Being stuck in an OCD loop is torture. The thoughts just keep firing and it’s hard to believe they’re ever going to stop. They’re coming so fast it’s hard to be mindful enough to boss it back. There are many ways to deal with an OCD loop but this one seems most effective. It’s called apathy. Apathy is a lack of feeling, interest or concern.
I used to have this amazing lamp. It made me happy just to look
at it. But then one day a stranger showed up at my office. He came through the back door. Luckily I didn’t have a client at the time. He threatened me, “Give me $10 or I’m going to break that lamp into tiny pieces.” I thought maybe he was homeless. I gave him $10 and he left. He came back the next day. “Give me $20 or I’m going to break that lamp.” He didn’t seem like a violent person. I thought he was just desperate. I gave him $20. He came back the next day and demanded $50. I gave it to him. But, at this point I’m feeling really apprehensive. Is this ever going to stop? I realized I should have never given in to him the first time. The next day I saw him coming through my back door. I stopped him. I said, “hang on.” I grabbed the lamp and brought it out to the parking lot. I threw it on the pavement and most of it shattered. I told him to go ahead and break the rest of it. I went back into my office and I never saw him again.
You’ve probably guessed this didn’t really happen. It’s a good example of apathy right? It’s also a good example of how OCD operates. If you give in, OCD just wants more and more. But if you shrug it knocks the wind right out of OCD. Of course the real moral of the story is “don’t give in the first time.”
The #1 way to get out of an OCD loop is to get as close as you can to losing what OCD is telling you to desperately hold on to. What are you willing to let go of?
I knew someone who was afraid of losing his sanity. He kept Googling symptoms of psychosis. Then one day he finally decided enough was enough. He said, “I’d just as soon be crazy than live like this.” He went to a grocery store and purposely underpaid the cashier. When the cashier pointed out he owed more money, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry I’m not of sound mind. I’m crazy. I’m clearly too psychotic to be handling money right now.” And that ended his “what if I’m crazy” loop. Of course he didn’t really lose his sanity. He played a mind game and tricked OCD into thinking his sanity wasn’t precious and sacred anymore. He shrugged and tricked OCD!
Whatever your fear is, think of a way to trick OCD into believing you don’t care. The rule is do no harm. If you’re afraid of getting AIDS you don’t actually expose yourself to blood that is known to be contaminated. But, you could touch a germy doorknob without washing your hands afterwards and say, “I’d rather take the same risk everybody else is taking than live like this.”
If OCD has you worried you might be gay, you’re not going to start a same sex relationship just to trick your OCD into thinking you don’t care. But you could say, “If I end up in a gay relationship I’ll probably be very unhappy. But, so be it. If anything like that happens I’ll just have to deal with it at the time it happens.” With this statement you’re tricking OCD. It no longer has any leverage. You’re not happy about this thing happening but if it does, you’ll deal with it.
If you have unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harm, you don’t actually harm someone to trick OCD into thinking you don’t care. But, you could resist looking for signs of evil in every one of your thoughts and feelings. Instead say, “No one else analyzes their thoughts like this so I’m not going to. If I do the unthinkable it’ll be horrible. And there will be consequences for me. But I’m not paying any consequences until I’ve actually done the act! You’ve taken enough from me OCD. If I’m going to get better, I have to accept my anxiety and I’m going to tolerate this terrible feeling for as long as it takes.”
The #1 way to get out of a loop is to find a way to shrug at OCD. Say, “If that happens it will be horrible but I will deal with it if it actually happens.” This is easier said than done. Because, you really think there is an actual risk. But, performing all your compulsions isn’t easy either. No matter what you do to deal with OCD, it’s going to be very hard. But you’re not afraid of doing something hard! People with OCD are the strongest people I’ve ever met.
You’ve got to find a way to let go–or you’ll be dragged.