Many people say they forget what to do when their anxiety is high or the OCD thoughts seem so real.
All you have to do is remember KAPOW! It’s an acronym you need to memorize. In the heat of the moment, use it!
K= Kooky. The quickest remedy for OCD is to respond to its strange thoughts with silliness. Get Kooky!
OCD: What if (that terrible thing happens?)
Kooky: Not only could that possibly happen, but this might too! Go over the top. Be outlandish. To make it even kookier, say it with an accent!
Getting Kooky is a way to tease OCD. “Oh yeah, OCD? You think that bothers me? Hah! Watch this!!!”
Be paradoxical. Lean in when OCD says lean out. If you’re having trouble getting unstuck from a thought or worry, look for a way to get Kooky.
You know what helps in a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way? Get somebody else to be Kooky with you.
OCD: Oh no,this means [some bad thing] is going to happen.
Agree: Maybe. Time will tell.
Don’t waste your time disagreeing with OCD. If you have OCD or are helping someone with OCD, it’s better to not argue with OCD. Nod your head and pretend to agree. “I hear you OCD. You might be right. Time will tell.”
Accepting uncertainty is vital. OCD will always have an opportunity to lead you astray if you don’t play along and say, “Maybe” to OCD.
Trying to ignore OCD does not work! OCD is like a telemarketer that won’t stop calling until you pick up! It’s just that when you pick up say, KAPOW!
OCD: You’re too tired. You don’t have what it takes today.
Punch: I am tired. Let’s see what 10 jumping jacks can do.
Check your body language. Get into a competitive stance. Sit up. Stand up. Use your anxiety as energy to move onward…not downward.
I’m not suggesting that you punch OCD in the face. I haven’t found that hating OCD is very helpful. I’m suggesting that you see your exhaustion as a challenge. Besides, even friends spar in a boxing ring.
Every person with OCD needs Kapow!
OCD: This day is dreadful and best approached with avoidance.
Onward: There’s an action I need to take and I’m taking it.
Think of your anxiety as a Global Positioning System (GPS). Most everyone uses a GPS to reach an unfamiliar destination. You enter the address and the GPS tells you when to turn. If you don’t take the recommended turns your GPS will recalculate.
When your internal GPS recalculates it sends you a signal that feels like anxiety. It’s simply telling you that you’re not taking the path you’re supposed to take. The anxiety is used to get your attention and help you move onward.
Your GPS will keep recalculating until you take the path you’re supposed to take.
If you have anxiety consider which of the following messages it’s trying to give you:
Are you avoiding or neglecting something? Your GPS is sending you a signal to attend to a need or confront a fear. Until you take the necessary action you’re GPS is going to keep recalculating.
Do you feel vulnerable? Your body knows when you don’t have enough energy to deal with everything on your plate. The anxiety is reminding you to stay in the here and now, take one priority at a time and replenish your fuel throughout the day.
Are you tackling something that is above your “pay grade?” Are you trying to do something you don’t know how to do? It’s time to get coached and sharpen your skills. Reach out! Your GPS is telling you to stop and get directions!
If you’re hiding something then you’ll feel guilty which is just adding to your stress. I’m not talking about the guilt you feel from your OCD thoughts. That’s just straightforward inappropriate guilt because nobody can help what they think. I’m talking about guilt caused by a non-OCD thought or event. Are you keeping secrets from your accountability partner? Your GPS will keep recalculating until you tell the truth.
Your attitude needs a front-end alignment. Perhaps you’re having a pity party. “Why is this happening to me? This isn’t fair.” Self-pity sits in the middle of your soul and eats everything nearby, except itself. Your GPS is telling you that whatever you are experiencing it’s a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Remember, it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to what happens that counts. Make this your motto: Change, learn and grow!
Does your lifestyle need a change? If you’re eating sugar, nightshade plants, or drinking too much caffeine, your GPS will signal toxicity and try to flush it out of your system with anxiety pushing through your veins. Ever experience an increase in urinary frequency when anxious? Now you know why. Your GPS is trying to rid you of toxins.
You’re not hanging up on the conversation fast enough. OCD is like a robocall telemarketer. If you don’t answer, it keeps calling. Answer the phone, say something KOOKY with an accent and HANG UP! No more discussion! When you start conversing with OCD you’re headed for a wrong turn and your GPS is yelling at you to find the nearest U-turn!
Think of anxiety as your friend. Your negative evaluation of anxiety is getting in your way. Anxiety is trying to steer you in the right direction.
W= WW__D? What would (the most reasonable person you know) do? Copy them! It’s hard to know for sure whether a thought or worry is OCD. Ask yourself what your BFF would do.
OCD: I don’t think you should do that.
WWTD: OCD, you have zero life experience. Everything scares you. I don’t have to do or avoid anything that ________ (the most reasonable person you know) doesn’t.
If you have OCD, say KAPOW!
Want some help facing uncertainty? Add this book to your toolbox!
If you’re making this mistake, it’s easy enough to correct. At first glance, it seems like a healthy choice. But, for someone with OCD who is already susceptible to high levels of anxiety, it’s probably NOT a wholesome choice. It’s likely that you think you’re doing something beneficial, when in fact you’re not.
After ten years of helping 100’s and 100’s of people with OCD, I’ve made a fascinating discovery. People with OCD eat excessive amounts of nightshade plants.
Nightshade plants include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.
Nightshade plants produce their own toxins and proteins to fight against various insects. A potent poison is found in these plants and can occur in any part of the plant, including leaves, fruit, and tubers. This is a natural defense to help prevent being eaten by insects.
These plants produce pesticides that can repel or intoxicate insects, and even interfere with their digestion. So when you eat a nightshade plant, you’re ingesting the pesticide used to ward off insects.
People say, “Well, I’ll just triple wash my vegetables or buy only organic.” That won’t make a difference. This is not a man-made pesticide.
Do you feel more anxious than usual?
Nightshade plants are on the “do not give to your dog” list or it could be fatal. The World Health Organization sets a limit of how much of this toxin can be allowed. Above that limit, they cannot be sold in stores, as they are considered too toxic for human consumption.
Nightshade plants are neurotransmitter inhibitors. This causes a communication breakdown within the brain. An OCD brain already has communication problems! The depths of the brain has trouble communicating with the front of the brain (the reasonable, logical part of the brain.)
If you’re feeling foggy-brained or experiencing a buzz of anxiety, consider deleting nightshade plants from your diet. It’s probably not necessary to be an extremist about staying away from these plants. To the best of your ability try to eliminate them from your diet.
If you’re not sure you’re sensitive to these plants, you could have a “nightshade party” week. Eat them in excess and see what the effect is. But, watch out because it can take 6-12 weeks for the effect to get out of your system!
How do you know if you have OCD? Many people call upon me for my help because of their online research. They Googled their symptoms and discovered they sound a lot like someone with OCD. They’ve never been officially diagnosed, and when they find out there’s a name for what is going on in their mind, they are relieved and curious about treatment.
People Who Are Misdiagnosed
Then there are the people who have been misdiagnosed. They Googled their symptoms and thought they sounded like someone with OCD. Indeed, they do have OCD but are told they don’t. The doctor claims it’s not OCD because you “don’t excessively wash your hands.” ~or~ “That’s not OCD, because, everybody does that.” ~or~ “Everybody has a little OCD.” ~or~ “You’re not organized and tidy enough to have OCD.”
I apologize on behalf of all these practitioners. Just when I think the word is getting out and doctors and therapists are becoming more aware, I meet someone who has been suffering a long time because they’ve been in psychoanalysis forever. We have to keep educating, especially through OCD Awareness Week and showing films like Unstuck.
People Who Aren’t Certain It’s OCD
Then there are people who have been diagnosed with OCD by other practitioners, but this fact is not shared with me. The only reason they are seeking a meeting with me is for reassurance. “Maybe I didn’t tell the practitioner everything they needed to know to make the right diagnosis.”
They’ve been properly diagnosed with OCD. But, they need to keep hearing it. Similar to those who keep getting tested for HIV. The lab report is negative but they get tested repeatedly. I don’t usually see these people again because they aren’t seeking treatment. Just reassurance.
Authors of books on OCD often get contacted for this same reason. Even my own clients will ask me, “Are you sure this isn’t something else? How do you know it’s OCD.” This is reassurance-seeking and so all I can do is shrug and say, “Maybe you don’t have OCD.”
What I really want to say to them is this:
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck…then …it probably is a duck!!!!!!!
It’s better not to try and get certainty. Worrying whether you have OCD is just another obsession. The way to handle any obsession is to respond with, “Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell.” Then move on. Live your life.
A life of certainty is a life not lived.
For those who cannot access the necessary services to get an official diagnosis, don’t spend all your time Googling trying to get to the bottom of it. You might end up in a rabbit hole.
How do you know if you have OCD?
If it’s important to you, then you probably won’t be able to know. OCD makes you doubt whatever is precious and sacred to you. But here are a couple of good ways to understand more about your symptoms:
Complete the most widely used screening tool for OCD, the YBOCSand bring the results to your practitioner who hasn’t yet realized you have OCD. Ask your practitioner or insurance company for a referral to a CBT therapist who uses Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) as part of the treatment plan.
For those with no help or support, I also recommend a Facebook Group called “Friends with OCD.” Fortunately, there are people with OCD in this group that will lead you in the right direction. Don’t use this group for reassurance. Use it for education and support.
Q: “How do we recharge so we have the energy to resist compulsions? I find my compulsions spike for a variety of reasons in the days with shorter daylight, less healthy eating (i.e. holiday parties and sweets) and the stress of shopping for a perfect gift every year.”
We are all resisting something and especially around this time of year, it’s even more challenging. Normal everyday routines get interrupted. Way too much sugar is consumed. The blue sky is rarely seen.
How to Get Fortified During the Holidays
You could easily Google and learn what to do. Honestly, I bet you don’t even have to perform an Internet search to know how to get refortified. You know this stuff!
Don’t overschedule. Put your mental health first.
Get pumped up or calmed down by listening to your favorite music.
Laugh and laugh again. “Big Bang Theory” does it for me! How about you? What makes you laugh?
Call your guilt what it is (inappropriate.)
Count your blessings. Practice gratitude.
Exercise at least 7 minutes a day. Get your heart pumping!
Follow your treatment plan no matter what! Don’t seek reassurance. Tease your OCD through exposure exercises. “Oh yeah, OCD! You think that bothers me? Ha! Watch this.”
Eat a hearty breakfast. Refuel throughout the day on blueberries, nuts, seeds and even some organic honey. Substitute mango for cookies.
Say no. Learn to be assertive. Say what you mean but don’t say it mean. Now is not the time to “yes” everybody! You don’t have enough fuel!
Find a balance between “me” time and sociable activities.
Use aromatherapy, take Vitamin D and use a lightbox.
Get grounded. Hug trees and play outside!
Go off the grid and have a tech-free day. Find something to do that doesn’t involve a screen.
Plan a getaway for mid-winter or take a day trip.
Say no to perfection and yes to learning. Watch thisKobe Bryant video on Growth Mindset vs. Success Mindset. He’s got it all figured out for you!
Be willing and open to whatever happens next.
I doubt the list above is news to you. You can thread the needle through 1-16 and know you’ll be connecting one positive to another. Positive in equals positive out.
You know this stuff. It’s very tough for people to apply what they know. (This has been proven in studies.) It’s why repetition is a big part of ERP. You need practice. Practice makes…progress.
So, you know me…I like to think outside of the box. Let me try to add something else to your toolbox.
How to Get Fortified During the Holidays
Don’t ever forget that there are plenty of people in the same situation as you. Like others, you always get out of this mess. I think the Bible says it best:
“If one member suffers, all suffer together…and if one member is honored, we all rejoice together.”
~1 Corinthians 12:26
You Are Part of A Community
It’s important to remember you are never alone. If you suffer we all suffer. The way I see it, no one is healed until everybody is healed. Even if you were cured of OCD, there’d still be others suffering.
“As long as someone is suffering so shall I.”
There is pain all around us. I’m not trying to minimize your pain. I just think it’s pointless to strive to be free of pain. Even if I’m doing okay, I’m still going to feel pain if someone else is in pain. And you know what? I’m okay with that pain.
We are all facing challenges and being tested in some way. We’re in this together. Believe in something bigger than you. Individually we are a cog in a big wheel. Together…there ain’t no mountain high enough.
Join something bigger than you, and you will get fortified.
**I belong to the Global Citizencommunity. This way I keep a bird’s eye view so that I don’t get too small in my thinking. (For example, I didn’t know you could buy a goat in a vending machine!)
The Power of the Heart
…and if one member is honored, we all rejoice together.
When a client breaks free from OCD, it’s the best day of my life. (I’ve had a lot of best days!) It happened this week!
Almost one year ago OCD hijacked her brain. She fought so hard to reclaim her life. It was clear from the moment I met her that she’d had enough of OCD.
How did she fight? She stopped avoiding. She surrendered. “Maybe that will happen OCD, and if it does, so be it.” Surrendering is not giving up. It’s letting go. “I’d rather have that happen than live like this.” It’s knowing what you’re fighting for. “I care more deeply about this than that.”
When a client breaks free, it’s like I’m meeting him or her for the first time. We’ve been working together but, it’s really been OCD in the room.
This week OCD wasn’t in the room. The day finally came. She looked peaceful. I could tell something had changed. She smiled and said, “I feel like myself again.” I couldn’t wait to do my happy dance!
I tried to resist compulsions before, and it didn’t work. I felt worse! Why should I try again?
Resisting compulsive behavior and mental acts is a long process. The process has a beginning, middle and no end. At any time during the process you can:
expect to have setbacks
anticipate having POLS (Persistent, On-fire, Lasting, Sinking- feelings)
doubt resisting is worth the pain and agony
continue to have unwanted, intrusive thoughts even though you’re resisting compulsions
Contemplate this truth: Resisting compulsions is going to be the worst and best thing you’ve ever done.
In the beginning, more times than not you will think, “Resisting compulsions isn’t working.” If you think it’s not working, does that make it real? Does it mean you’re not getting better if you don’t feel better?
Does it mean you’re getting better only if you feel better? Such as when you’re performing a mental act or compulsion. Upon completion, you probably have some relief. It’s only temporary, but let’s admit it, briefly, you feel better. Does that mean you’re getting better because you’re feeling better?
Not at all. To get better, you’re not going to feel better at first. Is that okay with you? Will you commit to resisting compulsions even though you’re going to have POLS? Besides, when you’re performing compulsions, you still have POLS.
Do this now: Put your hand on your heart and vow to do whatever it takes to get healthy.
“That’s easier said than done.”
Of course! You’ve performed your rituals and mental acts to the point of automation. In other words, you’ve habituated to your compulsions. You’ve gotten used to them. Breaking a habit is hard! Does that mean you shouldn’t break it?
There is an excellent technique for this kind of automatic compulsive behavior. I call it “recontaminating the scene of the crime.” The crime is the compulsion. So whatever the compulsion “fixed,” your job is to unfix it. Recontaminate the scene by reintroducing the anxiety. For example, if you:
counted car door handles before you pulled out of a parking space, pull back into the spot and this time back out without looking at the car door handles.
sanitized after touching a doorknob, go back and touch the doorknob and resist washing.
rewound and replayed a conversation you had earlier to see if you said something bad, go ahead and say something bad.
scanned the environment to see if you dropped identifying information about yourself, drop part of your social security number in the parking lot and walk away.
checked the faucet too many times, turn the faucet back on and let it drip. Walk away. Don’t check.
The most critical part of recontaminating the scene is what you say to OCD while you’re doing it. Your words must be tough. Like this, “Oh yeah OCD? You think something bad is going to happen now that I recontaminated? OK OCD. Whatever happens, happens. Time will tell.”
Resisting compulsions is going to be the worst thing you’ve ever done. It’s also going to be the best thing you’ve ever done.
The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsive Behavior Can Backfire
#1 Did you resist compulsions for the right reason?
The reason to resist compulsions is not to get rid of unwanted thoughts or anxiety. That can be the prize but never the goal. Put your nose to the grindstone—focus heavily on the work not the bonus.
The right reason to resist compulsions is to learn how to be incredibly strong, perceptive and empathic. It’s the exercise of learning that is life-changing. Resist compulsions because you like working hard to learn how to be grateful and optimistic in dark times. Value the challenge, not the reward.
#2 Did you think Control was all you needed?
“I can control my thoughts” is the same thing as saying “I can control my compulsions.” The name of the game is not CONTROL. Trying to control is what got you into this mess. It’s about surrender. Read on.
Don’t expect to control: Frantic Effort to Avoid Reality
#3 Did you put in an honest day’s work?
You need a strong work ethic. What is a strong work ethic? Stop asking others to help feed OCD with reassurance or safety behaviors. Be more cooperative with your team. Just because you don’t like what they’re telling you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hear them out.
If you don’t put in the time, then the work won’t get done. Get a lot of therapy done each day. Be productive. This is no time to avoid—or be idle. You’re in the fight of your life. Climb your exposure hierarchy with a vengeance. Get to it!
Even after you’ve climbed your hierarchy go back and climb it again. Find some other fears to face. It’s how you keep your brain sharp and your OCD dull. This is a life-style, not a one shot fix.
People who have a strong work ethic are led by values—not fear. They are distinguished from others by their dedication, integrity, and self-discipline. Put your nose to the grindstone and focus heavily on your therapy. Let nothing get in your way of an honest day’s work.
Are you: Finding Excuses And Reasons?
The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsive Behavior Can Backfire
#4 Was there a pity party goin’ on?
If you think it’s unfair that you have OCD then your ability to power up and find strength will be quite limited. The sooner you accept you have this neurological condition and do something about it—the sooner you will do something about it!
Asking, “why is this happening to me” is not going to get you anywhere but deeper into the hole. When you’re resisting compulsions, you have to talk tough. “Oh yeah, OCD? You think if I don’t do this compulsion something bad will happen? Well, time will tell. Whatever happens, I’ll deal with it. I’d rather take the risk than live like this.”
You’re in the fight of your life. Stop wishing you weren’t. It is what it is. If you think like a victim, you will feel like a victim and then act like a victim. Wipe “I wish” from your vocabulary. Stop saying “I can’t.” Yes, you can.
Watch out for: Failure ExpectedAnd Received
#5 Did you enter the combat zone unwillingly or hesitantly?
Did you enter your OCD recovery program with boots on the ground? If you knew your loved one in the military didn’t go into combat yelling “BOOYAH” and instead was pleading, “No please…” you’d question his or her readiness. Can you afford to have OCD question your readiness?
The moment your eyes open—your feet hit the floor, you are in COMBAT. YOU NEED TO HIT THE FLOOR RUNNING. Resist compulsions and stick to the plan. Feelings don’t matter in combat. Second guessing your mission won’t save your life.
To help you remember BOOTS on the GROUND put a pair of old unused boots near your bed. Look at them when you wake up and remember you’re entering a combat zone. Until you master the skill of resisting compulsions, you’re in the fight of your life.
Drills develop skills. You’ll get good at whatever you practice. You can’t build skills on the run. Stay and fight.
Don’t: Forget Everything [you’ve learned] And Run!
#6 You didn’t surrender during the combat.
Resisting compulsions is not the traditional combat zone. Your combat is different. For you to outwit and outplay OCD, you need to proudly fly a white flag that reveals you’re surrendering.
Whatever OCD says might happen if you resist a compulsion, nod your head and agree. “Yes, maybe that is so. Time will tell. Whatever happens, happens. I will deal with it. It will be horrible, but I will handle it.”
After all, this ain’t your first rodeo. You’ve been through plenty of real-life situations. And you probably dealt with them better than most.
You’re really good in an actual crisis. It’s the things in your imagination that creep you out. But when push comes to shove, you’re the one who holds your head above water while others are drowning.
YOU ‘RE SO FREAKIN’ STRONG! BOOYAH!
Do: Face Everything And Rise!
The Top 8 Reasons Why Resisting Compulsive Behavior Can Backfire
#7 Did you stay in the moment?
OCD is the most significant force you will ever be up against. It knows what you fear. It will work very hard to keep you from ever having to feel that fear. OCD is not your enemy. It’s trying to protect you from feeling afraid.
Just because you’re afraid doesn’t mean something is wrong. But, OCD doesn’t know this! Just because you’re startled or anxious—it doesn’t mean stop.
If it’s not happening, now…it’s not happening. Stay in the moment. Live one moment to the next. OCD has no clue what this means. Do you?
“In this moment, right here, right now I’m pretty okay.”
Did you: Forget Everything’s [Actually] All Right?
Contemplate this truth until you understand it clearly: OCD doesn’t get the meaning of anxiety or weird thoughts. It can’t differentiate reality from imagination. You can’t count on OCD to lead the way.
#8 Did you give up too soon?
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will When the road you’re trodding seems all uphill When care is pressing you down a bit Rest if you must, but don’t you quit Oh, no, don’t you quit Whoa, no
Success is failure turned inside out The silver tint on the clouds of doubt But you never can tell how close you are It may be near when it seems so far, ooh Gotta stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit And when things go wrong, oh, you must not quit Oh, no, don’t you quit
You got to stick to the fight When you’re hardest hit And when things go wrong No, oh, no, don’t you quit
Don’t give up the fight Don’t give up You better not give up the fight Don’t give up Oh, no, no ~Caron Wheeler “Don’t Quit”
No Matter What, Stick To It
It takes a lot of patience, intention, and mindfulness. Arm yourself with inspirational stories of people who persevered and carried on even in the face of difficulty or adversity.
Think of all the famous stories we know about people who had stick-to-it-ness. Your story is no different.
Even after failing to land a role and being called too ugly, most Academy Award nominations, Meryl Streep never gave up on acting.
Steven Spielberg was rejected by the USA film school three times.
After his first performance, Elvis Presley was told, “You ought to go back to driving a truck.”
Dr. Seuss was turned down by over 25 different publishers.
At age 30, Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded.
Ludwig Van Beethoven’s music teacher said he was hopeless.
Oprah Winfrey was told she “wasn’t fit for television.”
The Day You Quit Is The Day You Were Going to Win!
Thomas Edison’s teacher told him he couldn’t learn anything.
Colonel Sanders became a world-known figure by marketing his “fingerlickin’ good” Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). His recipe was rejected over 1,000 times before it was given a chance.
Before winning six NBA championships and receiving five Most Valuable Player awards, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
The Beatles were rejected by a recording studio that said, “They have no future in show business.”
And Albert Einstein’s parents and teachers said he would never amount to much.
The secret ingredient all of the above people had is stick-to-it-ness. This ingredient is available to you too.
Contemplate this truth: A setback is a setup for a breakthrough.
Yes, Face Everything And Rejoice!
Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:
If you’re struggling with resisting compulsions, review the above 8 principles and see which ones need improvement. Don’t quit. Keep at it. Resisting compulsions is a marathon comprised of a series of sprints.
You are the blue sky. It may seem cloudy and the thunder may roll, but the blue sky always, always comes back.
This post concludes the series, “The Best Advice on How to Resist Compulsions.” Let me know which one(s) helped you the most. If I overlooked a topic that you have questions about please ltell me in the comment section! Other topics covered in this series:
Compulsions feed the troubled wolf…the OCD. So of course in order to beat OCD, compulsions must stop.
Inevitably the client says “I’ll try but that’s easier said than done.”
I respond, “It’s supposed to be hard! Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”
The relief from a compulsion is only temporary!
Yes, compulsions can provide relief. But, for how long? It’s similar to the relief an addict gets from drugs. It’s a vicious cycle. You just end up needing more. It might initially feel good but on the other hand, it makes you feel powerless and stuck in a hamster wheel.
The relief you get from a compulsion is temporary but the effect is long-lasting. What is the effect? Think about it. You started compulsions to:
get rid of doubt and now you’re more doubtful than ever
feel in control and now you feel out of control most of the time
avoid discomfort and now you’re more uncomfortable than before
improve the way you feel and now you feel worse
feel “just right” and now you always feel “just wrong”
What If Resisting Compulsions Makes Me Feel Worse?
As an OCD therapist, I can’t give reassurance. I have to shrug and say, “Maybe things will get worse.”
However, for educational purposes, I say this one time to every new client: “If you provoke your OCD with exposures and resist the urge to do a compulsion, your chances of getting strong and healthy is very high.”
Besides, ask yourself if compulsions are sustainable. Is this truly something you want to do for the rest of your life? Once you start it’s hard to stop.
You get good at what you practice. Are you sure you want to keep practicing compulsions? All compulsions help you do is avoid. Are you sure you want to get good at avoiding?
The Risks Outweigh the Benefits
In what way do you benefit from doing compulsions? If your answers are the ones below, hopefully, you know this is nothing more than trickery.
Are these the reasons you think you benefit from compulsions?
My compulsions are protective and keep bad things from happening. You’d be rich and famous if that were true.
This compulsion keeps me from feeling gross. No, actually it keeps you from feeling anxious. Gross is just another word for anxious.
The only way I can feel “just right” is by doing this compulsion. How many people stop and think, “I can’t leave my house until I feel just right?” To be concerned with feeling “just right” is exactly what drives you to feel “just wrong.” People who don’t think about feeling “just right” typically feel..just right!
Until the compulsion is completed I won’t be able to sleep. This just means you’ll have to do compulsions every night for the rest of your life in order to sleep. Is that really what you want?
You’ll discover the only benefit to a compulsion is temporary relief from anxiety. That’s it. There is no other benefit. And is that really a benefit–to avoid anxiety for brief moments of the day? Wouldn’t it make better sense to learn how to experience the anxiety?
Every Compulsion Feeds OCD
The only reason you’re performing compulsions is that you don’t <<yet>> know how to experience anxiety. Any other reason is just a story that your very creative brain has made-up.
A question I get asked often:
I’m prescribed drugs to help me feel better, so why can’t I use a compulsion to feel better?
I’m not a chemical warfare expert but there’s a huge difference between the purpose of taking a medication and performing a compulsive behavior. Prescribed medications like Prozac or Luvox help you to experience your anxiety. Compulsions help you avoid anxiety.
If you are having trouble being with your anxiety talk to the person prescribing your medication. Resisting compulsions might initially make you feel panicky, but if it continues and you’re not having much success saying no to OCD, a medication adjustment might help.
Another question often asked:
It seems like I get rid of one compulsion only to develop a new one. How can I make sure I don’t start a new compulsion?
The answer to this question is twofold. 1.) Evaluate the way you are talking to OCD when you’re resisting compulsions. 2.) Consider the possibility that you haven’t come to terms with your lack of control over what actually happens in life.
Evaluate the Way You Talk to OCD
If new compulsions are popping up, perhaps you haven’t really confronted your core fear. You’ve resisted a compulsion which is the “B” of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You’ve changed a behavior. But without the “C” of CBT, you haven’t grabbed the bull by the horns.
When you’re resisting compulsions it’s important to talk tough to OCD. No rationalizing or answering any of OCD’s questions. OCD is trying to convince you that a compulsion will prevent something bad from happening. “If you do this compulsion there will be no harm” or “If you do this you won’t end up abandoned.”
Your response must sound like this, “Yup. You might be right OCD. That might happen. Time will tell.” Just nod your head in agreement and resist the compulsion. You might not feel in agreement with what you’re saying. You’re telling OCD you don’t care but you probably really do.
It’s okay. Keep talking tough. Answer none of OCD’s questions. Shrug at OCD and say, “whatever.” Sound like a broken record and just keep repeating your “I don’t care” act. Fake it ’til you become it. This is a mental Kung Fu game you must play with OCD.
Do You Practice Radical Acceptance?
The answer seems to always come back to whether or not you are willing to see what happens next. Be curious to see what happens in this very moment. The only other choice is to try and control what happens. We know where that gets you. It’s better to accept whatever happens happens.
If in this moment you are experiencing anxiety, be curious about it but not analytical. Curiosity is the opposite of fear.
Now is the time to challenge the dysfunctional belief that you have control over what happens in life. This is not true. Practice radical acceptance, “Whatever happens happens. It is what it is.”
If nobody else has to do these compulsive behaviors neither do you.
Stopping compulsions isn’t just about halting the repetitive behavior. Another compulsion will just pop up. OCD morphs into all kinds of things until you finally start to accept the anxiety. First of all, your obsession is just noise. What really needs your attention is your anxiety.
Most importantly, every time you are in the process of performing a compulsion acknowledge the repetitive behavior is just your way of avoiding anxiety. The only time the details of your thoughts and beliefs is of any interest is when you’re trying to figure out how to provoke your anxiety.
Provoke your thoughts. Don’t argue with them. Shrug and say, “time will tell” or “maybe, maybe not.” Step toward the threat and embrace the anxiety. Build an ERP hierarchy and move forward.
Notice the anxiety and be with it. You don’t have to like the anxiety. But be grateful for the opportunity to practice your skills
Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:
Finishing a compulsion might feel good. But, it’s temporary. The anxiety returns. In no time at all, another compulsion is needed. Practice radical acceptance. Whatever happens happens. Otherwise more compulsions are likely to pop-up like a whack-a-mole.
When Resisting Compulsions Backfires: Find Out Why
If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section of this post. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions
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.”
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.
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:
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 supportthe 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 personalexperience 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?
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
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.
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.
Are you addicted to compulsions?
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
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’treally 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.
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”
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:
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
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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?
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.
Is it okay to use a distraction to resist compulsions?
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 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.
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?
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?
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.
Compulsions: Do They Really Save Lives?
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…
Resisting compulsive behavior is one of the hardest parts of your recovery.
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 thecomfort 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?
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 effortful. A 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
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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
“If resisting compulsions is the right thing to do then why does it feel so horrible to resist them?”
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…