Beat OCD: The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

There’s More to Being Compulsion-Free Than Just Stopping

How to stop excessive hand washing.
I’ll be done soon…

Have you ever been in the middle of a compulsion and someone said: “Just knock it off!” And you replied, “If it was that easy don’t you think I would just stop?” The best advice on how to resist compulsions doesn’t include to, “just knock it off.”

Very, very few people with OCD can go cold turkey and “just knock it off.” So many times people have said to me, “I’m just going to stop all of it. Right now. No more compulsions.” They mean it with all their heart. And then they walk to their car performing compulsions.

Going Cold Turkey Has Little to Do With Staying Compulsion-Free

If you want to know what it feels like to just knock it off and go cold turkey, it’s like dumping all kinds of poison in a sess pool and sitting in it. Taking your hands and putting the slop all over your face and body. Breathing it in and doing nothing to save yourself.

If you sat there long enough, believe it or not, you’d become desensitized. But, just like any kind of sobriety, the urge will return. You’ll still want to perform a compulsion. 

There’s more to being compulsion-free than just stopping.

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

Put an end to your compulsions by applying these seven principles:

  1. It’s “whatever” therapy! Talk to your OCD in a nonargumentative manner. “Yup, maybe that will happen. Time will tell.”  Don’t reassure OCD. Instead, shrug and say “This could be unpleasant. I’ll just have to find out.” It’s all about the “whatever.”  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  If you can trick your brain into thinking you’re smiling with a pen sideways in your mouth, you can trick your brain into thinking “whatever” with a shrug!
  2. Build a hierarchy. Resist the easiest compulsion first and keep resisting until it no longer bothers you to resist. Then, like climbing a ladder, resist the next hardest compulsion and the next hardest and so forth.
  3. Set your intentions to provoke OCD. Confront a trigger you’ve been avoiding. While confronting the trigger refuse to do a compulsion. Talk to OCD as described in #1. Once this trigger no longer bothers you, move onto the next more difficult trigger. 
    Apply These Principles to End Compulsions
  4. Easiest first, then hard. If you give in and perform a compulsion, go back and confront the same trigger again and again until there is no compulsive behavior. If you’re stuck, maybe there’s an easier trigger that you skipped or need to go back to.
  5. Don’t stop ’til you reach the top. Build momentum. Keep moving up the ladder of challenges. When it gets easier, ask yourself, “How can I make this harder?” Remember, climb the ladder while always refusing to do a compulsion. 
  6. Shift into challenge mode. Wishing you did not have OCD or have certain thoughts is of no use to you. Wishing causes more suffering. It’s important to see your anxiety and thoughts as a challenge–an opportunity to practice your skills. This is no time to play the role of a victim. You don’t have to like anxiety but you do have to want it.
  7. Accept responsibility. If you give into a compulsive behavior, admit what you are doing. No excuses. Own it. Name it. Keep away from the “story” of why your OCD tells you to do the compulsion. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now. I know this will make OCD stronger. I’m avoiding discomfort and that’s the only reason why I’m choosing to do this compulsion.” Get this message to your brain every single time you do a compulsion!
Resist compulsions
Creating new pathways takes time

Applying these principles will keep you compulsion-free. It’s a slow and difficult place to start, but once you pick up some momentum it gets easier and therefore, goes faster. Rather than shocking your brain, you are rewiring it. This takes time!

It takes time because you are training your brain how to experience anxiety.

I don’t tell my clients to “knock it off!”  And, I hope those who love someone with OCD don’t say it either! There’s more to beating OCD than just “knocking it off.”

Resist Compulsions by Making Little Changes Over Time

People with OCD benefit from the very effective systematic method of resisting compulsions. Set reachable goals and make little changes over a period of time. With each success, you will grow more confident and more tolerant of anxiety.

It may take time and patience, (click for video) but it’s how you win the battle. At the suggestion of resisting compulsions, do you take a big gulp and say, “I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.” My response to more anxiety? “Great! You need the practice!”

It’s time to learn how to experience anxiety without a compulsion.

You can get started today! The first step, of course, is to identify each compulsion. You’ve got to know what you’re resisting, in order to resist!

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

For a long-term effect, commit to a systematic plan to stop compulsions. Include all of the above seven principles in your plan. Going cold turkey has little to do with staying compulsion-free. 

Check back for the next post which will explain the difference between an observable compulsion and a mental compulsion. It’s important to know the difference because mental compulsions can be very sneaky!

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions

The next several posts on resisting compulsions will include:

  • What Is a Compulsion?
  • The True Purpose of a Compulsion
  • If a Compulsion Makes Me Feel Better, Why Would I Stop?
  • I Already Tried Resisting and It Didn’t Help
  • Can You Promise If I Resist It Will Help?
  • I’ve Got Way Too Much Anxiety to Resist Compulsions
  • It’s Too Risky to Stop My Compulsions, Someone Else Could Be Hurt
  • Is it Okay If I Use Distraction to Resist Compulsions?
  • Resisting Compulsions Just Doesn’t Feel Right
  • My Compulsions Are Out of Habit Not Fear
  • If I Stop One Compulsion Another One Will Just Pop Up
  • How Do I Find the Strength and Willpower to Resist Compulsions When I Don’t Have the Energy?
  • A Case Study on Someone Who Tried to Resist Compulsions
Resisting compulsions
Questions? I can help!

If you have questions about how to resist compulsions be sure to add them to the comment section on this post. In addition to the topics mentioned above, I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

6 thoughts on “Beat OCD: The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions”

  1. Great reminder to take small steps to get to the bigger goal, I think that is a huge part of accepting OCD and the work it takes to get freedom. Looking forward to the rest of the series. I find mental compulsions sometimes come so “naturally” they are easy to not even realize you are doing them!

  2. Great post, Tammy! I think resisting compulsions is a great example of: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” It’s easy to be sitting in a room in a cool, reflective state and think about how you’ll better deal with compulsions. However, once you’re in a hot, reflexive state dealing with obsessions, theory can go out the window. “What was I supposed to do here? Shrug? Was that a compulsion? Was what I just did a compulsion? If I’m suddenly feeling less anxious, did I do something wrong or right? I want the anxiety, but I’m not getting any! Did I screw up, or have I done the right thing? If I keep saying “perhaps” or “maybe,” is THAT a compulsion?” And so on and so forth down the rabbit hole you can go…

    As someone previously mentioned, mental compulsions can be so natural that you don’t realize that you’re doing them until halfway through an exposure exercise (or even just during the day when you’re not doing any sort of exposure). Even with the best intention of “stopping compulsions” you may not be able to, due to the fact that you don’t consciously realize you’re doing compulsions in the first place.

  3. How do you take small steps? I mean I am starting at a place on my hierarchy that i am working on right now but does that mean i do the other compulsions that are harder? Arent I supposed to resist all I can? Im just wondering if i am understanding how to do this.

    1. It’s hard to answer your question in a “this works for everybody” way. Some people use compulsions in just about every single move they make. Some people use compulsions only for certain very specific situations. Stay tuned for further posts in this series. You will hopefully find an answer to your question.

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