How to Stop Being Manipulated by OCD

OCD only has one weapon. Manipulation. That’s its only weapon. Do you know how it manipulates you? Think about this before you read any further. Try looking at this picture until you have an answer, then read on. What does OCD manipulate? What does it control? What does it play upon?


If you said thoughts…You were wrong. OCD doesn’t control what you think. Here’s a typical conversation I have with clients about OCD the manipulator:

Client:  But, Tammy doesn’t OCD make me think what I think?

Tammy: No. Everybody has weird thoughts. I have many of them throughout the day. Especially since I hear weird thoughts all day at my job. There’s probably nothing you can tell me I haven’t heard or thought before. I am interrupted by weird thoughts all the time. Some of them are pretty gross. And I don’t have OCD.

Client: Well that scares me. Because if OCD isn’t making me think these horrible thoughts then why am I thinking them? OMG! OMG! OMG!

Tammy: Everybody has weird thoughts. They just don’t get scared by them.

Client: But, Tammy you always say that OCD is a faulty alarm system. It makes me think there is danger when there isn’t really anything wrong.

Tammy: True, I say that your brain is scanning for potential danger. It’s like a two year old asking a lot of who, what, where, when, and why questions. Since it doesn’t know anything about life, it points to something and asks, “Could something bad happen here?” It’s just a question.

Client: But, that question is, after all, a thought.

Tammy: True, but it’s not a unique thought. Everybody is scanning to survive. And in this heightened state of terrorism, we’re probably all scanning a little bit more than we used to.

Client: You mean like what’s on the CDTA buses, “If you see something say something.”

Tammy: Right, but not everybody who is looking for something has OCD.

Client: I’m confused. When I have a bad or troubling thought, I’ve read in books that I should say, “It’s just OCD. It’s not me.”

Tammy: That won’t get you very far. You can say that early on when first diagnosed and learning about OCD. But, if you keep saying “it’s just OCD” every time your brain sounds off an alarm, then you’re just reassuring yourself all day long and your brain is learning nothing new. Saying repeatedly, “it’s just OCD” becomes a compulsion.

Client: Okay, still confused. If OCD isn’t manipulating my thoughts—making me think things. Controlling what I think…Well then what is OCD manipulating?

Tammy: OCD is manipulating your emotions. It plays upon your need for certainty. It alters and controls what you care about. OCD manipulates you into doing whatever it takes to feel just right. Everybody has weird thoughts. But, how you react to your thoughts, how you feel about your thoughts…there lies the beating heart of OCD.

Client: How do I know if I’m being manipulated?

Tammy: If you have OCD then you’re being emotionally manipulated. It’s not a mystery.

How an Emotional Manipulator Like OCD Works

An emotional manipulator will put you down all the time. They make fun of you and get away with it by saying, “Haha just joking.” They never compliment you or let you celebrate your victories. They say, “Anybody can do that!” They never let you experience the moment. In the midst of happiness they whisper, “Just wait for the other shoe to drop.” Does any of this sound like the voice of OCD?

If you tripped over a backpack in the middle of the floor an emotional manipulator wouldn’t say, “Sorry I shouldn’t have left that there.” They’d say, “You should watch where you’re going.” Emotional manipulators are really good at blaming you and making you feel in the wrong. It’s why you develop an inflated sense of responsibility. If you wonder where all your inappropriate guilt comes from you can thank an emotional manipulator. You can thank OCD.

An emotional manipulator can make you doubt your memory. It’s hard to stand up for yourself when you can’t trust your memory.160_F_41168140_QTGHYMVX3lOhuM4d6EWDzBr59GQkwskC Emotional manipulators lie and say, “Don’t you remember I told you last week we were going here” even though they didn’t. You have no memory of being told about it, but you’re quick to doubt yourself. Have you found yourself doubting your memory? Did I lock that door? Did I touch that when I walked by it? Did I turn the stove off? Did I leave my kid in the car? Did I do something bad but don’t remember it? You’re being manipulated!

Emotional manipulators tell you how to dress, what to eat, how you should behave, how to complete tasks, who to be friends with, what’s good for you, what’s bad for you…the list is endless. Emotional manipulators coerce you into things that don’t make sense and even go against your values.

All your compulsions, physical and mental, have no connection to anything good. When would you ever say that being manipulated is a GOOD thing? 

OCD is emotionally manipulating you. It doesn’t have control of your thoughts. It has control of your emotions. It alters the way you feel about your thoughts. It doesn’t have the ability to make you think. It has the ability to make you afraid. The more afraid you are, the more you lack confidence, and the less likely you’ll stand up to the manipulator.

If You Decided to Stand Up to OCD What Would You Say?

I ask my clients all the time what they would do if they knew they160_F_91930308_TJO6Nuq5eGgkjKbab1NKsRmGJZRr2xTL were being manipulated by someone. They always say, “I wouldn’t put up with it.” I give them various scenarios like the ones above and they know exactly what to say and do. Your situation with OCD is NO DIFFERENT. Show OCD the door just like you would any other emotional manipulator.

When speaking to an emotional manipulator like OCD, you’ve got to be assertive and say things like:

“I know you don’t like it but that’s the way it is.” No need to discuss it any further.

“I prefer it this way. I don’t care if you don’t think it’s right.” No need to justify your preferences.

160_F_92023970_KnGBXHHt1RjkIJwhMko7hRWu1ve0BeBMJust agree. “You’re absolutely right” and drop the subject. No need to argue with a manipulator. It’s gasoline to the fire.

“Think whatever you want. Who cares!” No need to try and change the way an emotional manipulator thinks. It’s a waste of time. 

What Do You Need to Remember When Standing Up to An Emotional Manipulator Like OCD?

Besides being assertive with an emotional manipulator, what else can you do?

Act on YOUR hopes and dreams. YOUR desires. OCD manipulates you into desiring nothing but safety and certainty. Neither of which can ever be guaranteed.  And yet, it has the power to manipulate you into spending a lifetime trying to get something you can never have. Nobody in the world can have certainty, why oh why should you?

Do what YOU want to do. Live your life no matter how you feel. Stay firm in your own values and beliefs. Emotional manipulators try to get you to waste your time caring about nonsense. The more confused you are about what truly matters, the easier you are to manipulate.

You’re addicted to achieving a certain feeling and OCD knows it. It’s created and fed this addiction! Be willing to be uncomfortable and OCD has nothing to manipulate you with. Shrug! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

An emotional manipulator should not be privy to your thoughts and feelings. Fake it ’til you make it. Even if you are bothered by a thought, image or urge, feign that you aren’t bothered…fake it. You must use deception against OCD. Don’t be honest with an emotional manipulator. They’ll use it against you.

Accept responsibility for what has happened not what could happen. Otherwise OCD will stir up a pot of guilt and shame and serve it to you in heaping spoonfuls.

Emotional manipulators mislead. If you know you’re being misled why do you follow? Is this what you would tell a friend to do? Wouldn’t you tell your friend, your daughter, your son to face the emotional manipulator and rise up?

The world is not as scary as you are being led to believe. OCD is lying to you. Stick to the facts and never defend or justify yourself to an emotional manipulator. Thoughts aren’t true. Feelings aren’t facts. Face Everything and Rise.

If you’re not sure how to stop being manipulated by OCD, leave an anonymous question and I’m sure you’ll get some great answers from our Boss it Back® community. If you have a trick up your sleeve that you use to stop being manipulated by OCD, please share in the comments.

5 thoughts on “How to Stop Being Manipulated by OCD”

  1. This blog made sense to me yesterday when you shared the metaphor of a puppet and a puppeteer. For example I’m always worrying what others are thinking of me, why don’t they like me, what am I doing wrong?

  2. Most of my emotional manipulation is about things I fear happening in the future. So for that I just say, “Ok…I’ll just deal with that if I cross that bridge…”

  3. This “eerily” applies to me this past week and a half. Overcoming OCD is an ongoing lesson, and the nature of OCD as “manipulator”–I think I get it now (though I will likely need a reminder in the future haha)! Thanks for hitting this concept home.

  4. This week I will be putting my ability to deal with the “emotional manipulator” in an interesting way. I work with someone who is the human embodiment of OCD. The reason I have to deal with her is that she is attempting to use me as a stepping stone to the top by co-opting my job responsibilities as her own. She’s always got a reason for what she does, and tries to make the other person feel like they are the one with the problem. There is nothing collegial about the way she operates. It’s all for self-promotion. Like OCD, she’s constantly “scanning” for situations she can put herself in the middle of, because of course, she’s the person who knows how to do it best. I plan to stick to the facts in our meeting (with our supervisor who arranged it). And as I strive to do with OCD, I will patiently (and in this case professionally) stand my ground. If my comments are posted, I’ll send an update of how it went. This situation is full of opportunity, and while I am anxious about it, I look forward it and to being successful. Which by the way, I don’t think means trying to destroy this person. That would be a recipe for disaster. I will consider it a victory to have my (work) boundaries established and understood. Stay tuned…

    1. Love that you are so reflective and always look for ways to apply your ninja OCD tactics to every day living. Keep us updated!

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