive for distracting. If you choose to distract, be mindful of what you’re doing. 

If life distracts you…if there are moments you forget you even have OCD…that sounds wonderful to me.

Please feel free to add your thoughts about distraction in the comments. As always, I’ll keep your name anonymous.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

Are you addicted to compulsions?

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Compulsions: Do They Really Save Lives?

It’s not easy to resist compulsions when you think they save lives.

But wait a minute…are you on a mission to save lives? Wow, that’s extraordinary! What a stunning and exceptional way to live. 

That’s not how you feel though is it? Saving lives with compulsions is a heavy burden. It’s like having a young version of you on one shoulder and an adult version on the other. And, they just argue back and forth all day long about what’s real and what isn’t.

There’s a part of you that knows the compulsions…all the mental acts, repetitive movements, counting, sanitizing, checking, can’t really control whether someone lives or dies. But, then there’s this other part of you that just isn’t sure. 

The voice of OCD can be so convincing even in the presence of absurdity. “That toothpick on the sidewalk could cause someone to die of a prolonged muscle spasm.” It’s ridiculous but your anxiety is so high that you go back and pick up the toothpick.

What can you do to resist compulsions when you think they save lives?

  • Confront the absurdity with even more absurdity 
  • Admit you’re not qualified to save lives
  • Stick to your own set of rules, not OCD’s
  • Ask people if they want to be saved by you

Absurdity Meets Absurdity

It’s hard for you to be willing to see what happens if you resist compulsions. Part of you says nothing would happen. You’re definitely not 100% sure that compulsions save lives.

Resist Compulsions
This is something OCD would want!

Let’s challenge the thought that compulsions prevent bad things from happening with sarcasm. If there’s one thing that silences OCD, it’s humor or sarcasm. It’s a fantastic way to outwit OCD.

So with tongue-in-cheek and a bit of mockery, let’s throw OCD off its game with sarcasm and a few paradigm shifts.

Example of a paradigm shift: 

“I don’t touch pictures of poison because I will get contaminated and spread it to other people.”

“Wow! that’s impressive. Then all we have to do is send pictures of poison to members of Isis to end terrorism.”

Sarcasm is a great way to take charge of OCD. So here comes a lot of sarcasm and I hope no one gets offended except, of course, OCD!

Question Your Authority to Save Lives

“My Compulsions Save Lives”
Resist compulsions
What Makes You An Authority?

Paradigm shift: Wonderful! I’d like to save lives too! How can I sign-up? Where did you get your training? How did you get licensed or certified to save lives with compulsions?

Do You Have a License to Save Lives?

People in the business of saving lives have credentials to do so. Take for example the credentials of a lifeguard:

  • Must meet an age requirement
  • Approximately 35 hours of lifeguard training must be completed to learn water rescue techniques. In addition, the student must learn how to surveil a body of water and how to evaluate each swimmer’s aquatic abilities. The student is also taught when s/he is not required to enter unsafe waters.
  • Obtain professional rescuer First Aid Certification
  • Swim 300 yards, tread for 2 minutes and dive 7-10 feet to retrieve a brick
  • Perform all skills with 100% accuracy
  • Pass a written test proving you understand and can implement appropriate responses

What are the requirements someone like you must meet in order to save lives? Is there any proof that you know what you’re doing?

This list isn’t exhaustive or in any particular order, but just look at all the people who save lives:
  • military personnel
  • law enforcement
  • firefighters
  • microbiology scientists who thwart unstoppable microbes
  • scientists who monitor vaults that hold the seeds of all plants we need in case of a global catastrophe
  • asteroid trackers who keep an eye on possible collisions
  • seismologist and volcanologist who predict earthquakes and tsunamis
  • faith leaders who mediate conflict and feed the hungry
  • disaster preparedness specialists
  • hospital quality assurance officers and inspectors
  • correctional officers
  • criminal investigators
  • security guards 
  • park rangers
  • nurses and certified nursing assistants
  • public health department specialists and centers for disease control personnel
  • doctors and therapists
  • EMT and paramedics
  • ambulance dispatchers and 911 operators
  • ambulance drivers/attendants
  • hazmat removal, waste management, and nuclear energy engineers

Paradigm Shift: If compulsions save lives, why isn’t the job of “Compulsive Behavior Specialist II” included in the above list? Why can’t we find your job in the want ads? Shouldn’t colleges offer Compulsive Behavior as a major?

Resist Compulsions
Who needs qualifications?

It looks as though all the people above who save lives have qualifications. What are yours? It’s just a feeling you have? “I’ve got a feeling” is not recognized anywhere as a credential. I think that’s called something like hocus-pocus. Would you let someone operate on your brain until it feels just right? If you were told to evacuate your city because somebody has a feeling there’s going to be an earthquake, would you leave?

Willy-Nilly Compulsions

Do you ever feel like you’re just shooting from the hip; making it up as you go along? I mean, there’s no consistency to what you’re doing to prevent harm. There are times you skip the compulsions that supposedly save lives. And, nothing happens!

You check locks and electrical cords but buy nonorganic food. Even if you do buy organic, because of the wind factor, do you make sure the organic strawberries are 50 miles away from the field that uses the pesticide Round-Up?

If you truly believe you are responsible for saving lives, then you’d never be able to sleep, go to work, school or just have fun. There’s just too much to do. You can never do enough to protect people from harm. No matter how hard you try, it will never be enough.

So OCD actually gives you a break and tells you that you only have to save certain lives. And, that you don’t have to save them from everything…just some things. How nice of OCD to be very selective about who and how to save people.

Anybody else who was so inconsistent would be called sketchy! OCD is evasive and lacks consistency for a reason–so it can hide the truth about compulsions.

What Are Your Guiding Principles?

Every single person who is in the professional business of saving lives is required to follow guidelines. If they don’t they’re reprimanded or fired.

What are your guiding principles? Do you have a manual of policies and procedures that you follow for your life-saving compulsions? Who was your mentor? I don’t know anybody that professionally who hasn’t been taught by someone else!

Hospitals are in the business of saving lives. They have rules and regulations to follow. Within the hospital is a Quality Control Unit that conducts audits and inspections to make sure policies and procedures are in place and being followed. 

In order to save lives, people follow a professional code of conduct. Look at all that is involved in saving lives:

  • rules and regulations set by lawmakers
  • professional standards and ethics
  • competency training and testing
  • periodic performance evaluations
  • re-attestations for professional licenses and/or certifications
  • continuing education credit requirements for professional development
  • physical and/or psychological exams results 
  • background checks and drug screenings
  • malpractice insurance companies
Resist compulsions
Willy-Nilly Hocus-Pocus!

Not only have you had no training you also have no code of professional conduct. Everything you do is willy-nilly. Your compulsions are not based on policies and procedures from best practice standards. You make them up as you go along based on how you feel in the moment. That’s OCD at work.

Paradigm Shift: Until you attend some kind of Academy for Compulsive Behaviors we can’t take you seriously. You have a lot of work to do before you’ll be considered qualified to save lives.

If you would like to become certified in saving lives with compulsions, you must first pass this quiz prior to enrolling in the Academy for Compulsive Behaviors:

Override OCD With Your Own Set of Rules

If you rely on OCD to tell you what to do about your anxiety, you’ll engage in compulsive behavior. It will be much easier to resist compulsions if you commit to following a set of rules that the adult-sized version believes in!

Let’s say a local college wants to start offering a major in Compulsive Behaviors. They recognize all your efforts to save lives with compulsions and ask you, the expert, to write policies and procedures, to teach students when it’s justified to use a compulsion.

As you write this policy and procedure consider the following: 

#1) If you see/hear/think/feel something that makes you want to prevent something bad from happening with a compulsion…ask, is it worthy of calling 911?

People tend to call 911 if an airway is obstructed, or a person can’t stand up or walk straight, is bleeding profusely or in severe pain. People don’t call 911 if they think they gave someone a germ.

Unless there’s a cry for help or it’s 911-worthy why would you intervene with a compulsion? 

What about the newspaper that could fly up on a car’s windshield. Shouldn’t I go back and get it? Is it 911-worthy? No. Then leave it, walk away and tolerate the anxiety.

Manuals Give Directions On How to Do Something. Where’s Your Manual?

#2) In a room full of 100 people, how many would be worrying like you? How many would use a compulsion to address this worry?

An action is considered “reasonable” (some people use the word “normal” but I don’t know what that is) when the majority of people in the same circumstance would behave in the same way. (If you can’t figure out what the majority would do then how about the most reasonable person you know–what would s/he do?)

Would the majority of waitresses check to see if it’s shards of glass or ice in people’s water? Do most customers walk through aisles in the grocery store scanning for expired food? Is it common for people to count to a certain number to prevent bad things from happening? If the answer is no…shrug and walk away.

Compulsions Aren’t Reasonable!

#3) If you believe your compulsive behaviors save lives, then why don’t you recommend them to other people? Whatever is applicable to you is applicable to others. If compulsions work for you then they should work for everybody else. 

I have to count when I go through doorways or something bad will happen. If my elbow touches a surface, I have to touch the same thing with my other elbow to prevent bad things. Okay, then everybody should do this.

Ever Wondered Why There Is No Manual On “How to Do a Compulsion?”

#4) If you take this action will you actually be increasing the risk of harm?

OCD is all about preventing something bad from happening right? HA! Nope. The problem with that assumption is that OCD knows nothing about life. OCD is about 2 or 3 years old so I hardly think there are years of experience to draw upon to know how to prevent bad things from happening. Usually, OCD is causing harm–not preventing it.

Excessive handwashing removes good bacteria, thereby lowering the immune system and increasing the risk of illness. Driving back to see if someone has been hit means more time on the road. More time on the road means a higher risk of an accident. Switching a light on and off to make sure it’s off only increases the wear and tear on the switch. 

Compulsions Increase Risk

#5) If you have the ability to save lives then you must use your compulsions to save more lives than you currently focus on. It doesn’t make sense that if you truly have this ability you should be selective about it. Why not save the world?

Resist compulsions
Capes are on sale this month!

From now on you must go to the pediatric intensive care unit at the local hospital and use your compulsions to save the lives of precious children. When you’re done there write an email to Dr. Oz and ask to be on his show so that you can share the good that you’re doing.

It’s not fair that you don’t go big with your compulsions. Offer televised healing meetings. People from all over the world will come to you for your healing compulsions.

Face It, You Can Never Do Enough to Protect People

#6) Are you following a chain of authority or stepping out of bounds?

  • Scanning the shelves at work I look for loose screws and then report them to maintenance. Maintenance doesn’t tighten them. I keep reporting them. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.” It’s not your responsibility to do what you’re doing. Let the maintenance department do their job in the manner they see fit. 
  • “I noticed people in a food court were drinking iced tea known to have fluoride in it. A pre-typed leaflet warning of the dangers of fluoride is left by me at each table. I carry these leaflets everywhere I go.” It’s not up to you to educate the general population. People can educate themselves. 
  • To avoid getting my baby sick I pass by him when I get home and jump in the shower for an hour. I hug him only when I am clean. It’s the pediatrician’s job to tell you how to introduce the right amount of dirt and germs to build the immune system. A pediatrician will never tell you to NOT allow germs and dirt!
  • I purchased 50 smoke detectors to inspect the date they were manufactured. The smoke detectors are returned in perfect condition with a note I tucked inside each box: “Make sure you replace batteries using the date the detector was manufactured not purchased.” It’s up to the consumer to read the directions provided by the company.
  • Out of the blue, I thought of my 18-year-old son and suddenly felt he was in danger so I counted 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 until I felt he was safe. Your son is old enough to take care of himself. It’s not your job.

    Compulsions Don’t Save Lives They Rob You of Life

    Let this sink in: 

    You’ve gone rogue. You’re not credentialed or authorized to save lives with compulsions. You have no formal training on the use of compulsions. You’re self-taught. There are no policies or procedures that justify your actions. You’re overstepping your bounds. People don’t want you to save them!

Have You Asked If They Want To Be Saved?

Resist compulsions
People have a right to say no thank you!

If you asked your loved ones, they’d risk their lives than watch you be a slave to your compulsions.  They would never give you permission to perform compulsions in an effort to save them. 

Yet, you don’t listen to them. This is known as paternalism; it’s the practice of governing others. You preside over, be in charge of and make decisions for other people. When you’re being paternalistic people are deprived of the right to self-determination; the right to determine one’s own destiny.

And, I bet paternalism goes against your value system. You don’t really believe you should control other people’s lives and deprive them of making their own decisions. That’s not really who you are.

It’s your aversion to anxiety that makes you become paternalistic.

When you learn to experience anxiety and allow uncertainty to exist, there will no longer be any need for compulsions. Be willing to find out what happens from moment to moment. One moment at a time…

Your loved ones don’t want you to save them. They see what it costs you. Ask them if they want you engaging in all these safety behaviors. They’ll tell you no thanks. And it’s their right to make that decision.

You don’t have the credentials to save lives. You’ve had no training. Other people in the business of saving lives have taken competency tests; not you.

And…you also have not been given permission by your loved ones to perform compulsions on their behalf.

Let this sink in: 

You’ve gone rogue. You’re not credentialed or authorized to save lives with compulsions. You have no formal training on the use of compulsions. You’re self-taught. There are no policies or procedures that justify your actions. You’re overstepping your bounds. It’s time to transfer responsibility back where it belongs.

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Use sarcasm and humor to outwit OCD. Meet absurdity with absurdity.

Resisting compulsions

Is it okay to use a distraction to resist compulsions?

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

How to Cope With Your Anxiety While Resisting Compulsions

“The Last Time I Tried Resisting Compulsions I Came Undone. How Can I Do This Without Such Debilitating Anxiety?”

Especially important for you to know is that anxiety is nothing more than a physiological sensation. It doesn’t have to be debilitating. It’s not the anxiety itself, but your appraisal of the anxiety that’s causing all the ruckus. 

Resist Compulsions
Ouch, that hurts. Good!

This TENS Unit causes pain to relieve pain. I use one to help heal my elbow injury from racquetball. It uses a low voltage electric current to stimulate the nerve endings. If turned up to the highest level, it packs quite a punch! It’s intense but effective.

I turn the TENS Unit up high and go about my day. I lean into the sensation. If I cringe or resist I’m only creating more tension. I actually forget all about it during the 20 minutes it’s electrocuting me. (It’s not really electrocuting me! Hmmm…at least I don’t think so?)

Whenever possible, instead of avoiding anxiety lean into the discomfort. This doesn’t mean white-knuckle your way through. It just means be willing to experience the discomfort and learn how to handle it. Don’t resist the sensation. Soften into it.

It doesn’t mean you have to like to feel uncomfortable. It means you have to allow the discomfort. Bring some love to yourself for allowing the discomfort.

And as always, be thankful for the opportunity to practice being anxious. Practice makes progress! “I’m anxious. Good. I need the practice.”

How to Practice Just Noticing the Anxiety

This is important: The content of your thought is irrelevant. I know you think thoughts might mean something. You worry if these thoughts are not thwarted somehow they’ll become reality. News Flash: Just because you have a thought doesn’t make it true. 

So you avoid triggers and try to push thoughts away. You worry your thoughts define who you are. Compulsions are used to prevent or reverse bad things from happening.

This is what puts the “D” in OCD. It’s what causes the disorder. As one client puts it: It’s placing an emphasis on something (thoughts) that’s not even tangible. Have you ever said, “But, the thoughts feel real?” Think for a minute…How do you feel whether or not a thought is real? How do you feel truth?

You Can’t Feel a Thought

If you have a worry or an unwanted, intrusive thought what you feel is anxiety. You’re not feeling the thought, you’re feeling the anxiety. News Flash: Just because you have anxiety doesn’t mean something is wrong.

When you engage in a compulsion, you feel (temporary) relief from anxiety. Let this sink in: You haven’t “compulsed” your way into truth or certainty. You’ve “compulsed” your way into the absence of a sensation that was there and now gone…gone for only a brief moment.

When you focus on that which is intangible (thought) you’re placing emphasis on something that cannot be defined or understood. You can’t get to the bottom of a thought but you can get to the bottom of anxiety.

Anxiety is tangible and can be located and defined. Notice where you feel the anxiety in your body. Is your stomach queasy? Do any of your muscles twitch? Is your heart racing? Does your skin perspire or ears buzz? What feels tight–shoulders, throat?

Get Curious About What You Are Feeling Not Thinking

  • Be curious about the way your body is trying to adapt. “Oh, that’s interesting. In response to my anxiety, I must be releasing adrenaline right now. My body obviously knows I’m distressed and is really going overboard and working very hard to find a balance.”
  • Don’t focus on why you’re upset and anxious. Focus on the sensation. How does your body produce this sensation? Fascinating. Not why are you anxious. How?

    Resist Compulsions
    Allow, Love, Allow
  • Breathe in the suffering. Exhale compassion. You might think you should do the reverse because it’s instinctive to resist and avoid pain and suffering. But, by intentionally breathing in the discomfort and exhaling compassion you are ending the pattern of resistance. Resistance only perpetuates more suffering.
OCD is child-like with no life experience
  • Have empathy for your OCD. “May you be filled with loving kindness.” (Remember OCD is a young version of you. Offer your compassion and guidance, not hate.) Put your hand on your heart and say the words: Love. Love. Love. Not that you have to love having OCD. But, bring some love to yourself for allowing whatever it is you are feeling and thinking.
  • Relax your belly and brow. Don’t rock or rub. Soften into the tension. If you resist the tension, you’re only making the sensation tighter. 
  • Hold your hands with palms up and let the energy flow from your body. Crossing your arms or making fists keeps it locked in. It’s energy that doesn’t like being bottled up. Let it out.
  • Feel the sensations in your body. Don’t judge. Notice and allow. Say the words: Allow. Allow. Allow.
  • Don’t evaluate the thoughts. Don’t dig deep. Just notice how your body reacts. 
  • Surrender to the experience without trying to understand it. Don’t head down the rabbit hole trying to figure out what it all means. It only means one thing: You’re anxious.
  • Be present and like a good neighbor observe the physicality of your anxiety.

Especially relevant and noteworthy is how hard it is to be anxious when you are curious and fascinated. Get curious about the physicality of anxiety! 

Anxiety Is Tangible, Thoughts Aren’t

Do thoughts smell? Do they have a flavor that you can taste? Do thoughts have a texture? Think about a chocolate cake. Can you taste it by thinking about it? Smell it? Feel it in your mouth? Hear it? Thoughts aren’t tangible! It’s impossible to feel a thought. 

It’s not the thoughts you’re feeling. It’s the anxiety. 

Wouldn’t you prefer something more concrete to deal with? Would you rather have a live person to be friends with or someone on Facebook? Do you prefer to eat something that is recognizable through your senses? Or do you want to eat something you can’t smell, touch, taste, or see?

resist compulsions
Pop this bubble!

Your anxiety is physical and clear-cut. Thoughts are nothing more than bubbles.

I know, I know…You are drawn and compelled to focus on the story. (Your obsession.) Focusing on your anxiety is much more tangible. You can actually get something accomplished by learning to experience your anxiety.

It will take some practice! Practice makes……..progress! You don’t have to want the anxiety…want the practice of experiencing anxiety. In addition to Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP), this is another way to stop compulsive behavior.

Remember, you get good at what you practice.

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Practice experiencing the physicality of anxiety. It’s a drill that develops a skill.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

Compulsions: Do They Really Save Lives?

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

 

Forget Compulsions, Try This Instead!

Resisting compulsive behavior is one of the hardest parts of your recovery.

Finding the willpower to say, “No!” to OCD

Finding the willpower to resist compulsions requires energy you don’t think you have. But, it’s no mystery where that energy can be found. 

You’ll find the willpower to resist compulsions eagerly awaiting you in two places: Your mindset and your body.

What Kind of Mindset Do You Have 

Here are a few questions to test your mindset. Do you want to:

  • be all better or getting better?
  • stay in the comfort zone or be challenged?
  • succeed or grow?
  • be all-knowing or always learning?
  • avoid anxiety or seek it out?
  • have certainty or live with uncertainty?
Resisting compulsions
A love for learning is better than a fear of failing

Success Mindset

If you chose answers mainly in the blue then you have a Success Mindset.

  • Your agenda or plan for daily life is fixed and rigid.
  • You care deeply about failure, inadequacies, and outcomes.
  • The capability of taking an action can’t occur until an emotion is felt first. (e.g. “I can’t do anything until I feel ready and right about it.”)
  • What people think of you matters very much.
  • You tend to be self-loathing and easily frustrated with what appears to be a lack of progress.
  • Everything is seen in all or nothing terms. 
  • The path you’re on always needs to be definite, clear and unmistakable.
  • Effortless is preferred over effortfulA student with school anxiety who makes it to school five out of five days is pleased with meeting the goal of attendance. (Focuses on outcome) Had she attended four out of five days she’d have felt like a failure because everything is either all or nothing. (Values perfection.) 

Finding the Willpower to Resist Compulsive Behavior

Growth Mindset

If you chose answers mainly in the green then you have a growth mindset.

  • You’re curious and flexible about daily life.
  • If something doesn’t go as planned you easily adjust.
  • Your focus is on finding hard challenges and opportunities for personal development.
  • The process of getting from A to B is more important to you than the outcome.
  • Celebrating your victories is not something you do enough.
  • Practicing gratitude and counting your blessings is something you do often.
  • You prefer daily tasks and life experiences to be effortful–full of variety and challenges. A person who deletes 24,000 emails out of 26,000 (egads something I need to do!!!) focuses on the effort it took to sit there and do that! She doesn’t become discouraged that the inbox is still full.

A student with school anxiety who makes it to school each day of the week is pleased with how incredibly hard she worked to get there each day. (Focuses on effort) Had she attended four out of five days she would be proud of her effort and look forward to working harder next week. A setback is a setup for a breakthrough. (Values experience.)

It’s harder to find the willpower to resist compulsive behavior if you have a success mindset.

Here’s how to get out of the success (or fixed) mindset and shift into a growth mindset:

  1. Focus on your incredibly hard work and effort. Remember, “If you had fun you won?” That’s an example of focusing on effort, not outcome.  To use a growth mindset to resist compulsions here’s another cheer: “If you had anxiety and abstained you won.” (i.e., abstained from compulsive behavior.)
  2. Drills develop skills.  Appreciate the value of experiencing anxiety. It gives you an opportunity to practice your skills. You get good at what you practice. If you’re avoiding anxiety, you won’t get good at experiencing it. Hunt down anxiety. Go find it and experience it.
  3. Be curious about your anxiety. “Hmmm, it’s so fascinating how my body can put butterflies in my stomach. I wonder how my body does that.” Focus on the experience of anxiety, not the story about why the butterflies are there. How not why.
  4. Ask, “what does anxiety make possible?” One young man told me that his anxiety makes him a better football player. “How’s that?” I asked. He explained, “I’ve got some big guys I have to block. They’re a lot bigger than me. My anxiety gives me the energy to do it.”
  5. Do your values need a realignment? What is it that you value? A sense of security or experiencing something new? What do you care deeply about? Being with loved ones or avoiding anxiety? Values drive behavior. Make sure your priorities represent your values.
  6. Don’t get caught up in OCD’s story about something bad happening. To focus on the story is nothing but a trick! This is about your anxiety. Stay focused on the true issue. You don’t need compulsions. You need experience.

Resisting Compulsive Behavior and Mental Acts

The Physicality of Anxiety

You can use your body to resist compulsions.

Super Pose
You aren’t the boss of me!

Stand up like a superhero. Look OCD in the eyes with your hands on your hips. Chin up. Shoulders back. 

Don’t contain all the energy from anxiety inside one area of the body. If you clutch your chest, cover your head with your hands or make fists where can the anxiety go? 

Experience the Anxiety

Notice where you experience anxiety and stay with the sensation. Don’t go into the sensation. Notice it like a bystander. Think of it like a neighbor who is visiting. “Oh, passing through again?”

Oh no…did you just ask, “But, what if I don’t want the neighbor to visit?” This question reflects your mindset. It’s not a growth mindset. You’re not valuing learning and developing. You need the “neighbor” to visit so that you can gain experience. Keep working on your mindset until you can welcome the “neighbor.”

Stay with the experience of anxiety and away from the story about something bad happening.

The Physicality of Anxiety: Discover where the sensation of anxiety is located in your body. 
  • Ask your body, “What part of you wants my attention right now?
  • Say hello to the bodily sensation of anxiety. “Ah ha, there you are.”
  • Where in your body do you feel the anxiety? Perhaps it’s unclear. Maybe it’s puzzling, numb or fuzzy. Stay focused on finding the sensation. Keep hunting down the anxiety in your body. 
  • Your OCD story is irrelevant. We’re not doing exposure exercises right now. This exercise is not about your story. It’s about anxiety. 

    Resist Compulsive Behavior by Finding the Anxiety In Your Body

  • Describe the sensation of anxiety in great detail as if trying to get someone else to understand what it feels like.
  • Just notice it. “I feel it here.” Describe it in great detail. Are any of these descriptive words a good fit: 

-Is there any tightness or pressure? Where do you feel it?

-Does your skin have any pain, tingling, prickling, twitching, itching? Where on your body is this occurring? 

-What is the temperature of the sensation?

-Is there any motion and if so what is the speed at which it is traveling? 

-Can you taste or smell anything?

-Does this sensation have any particular size, shape, weight, texture, or color? 

-Can you hear any sounds in your ears like buzzing or ringing? 

  • Once you’ve described the sensation, get curious about how your body creates these sensations. Don’t ask why. Ask how. Curiosity is the opposite of anxiety. 
  • When your mind tries to wander to an OCD story, keep bringing your focus back to the physicality of your anxiety. Focus. Notice. Focus. Notice. Experience it fully by describing it and getting fascinated.
Let this sink in: Just because you’re anxious when you resist a compulsion doesn’t mean something is wrong.

Experiencing anxiety is (unfortunately) not what you’ll usually be told to do. But truly, the only way out is in. You can’t master anxiety by avoiding it! 

Resist Compulsions
Get into position!
Today’s Best Advice on Resisting Compulsive Behavior:

You can’t be limp when it’s time to resist a compulsion. Rise up like you mean it! Be firm. Stay with the anxiety not the story. Experience the physicality of anxiety.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

“If resisting compulsions is the right thing to do then why does it feel so horrible to resist them?”

Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

There’s Only One Reason For a Compulsion

What Is the True Purpose of a Compulsion?

A compulsive behavior is defined as a compelling need to persistently and repeatedly perform a visible or mental act. If you have OCD then you’ve probably explained to someone that the reason you perform compulsions is to “feel just right” and/or prevent harm.

OCD stories
OCD has quite an imagination

There is usually an elaborate story to explain the compulsion even further:

“My mind tells me to do compulsions or my son might die.” That’s quite a Marvel-ish story! Actually, you’re not a superhero and your mind tells you to do compulsions because you haven’t <<YET>> learned how to super charge your anxiety.

“I threw my phone out because my mind told me it was contaminated and I’d spread sickness to others.” Your mind gives you a very expensive way to avoid anxiety. Just throw stuff out! You’ll have lots of $$$$ when you decide to just be anxious.

“My mind tells me I can’t move forward with this task until I have designed a Grand Ole’ Master Plan for the next 10 years of my life.” Your mind tells a very rigid, controlled story because you haven’t <<YET>> learned how to experience uncertainty.

“My mind tells me that I am living a fake life. What if I don’t really love this person. Maybe I’m actually gay.” Your mind goes into overdrive to try and protect whatever is precious and sacred to you because you haven’t <<YET>> mastered anxiety.

“My mind tells me I have a health condition. Even though I’ve had negative results from numerous blood tests, x-rays and other procedures I still think I’ve got a serious condition that the doctors are missing.” 

Your mind is right. You probably do have a health condition like the rest of the population. We all die of something! You keep trying to find out what that condition is because you haven’t <<YET>> learned how to live with uncertainty.

The True Purpose of A Compulsion Revealed

The only reason you truly perform compulsions is to AVOID:

  • suffering
  • being cast aside or abandoned (which brings us back to suffering)
  • experiencing a catastrophic event that results in irreversible damage (which brings us back to suffering)

Why will you do just about anything to avoid suffering? Because you haven’t taken the time to think it through and realize that you can handle the suffering. No matter what happens you are always capable of growing and changing.

The other day I had a terrible thought on my mind. I’d been told something that freaked me out and my mind became sticky. By 3am I still couldn’t shake the thought. My fear was that this thought would not leave anytime soon and that I would have this very gross unwanted thought stuck in my mind for days on end. 

Finally, I stopped wrestling. I reminded myself of what I tell my clients, “The only way out is in.” I had to lean into this thought. I made my mind deliberately think of the graphic pictures and I agreed with my fear, “Yes, this sideshow could play for days on end.”

The shrug didn’t work. I thought I would get relief from surrendering to the thought but I didn’t. At 5am it occurred to me that I would be starting another day with this horrific haunting unwanted thought. 

I shrugged again and this time said, “It’s going to be a very unpleasant difficult day but I can handle it.” I CAN HANDLE IT. At that point, the movie projector abruptly stopped playing the horrible picture in my mind.

Just typing this to tell you about the unwanted thought I had is triggering the thought. But, this time I am much quicker to say, “Okay. If this picture gets stuck in my mind again it’ll be unpleasant but I can handle it.” ~By the way this story is proof that everybody gets weird disturbing thoughts. Not just people with OCD.

Behind Every OCD Story is an Attempt to Avoid Suffering

The mother with harm-avoidance OCD won’t touch her baby until she has scrubbed in the shower for an hour. She explains, “I have to shower so I don’t get the baby sick.” In other words: “I won’t forgive myself. I’ll feel guilty. (Suffer) I don’t want to be responsible if the baby gets sick. (Blamed, cast aside and suffer) If my baby gets sick she’ll die.” (catastrophic thinking and suffering)

But, all of it is just a story. The story is quite irrelevant. Especially considering the baby needs to get sick. Compulsions just don’t make sense. Besides the baby not building an immune system that reach for a hug has to wait until the shower is over.  Compulsions don’t help. They hurt.

The woman with relationship OCD (ROCD) isn’t sure she truly loves her significant other so she constantly seeks confirmation that she’s in the right relationship. Most of the compulsive behavior is comparing and contrasting. She repeatedly checks to see if he measures up or if she has the right feelings at the right time.

Resist compulsions
Everything is a learning opportunity

She explains, “I just don’t want to make a mistake and waste our lives.” That explanation of not wanting to waste lives or time doesn’t make sense. No matter what happens we are capable of growth and change. 

In every great relationship, there is doubt and imperfection. We never know how anything will turn out. (Anyone who claims to have certainty is afraid of uncertainty.) We must be willing to find out from moment to moment what happens. If what happens includes suffering, you can handle it because you are capable of growth and change.

OCD stories
The story is irrelevant

A compulsion has nothing to do with the storyline or the characters in the story. 

It’s really about learning how to experience anxiety.

Everybody with OCD has a story that incorporates people, places and things of value and importance. OCD thoughts and worries seem to always be overly protective about whatever is precious and sacred to you. 

An OCD story is usually accompanied by an inflated sense of responsibility. The belief that you can and must control an outcome beyond human capability or above what is normally expected of others.

Compulsive Behavior Best Describes…

Peel any OCD story like an onion and at the very core, you’ll find the true reason for compulsions: An aversion to discomfort. Let all of this sink in:

  • If you suffer from sickness what will you feel? Pain. (Discomfort)
  • If you are abandoned what will you feel? Loneliness. (Discomfort)
  • If someone you love is annihilated what will you feel? Heartbroken. (Discomfort)
  • If you keep having bad thoughts how will you feel? Guilty. (Discomfort)
  • If you feel gross what will you feel? Yuck. (Discomfort)
  • If you don’t feel just right, what will you feel? Just wrong. (Discomfort)
  • If you’ve wasted your time or someone else’s time what will you feel? Empty. Guilty. (Discomfort)
  • If you die from a fatal accident or deadly disease what will you feel? Who knows. (Discomfort)
  • If God is disappointed with you what will you feel? God’s supposed wrath. I personally don’t subscribe to this belief but I know there are people who think of God as quick to anger and this causes them pain. (Discomfort) 
A compulsive behavior is defined as an attempt to avoid experiencing discomfort.

There Is Freedom In Surrendering

Contrary to what an individual with OCD thinks, compulsions do NOT prevent suffering, abandonment or annihilation. This is a cover-up story. All things considered, compulsions only temporarily neutralize anxiety while at the same time making your world and self-esteem small.

Radically accept uncertainty in all walks of life and there is no need to perform another compulsion. When you accept, “whatever happens, happens” you are surrendering to feeling uncomfortable and compulsions no longer have a role in your day to day existence. Cross each bridge when you get to it. If you get to it.

In the book Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success authors Feldman and Kravetz explain that giving up is sometimes the only way to move forward. Truly accept the consequences of a potential unwanted event or feeling and there’s no need for compulsions. Let’s just move on.

Most importantly, accept that because of your lack of control over what happens, you may suffer from the uncertainty. It’s okay. You are capable of handling it. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of suffering you feel and the amount of growth you experience.

The more you see an opportunity to grow the less suffering you experience.

News Flash! Compulsions Do Not:

  • Prevent suffering. They cause it.
  • Protect you from abandonment. They actually isolate you and push people away. 
  • Keep you or anyone else alive. They rob you of spending time with loved ones.

It’s a dysfunctional belief that compulsions do something good. First and foremost, compulsions do nothing but gobble you up. With every compulsion, you’re losing a part of you. 

Most of all, it’s a myth that anxiety is debilitating. Your resistance to experiencing anxiety is crippling you. You’ve got to go towards the anxiety. You can do anything with anxiety. You can’t-do much by avoiding.

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Lean into the anxiety and you’ll earn your freedom. You don’t need a compulsion if you’re willing to be anxious. Remember, you can handle any consequence. You are always capable of growing and changing. 

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

 

“Forget Compulsions, Try This Instead”

Resisting compulsions
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If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth About Compulsions

Compulsions put the C in OCD.  This seems like “Captain Obvious” but it gets forgotten all the time.

Compulsions
…and I have oCd

People don’t connect their compulsive behavior to having OCD. The diagnosis of OCD gets lost in the sea of anxiety. Even though they intellectually know the behavior stems from a neurological condition, people get all tangled up in their OCD story.

What Drives Compulsive Behavior?

Anxiety

The urge to do a compulsion is purely anxiety-driven. During the performance of a compulsion, anxiety is outsmarting and outplaying the intellect. Compulsions are performed to avoid anxiety.

Clients often disagree, “But, I don’t have anxiety.” That’s because compulsions temporarily mask anxiety.

Let this sink in: If you are willing to be uncomfortable there is no need for a compulsion.

Delusion of Grandeur

Many people with OCD, believe they might possibly have the gift of intuition or premonitions. “I do these compulsions because I have good instincts.” Intellectually they know they have OCD, and that they don’t have a super power. But on the slim chance that their obsessions foreshadow the future, they’re going to keep up the compulsive behavior…just in case.

If they really could know what’s coming and stop something bad from happening, they’d be rich and famous. This idea of being gifted is nothing more than a story to help manage anxiety.

Let this sink in: If you are willing to surrender and find out what happens from moment to moment, there is no need for a compulsion.

What Drives Compulsive Behavior?

A Lack of Insight

Compulsions lack common sense. For example, what does counting car door handles have anything to do with pulling out of a parking spot? In fact, it doesn’t make any sense because mirrors help you see what’s around you; not door handles. But, you can see how anxiety, not intellect is driving this behavior.

Compulsive behaviors are unreasonable

Compulsive behaviors go beyond the limits of social acceptability and lack good sense. You can tell it’s a compulsion by applying the “reasonable person” test. In a room full of 100 people, how many of them are doing what you’re doing? “Not many!” That’s how you know this behavior is not reasonable and is purely driven by OCD.

Another way to know if your behavior is reasonable is to answer this question: Would you recommend that a young child or your best friend copy your compulsive behaviors?  Are you so confident that your compulsions are truly magical that you would recommend them to anyone else? Would you go on TV or write a book urging people to do them?

If your compulsions are so effective, why aren’t you teaching them to others? Because compulsions put the C in oCd and you know it! That’s why. 

You never used to have to do these compulsions, why now? Nobody else has to do these behaviors, why do you? The answer is because you haven’t learned <<YET>>  how to master your anxiety.

Let this sink in: If you are willing to put your trust in someone you consider to be reasonable and copy their behavior, even when it doesn’t feel right, there is no need for a compulsion. 

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth About Compulsions

You may think that your compulsions derive out of compassion and concern for others. But, they really are rooted in selfishness. Before you get offended with this idea let me be the first to say I am a very selfish person. I wholeheartedly and sincerely admit it.

I give everything I have to help people. Since 1983 I’ve been in the helping profession. Over the years I’ve left numerous positions when the job stopped making me feel good. I’m not an OCD therapist because I’m selfless. On the contrary, I’m a therapist because I’m selfish.

Compulsions
No such thing as selflessness

I’ve been told I need to start putting myself first. I reply, “I put myself first every single day of my life.” Because everything I do for others I’m really doing for myself. It makes ME feel good to help people. If I’m not making a difference in someone’s life, I don’t feel good about myself. I’m not altruistic. I’m selfish.

The same can be said about compulsive behavior. People perform compulsions to feel good. The story might be, “I do what I do to prevent harm.” But, that’s just the story. The truth is that every compulsion is performed in an effort to feel better. Every compulsion is selfish.

What Drives Compulsive Behavior?

Selfishness
  • Can you take responsibility if something you do or don’t do results in harm? Whatever the consequences, are you willing to pay them? “Yes, but I will feel horrible guilt.” Okay, so you’re doing all these compulsions to avoid feeling horrible.
  • If you get sick and spread it to everyone you live with, can you say you’re sorry and help everybody get well with home-made chicken soup? “Yes, but I’ll feel bad.” Okay, so you’re excessively cleaning and sanitizing so that you don’t feel bad.
  • Can you make corrections and apologize for the inconvenience if you make a mistake? “Yes, but I’ll feel stupid.” Okay, so you’re double triple checking your work so that you don’t feel stupid.
  • Are you willing to take responsibility and apologize if you say something displeasing to someone? “Yes, but I’ll feel like a jerk.” Okay, so you’re constantly making sure people aren’t mad at you so that you don’t feel like a jerk.

Whether feeding OCD or helping to starve OCD, both of these missions are done for selfish reasons. But, only one of these callings is truly helping others.

Let this sink in: No matter how much good we do for someone, it is for selfish reasons. If you truly want to help others there is no need for compulsions.

An Unwillingness to Accept Responsibility

Do you think it’s possible that you perform compulsions to avoid harm because you don’t want to feel responsible?

Maybe the plastic bag on the road could fly up onto the windshield and block the driver’s vision. It’s possible you should have gone back and picked it up. But, are you 100% sure this is something other people would do? Or, could the urge to remove the bag be nothing more than the “c” in oCd?

Are you considering picking up that bag because you can’t bear feeling responsible? Not that you would even know if anything happened, it’s just that you don’t want to have to worry about the possibility of being responsible.

The bottom line is that thinking about being responsible for something makes you terribly anxious. And you haven’t learned <<YET >> how to experience anxiety.

Just because you’re anxious doesn’t mean something’s wrong.

Let this sink in: If the time should come that you are rightfully blamed for something bad happening, will you accept the consequences? If you are willing to take responsibility for your honest mistakes, wrongdoings, mishaps or lack of attention, there is no need for a compulsion.

Feeling anxious? Getting an urge to perform a compulsion? Consider the following before trying to thwart the anxiety:

  • Is this something dangerous or just unpleasant that you are avoiding?
  • If you don’t know what happens next (like the rest of us) is that okay?
  • Are you 100% sure that a reasonable person is thinking or acting like this?
  • Are you being selfish in order to feel “just right?”
  • If something were to actually happen, are you willing to step up to the plate and take responsibility for any role you played in it?
Today’s Best Advice on Resisting Compulsions

It’s important to call compulsive behavior what it is. If you’re going to do a compulsion, at least get rid of the story and admit what you’re really doing. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now so that I can get temporary relief.” It’s that plain and simple. The story behind the compulsion is FAKE NEWS.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions
“The Only Reason For a Compulsion: It’s Not What You Think.”
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions

Compulsive behavior
Here, my little friend, I know the way out!

You’ve probably discovered OCD can be very convincing. What a brilliant mind OCD must have. What must it take to convince you to buy into doing compulsions? OCD has got to be very perceptive and calculating. Wouldn’t it be something if you could be just as cunning and sly as OCD? 

Well, I’ve found something that might just help. A lot of people write books about OCD but did you know OCD has written books too? They’re very hard to find and that’s why I was so excited when I stumbled upon OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions.

When I read this book I wasn’t surprised to learn that OCD doesn’t play fair and square. In fact, its entire game is one of deceit. I’m reviewing a chapter from OCD’s Playbook and it’s called, “Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions.” 

In this chapter OCD reveals five secrets about compulsions:

#1) You Get Good At What You Practice

At first performing compulsions is awkward and hard to get just right. But with practice, you get really good at them and to not do them takes you out of your comfort zone.

Compulsions Defined
I can see you!

A compulsive behavior can be invisible or observable. Most everyone is familiar with observable compulsions and there’s really no limit to what they entail.

Observable Compulsions Include:

  • Retracing, stepping or walking a certain way
  • Checking locks, appliances, switches or cords
  • Repeating certain words or phrases
  • Blinking, counting, tapping, stretching, touching or doing things in a certain sequence
  • Washing, cleaning or sanitizing
  • Avoiding people, places or things
  • Asking for someone to repeat what they said
  • Using only “safe” numbers or words
  • Arranging objects in a certain order
  • Tattling or confessing
  • Reassurance-seeking by asking the same questions or Googling the same thing over and over (click for more info and video.)

Which compulsions do you tend to perform?

 

OCD Can Be Very Convincing But Also Very Conniving

It is especially important to identify or target mental compulsions. You’ll mistakenly think you have pure “O” if you don’t. Don’t overlook mental acts. Make sure you identify mental compulsions because if you don’t how will you know what to stop doing so that you can recover? 

Mental Compulsions Include:

  • Counting or creating images and shapes in the mind
  • Scanning the body or the environment
  • Checking for intention (Was that thought deliberate? Did I mean it? Is that thought me or OCD?)
  • Mentally going over and over something in hopes of getting certainty
  • Checking for the ability to feel connected to others
  • Making promises to self throughout the day
  • Checking, “Am I feeling what I “should” be feeling?”
  • Repeatedly rewinding & replaying an event or a conversation
  • Replacing a bad thought with a good thought, or a less bad thought
  • Checking to see if the obsessions are still there or similarly, obsessing about obsessing
  • Analyzing a thought to discern real vs. “just OCD”
  • Trying to figure out why a certain thought keeps occurring
  • Repeating the same phrase or word in your mind 

Which mental compulsions do you perform?

 

What OCD Doesn’t Want You To Know About Your Compulsions:

You get good at what you practice. Practice compulsions you’ll get good at doing them. You’ll get so good they’ll come rather easily and eventually turn into a hard habit to break. If you practice feeling uncomfortable, you’ll get good at it. Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear. To get there you’ve got to go through it not around.

#2) Performing A Compulsion Is A Choice

There is no supernatural force making you do compulsions. You choose whether or not to do a compulsion. What you think about is not your choice. You can’t choose your thoughts but you can choose how to react to your thoughts.

Compulsive behavior
Nothing happens unless I say it can happen!

You choose compulsions to feel more in control.

The urge to perform a compulsion is usually prompted with relentless and persistent warnings: “If you don’t do this you’ll be sorry. Things will get out of control and bad things will happen.” It can be seductive and promising, “You’ll feel more in control, just do it this one last time.” 

Although some compulsions were started so long ago that they’ve become more of a habit than an urge, you’re still choosing to do them. When I put the cap on the toothpaste there’s not a lot of thought behind the behavior.  It’s really a habit.  But, I still have a choice whether or not to put the cap on the toothpaste.

We are always in control of the choices we make. Sometimes we’re just not being mindful enough to choose wisely.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to feel a sense of control and now you have less control than ever.

#3) Every Compulsion Is Done to Avoid Discomfort

You might proclaim that you perform compulsions to save yourself or somebody from harm. But, that’s just a story. Like any OCD story, it’s irrelevant. What it all boils down to is that you don’t want to feel uncomfortable.  

Follow any OCD story to its end and apparently, the result is catastrophic as you will either be destroyed or abandoned. 

  • If I get a cold or flu, I’ll miss out. I have to sanitize. If I miss out I’ll get behind. If I get behind I’ll fail miserably (destroyed) and end up alone (abandoned). 
  • These horrible thoughts make me feel like a bad person. I’ve got to stay away. If I act on these thoughts I’ll feel guilty and won’t be able to live with myself (destroyed) and no one will ever love me again (abandoned).
  • I don’t think I’m good enough. I’m so inadequate. I have to double triple check everything. If I make a mistake I’ll be held responsible. I could lose everything (destroyed) or be laughed at (abandoned).
Compulsions
Baaa hahaha…

In OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions, there is a cartoon of OCD basically boasting from underneath a bed, “Baaa hahaha…if you were willing to be uncomfortable there would be no need for a compulsion.”

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to avoid discomfort and now you’re more uncomfortable than ever. 

In OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions, there is another chapter called, “How to Manipulate the Reward Center of the Brain.” It goes into great detail about how OCD manages to get you addicted to compulsions. 

For now, we’ll have to save that chapter for another time. (Unless OCD finds out I have the Playbook and breaks into my house and steals it back.) But OCD also briefly mentions the “reward center” in the current chapter we are reviewing: 

Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions

#4) Performing a Compulsion Only Gives Temporary Relief

In a nut shell, the reward center in the brain reinforces the compulsive behavior by releasing a happy juice called, Dopamine.  Pleasure becomes associated with the compulsion. You become addicted to the compulsive behavior.

You become addicted because the dopamine doesn’t last long and you crave more of it. How to get it? Perform the compulsion again. C’mon, repeat it. Once more, repeat it. Last time, repeat it. The relief doesn’t last long. That’s how you get hooked.

OCD is like a drug dealer and entices you with its promises of feeling good. The idea is to get you to buy without even thinking about it. Once you’re hooked the price just keeps increasing.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to feel good and now you’ve never felt worse.

#5) The More Compulsions You Perform, the Less Confident You’ll Be

Compulsions are performed to gain a sense of certainty. Except OCD is a fraud and can’t give you certainty. Nobody on this earth has certainty.

Did I turn off the faucet? If you check you won’t feel very confident the next time you use the faucet. When you check you give your brain the message that you can’t be trusted.

Compulsive behavior
My memory is horrible!

If you take a picture of the iron unplugged and bring it to work with you the picture tells you that you left the house with the iron unplugged. Unless of course OCD messes with you and makes you doubt what day you took the picture. 

You’ll need to take a picture every time you use the iron because you’re giving your brain the message you can’t be trusted. In fact, you’ll start to doubt whether you turned other appliances off and take pictures of them too. Soon you’ll be dragging photo albums to work.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started the compulsion to get rid of doubt and now you have more doubt than ever. 

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Everything you think a compulsion will do for you–expect the opposite to occur. If you are willing to experience uncertainty and doubt (discomfort) there is no need for a compulsion. There is no need to avoid.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions
“The Cold Ugly Hard Truth About Compulsions”
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Beat OCD: The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

There’s More to Being Compulsion-Free Than Just Stopping

How to stop excessive hand washing.
I’ll be done soon…

Have you ever been in the middle of a compulsion and someone said: “Just knock it off!” And you replied, “If it was that easy don’t you think I would just stop?” The best advice on how to resist compulsions doesn’t include to, “just knock it off.”

Very, very few people with OCD can go cold turkey and “just knock it off.” So many times people have said to me, “I’m just going to stop all of it. Right now. No more compulsions.” They mean it with all their heart. And then they walk to their car performing compulsions.

Going Cold Turkey Has Little to Do With Staying Compulsion-Free

If you want to know what it feels like to just knock it off and go cold turkey, it’s like dumping all kinds of poison in a sess pool and sitting in it. Taking your hands and putting the slop all over your face and body. Breathing it in and doing nothing to save yourself.

If you sat there long enough, believe it or not, you’d become desensitized. But, just like any kind of sobriety, the urge will return. You’ll still want to perform a compulsion. 

There’s more to being compulsion-free than just stopping.

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Put an end to your compulsions by applying these seven principles:

  1. It’s “whatever” therapy! Talk to your OCD in a nonargumentative manner. “Yup, maybe that will happen. Time will tell.”  Don’t reassure OCD. Instead, shrug and say “This could be unpleasant. I’ll just have to find out.” It’s all about the “whatever.”  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  If you can trick your brain into thinking you’re smiling with a pen sideways in your mouth, you can trick your brain into thinking “whatever” with a shrug!
  2. Build a hierarchy. Resist the easiest compulsion first and keep resisting until it no longer bothers you to resist. Then, like climbing a ladder, resist the next hardest compulsion and the next hardest and so forth.
  3. Set your intentions to provoke OCD. Confront a trigger you’ve been avoiding. While confronting the trigger refuse to do a compulsion. Talk to OCD as described in #1. Once this trigger no longer bothers you, move onto the next more difficult trigger. 
    Apply These Principles to End Compulsions
  4. Easiest first, then hard. If you give in and perform a compulsion, go back and confront the same trigger again and again until there is no compulsive behavior. If you’re stuck, maybe there’s an easier trigger that you skipped or need to go back to.
  5. Don’t stop ’til you reach the top. Build momentum. Keep moving up the ladder of challenges. When it gets easier, ask yourself, “How can I make this harder?” Remember, climb the ladder while always refusing to do a compulsion. 
  6. Shift into challenge mode. Wishing you did not have OCD or have certain thoughts is of no use to you. Wishing causes more suffering. It’s important to see your anxiety and thoughts as a challenge–an opportunity to practice your skills. This is no time to play the role of a victim. You don’t have to like anxiety but you do have to want it.
  7. Accept responsibility. If you give into a compulsive behavior, admit what you are doing. No excuses. Own it. Name it. Keep away from the “story” of why your OCD tells you to do the compulsion. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now. I know this will make OCD stronger. I’m avoiding discomfort and that’s the only reason why I’m choosing to do this compulsion.” Get this message to your brain every single time you do a compulsion!
Resist compulsions
Creating new pathways takes time

Applying these principles will keep you compulsion-free. It’s a slow and difficult place to start, but once you pick up some momentum it gets easier and therefore, goes faster. Rather than shocking your brain, you are rewiring it. This takes time!

It takes time because you are training your brain how to experience anxiety.

I don’t tell my clients to “knock it off!”  And, I hope those who love someone with OCD don’t say it either! There’s more to beating OCD than just “knocking it off.”

Resist Compulsions by Making Little Changes Over Time

People with OCD benefit from the very effective systematic method of resisting compulsions. Set reachable goals and make little changes over a period of time. With each success, you will grow more confident and more tolerant of anxiety.

It may take time and patience, (click for video) but it’s how you win the battle. At the suggestion of resisting compulsions, do you take a big gulp and say, “I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.” My response to more anxiety? “Great! You need the practice!”

It’s time to learn how to experience anxiety without a compulsion.

You can get started today! The first step, of course, is to identify each compulsion. You’ve got to know what you’re resisting, in order to resist!

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

For a long-term effect, commit to a systematic plan to stop compulsions. Include all of the above seven principles in your plan. Going cold turkey has little to do with staying compulsion-free. 

Check back for the next post which will explain the difference between an observable compulsion and a mental compulsion. It’s important to know the difference because mental compulsions can be very sneaky!

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

The next several posts on resisting compulsions will include:

  • What Is a Compulsion?
  • The True Purpose of a Compulsion
  • If a Compulsion Makes Me Feel Better, Why Would I Stop?
  • I Already Tried Resisting and It Didn’t Help
  • Can You Promise If I Resist It Will Help?
  • I’ve Got Way Too Much Anxiety to Resist Compulsions
  • It’s Too Risky to Stop My Compulsions, Someone Else Could Be Hurt
  • Is it Okay If I Use Distraction to Resist Compulsions?
  • Resisting Compulsions Just Doesn’t Feel Right
  • My Compulsions Are Out of Habit Not Fear
  • If I Stop One Compulsion Another One Will Just Pop Up
  • How Do I Find the Strength and Willpower to Resist Compulsions When I Don’t Have the Energy?
  • A Case Study on Someone Who Tried to Resist Compulsions
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. In addition to the topics mentioned above, I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Does Your Mind Feel Like Space Junk? What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Has OCD Made You Forget Who You Are?The thing about OCD is that it comes and goes. It rolls in from the sea and eventually goes back out. When the storm arrives though, it’s brutal. You forget who you are. And it feels permanent.

It’s such a desperate feeling and can easily make you forget about everything else that matters. You become disconnected from the core of who you are. Your sense of self is ruptured. The only thing you feel attached to is your worst fear.

In an OCD storm, you can’t stop thinking about something very troubling. The thought can’t be controlled, and yet, with all your might you try with compulsions or by avoiding. This only turns the storm into several hurricanes.

You lose sight of the “big picture.” You’ve lost your compass and can’t see your way out. There’s more to this storm than what meets the eye. But the eye of the storm has swallowed you up.

Without the “big picture” view, you forget that it gets better. Your mind can’t seem to hold on to anything other than fear. Everything else in your mind is space junk. It feels like you’ve regressed to the mind of a child.

Your inner voice becomes catastrophic and self-critical. You know the compulsions are useless, but you can’t seem to resist. You know that avoiding isn’t going to change anything, but you do it anyway.

You’re so frustrated with yourself. The choices you keep making over and over don’t reflect your wisdom and life experience. It feels like your brain’s been hijacked by a younger version of you.

You hold your head in your hand…exhausted. Overwhelmed. And you whisper, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

You feel disconnected. Hyper-alert. Terrified. Ready to run. Ready to freeze. Angry with no will to fight. Hopeless. Helpless. Shameful. Compulsive.

You Can find Yourself By Letting Go of Old Ways of Coping

All of these feelings and behaviors helped you survive something in the past. We must honor the fact that they served you well once upon a time. A time when you were younger and less experienced.

For example, being afraid and unable to move or fight probably kept you out of harm’s way once when you were a child. But, now you’re more experienced and it’s safe to assert yourself and take action.

Maybe you experienced a traumatic event in your younger years and felt guilty about it. It was a useful feeling then because it kept you out of a deep depression. But, now you’re older and wiser and guilt is no longer age-appropriate. But, because you used it so much when you were younger, you’re still using it now.

We honor these feelings that helped your younger self-survive difficult times. But they’re holding you back now. These emotions aren’t congruent with who you are today. You’re an adult with life experience. Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Everything you face opens up a possibility for you to find your higher self.

You Can Find Yourself By Letting the Older Part of You Take Charge

Since then you’ve grown older and wiser. You’ve gained a lot of life experience. It’s no longer age-appropriate to handle anxiety the way you did as a child. In your heart of hearts, you know this and that’s why you don’t feel like yourself.

Can you bring the older, wiser part of you forward to deal with the anxiety and weird thoughts?

We can’t let a child drive the boat through this storm. There’s an older, more experienced version of you who knows a lot more about riding the waves and maneuvering all the twists and turns. Let’s get the right “wo/man” behind the wheel. After all, which part of you is better equipped for the job?

Can you bring that older part of you forward–that part that has dealt with real life problems before? You know, the part of you that holds it together while everyone else is drowning. (I know you have a memory like this because people with OCD actually handle real life problems better than most people. It’s the problems of the imagination that are utterly challenging.)

You Can Find Yourself By Setting Limits With Your Younger Self

Remember a time or situation when you were in charge, taking care of business like a pro. What did that feel like? What are the positive thoughts that go with that part of you? What does that feel like in your body? How are you standing? Where are your arms? Is your head up during these times you are most proud? 

How can this part of you take the wheel away from the child? What would you say to the child? “I know that you’re afraid, but you can’t drive this boat. You’re still in diapers and have no life skills.”

How would you set limits? “I know you want what you want when you want it, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Get out of the driver’s seat.”

What happens to the child when you take the wheel? Naturally, the child stays on the boat. No part of you can be disowned or thrown overboard. Remember, this is a child who doesn’t even know how to doggie paddle yet.

Kindly, but firmly take the child under your wing. “I know how to move us forward. Sit back there. Watch and learn. And if you get too noisy, I’m going to tickle you until you pee in your diaper.” No, wait. That’s firm, but not very kind. 😉

How about, “I know you’re afraid so you’ll probably get noisy. I’ll hear you, but I can’t reassure you. I’ll be busy. I know you’ll get upset that I won’t let you steer the boat. You’ve had your way for awhile so I completely understand that you won’t like this and will probably have a temper tantrum.”

Two Ways to Visualize Your Older Self Taking Charge.

 

  • Look at your hands. In one of your hands is the terrified, inexperienced child. Imagine how this child feels. Small, terrified, vulnerable, lost. In your other hand is your older, wiser stronger self. Feel how much bigger and stronger this hand is? Bring the older wiser hand over the younger hand. Hold that child. Let the child feel surrounded by your strength and wisdom. Tell the child you’ve got this. “I’ve got this. I’m driving now.”

 

  • Name all the other parts to you besides OCD. Using props (such as ducks), put these parts in the order you want them to be. Who’s in charge most of the time to least of the time? Here in this picture, we see there is a loving part taking the lead. Then we see a wise part and an all around good guy, who likes to help others, sharing the leadership role. Not far behind is a curious part who likes to learn and grow. In the back is OCD. Lots of people would keep OCD away from the rest of the Team. But, he’s too young to be on his own. That’ll only scare him more if you try to get rid of him. The Team keeps him close by and kindly but firmly says, “I know you’re afraid, but, I’ve got this.”

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture, Not the Storm

The “big picture” older version of you says life is bigger than this storm. Big picture thinking allows you to be hazy and uncertain around the edges. It’s a growth mindset. “I’m willing to find out what this storm makes possible for me.”

Whatever is causing the storm, whatever the storm is about–doesn’t matter. If you were truly at sea and you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a storm, would you be trying to figure out what it means? What caused it? Why it’s happening? Did you do something wrong? Did you overlook something?

No! You’d be focused on doing your best to weather the storm–how to withstand it. You’d be focused on outlasting the storm. And, the child would not be allowed to steer the boat. Do you want a scared child steering in a storm or an experienced, wise “sailor” who has ridden huge waves before?

An OCD storm comes down to one thing: The storm will be an experience you can draw from in the future.

No matter how bad it feels, an OCD storm comes down to one thing. It’s about the opportunity and challenge of weathering the anxiety and resisting the young child’s urge to avoid or do a compulsion.

An OCD storm is a strangely wrapped gift. It doesn’t look or feel like a gift but give permission to learn from the storm and you’ll soon discover something amazing about yourself.  The next storm will be easier because you’ve gained experience from the last one.

If you liked this post, you might also like a cheat sheet for quick reference. It’s only one page–quick read! Click on the image below to get your printable cheat sheet:

“Has Anyone Else Taken This Medication for OCD and Has It Helped?”

Something that you want very much but is very hard to get or achieve.

You probably think I’m talking about the Holy Grail.

An object or goal that is sought after for its great significance.

Still think I’m talking about the Holy Grail?

Well…I’m not talking about thee Holy Grail–the Cup that is said to have been used by Jesus Christ. I’m talking about a different holy grail. It seems to be highly sought after by many who have OCD.

I’m talking about the holy grail of medication for OCD sufferers.

“Has anyone else taken this medication for OCD and has it helped?”

I’m asked this question a lot about medication. At OCD conferences people line-up to ask the experts questions about medication. I can predict the answers will sound a lot like this:

  1. Be patient. It takes time to reach a therapeutic level.
  2. The needed dosage for SSRI’s is higher for OCD than it is for depression.
  3. No one drug stands out as the front runner. 
  4. It’s chemical warfare. Be willing to try this. Try that. Watch for side effects. 
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use a combination of CBT and meds.

The holy grail of medication…Something you want very much but is hard to get or achieve. An object that is sought after for its great significance. 

Therein lies the problem. Its significance is not that great. It’s part of the solution. Not the main solution. I’m not making this up. It’s in the literature. Authors, speakers, and researchers say it all the time.

Despite all the many warnings to not become preoccupied with medication, it happens. 

Has anyone else taken this medication for OCD and has it helped?

Yes, other people have taken that medication. Has it helped? Sometimes.

Even if the answer is: Most of the time ~or~ a lot of the time, the answer will NOT be all of the time. Even if the answer was, “9 out of 10 times that medication helps,” there still will be room for doubt. Even if I say every single client I know who has taken this drug has been helped, it might not help you.

There’s no way to feel comfortable with a medication until you take it and see what happens.

If you have been prescribed medication for the first time, it’s reasonable to have doubts and even worry. In a room of 100 people, how many of them would be concerned about taking a medication they’ve never taken before? Probably the majority, especially since we’ve been influenced by the commercials suing drug companies.

If you are suffering from OCD you’re desperate for relief. It’s understandable you’re looking for a medication to reduce your symptoms. And it’s very possible to find such a medication. It’s very possible to get relief.

Having hope that a pill can provide relief isn’t the problem.

The problem? Analyzing by comparing and contrasting people’s experiences, repeatedly seeking reassurance from googling or talking with numerous pharmacists. Questioning for hours and days, “should I take it?” Thinking about all the “what ifs” over and over. Searching for something new and looking for hours to find someone with the same symptoms and finding out what they take.

This is the problem…the preoccupation with it. The compulsive checking and analyzing.

Get off the fence as soon as possible. If it takes you two hours to take the first pill, then it could take months to get up to a therapeutic dose. Commit. Don’t waste time and energy deciding. Stay in close contact with the doctor who prescribed it and in the meantime here’s where you’ll find the holy grail of beating OCD:

Channel all that beautiful energy on self-care and therapy.

  • Work on flipping your mindset from fixed to growth. It’s about learning and growing from anything and everything. 
  • Look for your blessings. Seek and ye shall find. They’re there! You’re not a victim! Roar!
  • Ask “What does my anxiety make possible for me?” If you’re not sure what this means, go HERE.
  • Help make your own serotonin by being just as kind and loving to yourself as you are to your best friend. (Until you practice self-compassion, OCD will have a hold on you, even with the perfect medication.)
  • Remember what you’re fighting for! Super pose like a superhero if your brain needs a little extra jolt! KAPOW!
  • Help make your own dopamine by developing one new healthy habit, solving puzzles, learning something new or doing something adventurous.
  • Help make your own oxytocin by hugging friends and family, your pets and even trees!
  • Eat well…lots of berries and green vegetables.

And when you’re ready to face your fears, start Exposure & Response Prevention. Maybe you won’t feel ready, but your mind will begin to tell you it’s time.

A life of avoidance is a life not lived.

Feel free to leave an anonymous comment if you want to add to the holy grail of beating OCD!

Free Your Mind. Free Your Life. Defying OCD