As soon as you’re not paying attention OCD will trick you. It sends a false alarm and you fall for it hook, line and sinker. And sink you do. How does this affect those around you and what can be done?
First, let’s not jump to conclusions. There’s a possibility that the side show playing in your head goes totally unnoticed by those around you. You could potentially be fully engaged in a conversation with friends or diligently working on a team project and no one can even tell you’ve got a side show playing. So let’s not jump to conclusions that they’re affected by something they don’t even know is happening.
Sometimes you think you’ve involved an innocent “victim” in one of your compulsions; like a checking behavior. A wave of guilt pours over you and swallows you up for hours. Yet, the person you purposefully or accidentally involved in your “check” is totally unaware of what’s occurred.
“I checked my son to see if he had any nervous reaction to me.” The son has no idea this occurred. This worry and guilt is another false alarm; compliments of OCD. How do we know this? Because the innocent “victim” is oblivious to your compulsive checking and you’ve been perseverating. If the innocent “victim” is going about business as usual, and you’re still stuck in thought about this, it sounds a lot like OCD. It’s time to Boss it Back.
Just a quick review: The best way to Boss it Back is to YIELD to OCD. Shrug. Agree. Practice: “There’s my obsession. Good, I need the practice.” Walk your worry through to the worst case scenario, like “He’ll never trust me again.” And excessively expose yourself to that fear.
But, what if you’re not managing the side show well? What if it’s not your imagination and you really are visibly unraveling and coming undone. They ask you if you’re okay. They can see your eyes are glazed over and you’re in an OCD trance. They can tell you’re in OCD land. Maybe you’ve gone so far to yell at them because they’ve interrupted a compulsion or refused to feed your OCD or leave you alone. Perhaps you’re mad because you want them to pay attention to your worry and they won’t! Maybe you’re running around in a panic, crying, screaming as if the end of the world has arrived. Worst of all maybe you’re in bed and you don’t seem to care about living your life. If it’s your solution to least affect your family by isolating yourself and hiding, you’re fooling yourself that this sets them free anymore than it sets you free.
What can be done?
- Work harder at defying OCD. Show them you have a strong work ethic. As long as you’re putting in an honest day’s work of bossing it back, they will feel encouraged. You can be determined even if you don’t feel determined. Climb the hierarchy of exposures and be accountable. Tell them what you’re working on.
- Continue to make it a goal to get better at regulating your emotions. Practice makes progress. Download a 911 app to help you get off the emotional rollercoaster. Since Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is all about regulating emotions I think an excellent app for this is called “DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach.”
- If someone is telling you that your OCD is affecting them, sit down together and talk about ways to progressively exclude them from your OCD. You might still want to feed your OCD but that doesn’t mean other people have to. The conversation would sound like this: “From now on I’ll open doors with my sleeve instead of making you open doors for me.” -OR- “I’ve been asking you for a lot of reassurance and it’s not fair to you. Let’s use a reassurance notebook and I’ll stop interrupting your day.”
- Ask them to help you Boss it Back. OCD is a big force to go up against. It helps to have someone on your side. Not to feed OCD but to remind you of your tools. Like this: “When you notice I’m stuck could you say something like, I can tell you’re having a hard time. I know that you’re strong enough to get through this. What do you need to do to Boss it Back? What’s in your tool box?” Give them permission to walk away if you’re not willing to problem-solve and Boss it Back.
These are three very effective ways to keep your family and friends the least affected by your OCD. None of them are easy to do. It’s hard work to get better every day. It takes mindfulness, determination and practice.
This is day 26 of a 30 day challenge. Do you need to work on any of the four strategies above? Which one? Is there something else you’re working on to keep family the least affected by your OCD? Let us know!