What’s the Best Way to Talk Back to OCD?

The treatment of OCD involves talking to OCD like it is a separate entity. What is the best way to talk to it?

Sometimes people are really mad at OCD and think of it as the enemy. When I tell kids to give OCD a name, they usually pick names like “poop head” or “jerk.” And they look like this when they’re bossing it back:

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OCD is just a 2 year old that knows nothing about life. That’s why it’s asking a lot of unnecessary, ridiculous questions over and over again. “What if?” “What does?” “How come?” Why?”

It’s only two years old, so why yell or get mad at it? Just say, “I don’t know.” “It doesn’t matter.” Here’s what responding to a two year old looks like:

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Other clients treat OCD like a two year old. “It doesn’t matter. I”m doing this because I said so.” And then they shift their focus on what does matter. “Do I want to spend my time trying to answer the unanswerable or do I want to have a day with my family with no lost moments?”

I’ve seen clients get so mad and say, “I’ve had enough!” At that moment, they break free. Other clients are more paradoxical and just nod their head and say, “Okay OCD. Whatever. So what? Who cares.” And by shrugging they are set free. 

How do you talk back to OCD? It’s important to decide. Your decision should be based on which way empowers you to move on.

2 thoughts on “What’s the Best Way to Talk Back to OCD?”

  1. I remember when I was younger and I was told to think of OCD more like a monster. I think that makes sense for younger children because they may be too young to understand radical acceptance and “shrugging.” Now that I’m older, I rarely talk to OCD as if it’s a monster and more like a 2 year old. However, when it’s REALLY bad and interfering with my functioning, I think it’s important to get (temporarily) mad at it so I can stick up for myself and and feel confident about it. So I would say it depends upon how severe it is.

  2. Well, I first start with remembering that OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so the real question here is how do I talk to my intrusive, obsessive thoughts. The first thing I try to remember is to accept the thought. Trying to push the thought out only seems to make it more powerful. After fully accepting the thought, I believe that humour is the best way to deal with an obsessive thought. Once you’ve accepted and made fun of your thought, you’ve taken away its (perceived) power. These thoughts only have the power that we decide to give to them. On the other hand, refusing to yield and being serious (or performing a compulsion) gives the disorder more power. As an example, take a silly intrusive thought like, “What if I forget how to talk?” One option is to say “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to paint my face white and get really, really good at being a mime” followed by a shrug. Another option is to take the thought seriously, and say something to yourself, “Oh, that could never happen … I’ll always be able to talk … always … right?” followed by some heavy breathing into a bag. Which of these options sounds more enticing?

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