Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions

Compulsive behavior
Here, my little friend, I know the way out!

You’ve probably discovered OCD can be very convincing. What a brilliant mind OCD must have. What must it take to convince you to buy into doing compulsions? OCD has got to be very perceptive and calculating. Wouldn’t it be something if you could be just as cunning and sly as OCD? 

Well, I’ve found something that might just help. A lot of people write books about OCD but did you know OCD has written books too? They’re very hard to find and that’s why I was so excited when I stumbled upon OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions.

When I read this book I wasn’t surprised to learn that OCD doesn’t play fair and square. In fact, its entire game is one of deceit. I’m reviewing a chapter from OCD’s Playbook and it’s called, “Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions.” 

In this chapter OCD reveals five secrets about compulsions:

#1) You Get Good At What You Practice

At first performing compulsions is awkward and hard to get just right. But with practice, you get really good at them and to not do them takes you out of your comfort zone.

Compulsions Defined
I can see you!

A compulsive behavior can be invisible or observable. Most everyone is familiar with observable compulsions and there’s really no limit to what they entail.

Observable Compulsions Include:

  • Retracing, stepping or walking a certain way
  • Checking locks, appliances, switches or cords
  • Repeating certain words or phrases
  • Blinking, counting, tapping, stretching, touching or doing things in a certain sequence
  • Washing, cleaning or sanitizing
  • Avoiding people, places or things
  • Asking for someone to repeat what they said
  • Using only “safe” numbers or words
  • Arranging objects in a certain order
  • Tattling or confessing
  • Reassurance-seeking by asking the same questions or Googling the same thing over and over (click for more info and video.)

Which compulsions do you tend to perform?

 

OCD Can Be Very Convincing But Also Very Conniving

It is especially important to identify or target mental compulsions. You’ll mistakenly think you have pure “O” if you don’t. Don’t overlook mental acts. Make sure you identify mental compulsions because if you don’t how will you know what to stop doing so that you can recover? 

Mental Compulsions Include:

  • Counting or creating images and shapes in the mind
  • Scanning the body or the environment
  • Checking for intention (Was that thought deliberate? Did I mean it? Is that thought me or OCD?)
  • Mentally going over and over something in hopes of getting certainty
  • Checking for the ability to feel connected to others
  • Making promises to self throughout the day
  • Checking, “Am I feeling what I “should” be feeling?”
  • Repeatedly rewinding & replaying an event or a conversation
  • Replacing a bad thought with a good thought, or a less bad thought
  • Checking to see if the obsessions are still there or similarly, obsessing about obsessing
  • Analyzing a thought to discern real vs. “just OCD”
  • Trying to figure out why a certain thought keeps occurring
  • Repeating the same phrase or word in your mind 

Which mental compulsions do you perform?

 

What OCD Doesn’t Want You To Know About Your Compulsions:

You get good at what you practice. Practice compulsions you’ll get good at doing them. You’ll get so good they’ll come rather easily and eventually turn into a hard habit to break. If you practice feeling uncomfortable, you’ll get good at it. Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear. To get there you’ve got to go through it not around.

#2) Performing A Compulsion Is A Choice

There is no supernatural force making you do compulsions. You choose whether or not to do a compulsion. What you think about is not your choice. You can’t choose your thoughts but you can choose how to react to your thoughts.

Compulsive behavior
Nothing happens unless I say it can happen!

You choose compulsions to feel more in control.

The urge to perform a compulsion is usually prompted with relentless and persistent warnings: “If you don’t do this you’ll be sorry. Things will get out of control and bad things will happen.” It can be seductive and promising, “You’ll feel more in control, just do it this one last time.” 

Although some compulsions were started so long ago that they’ve become more of a habit than an urge, you’re still choosing to do them. When I put the cap on the toothpaste there’s not a lot of thought behind the behavior.  It’s really a habit.  But, I still have a choice whether or not to put the cap on the toothpaste.

We are always in control of the choices we make. Sometimes we’re just not being mindful enough to choose wisely.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to feel a sense of control and now you have less control than ever.

#3) Every Compulsion Is Done to Avoid Discomfort

You might proclaim that you perform compulsions to save yourself or somebody from harm. But, that’s just a story. Like any OCD story, it’s irrelevant. What it all boils down to is that you don’t want to feel uncomfortable.  

Follow any OCD story to its end and apparently, the result is catastrophic as you will either be destroyed or abandoned. 

  • If I get a cold or flu, I’ll miss out. I have to sanitize. If I miss out I’ll get behind. If I get behind I’ll fail miserably (destroyed) and end up alone (abandoned). 
  • These horrible thoughts make me feel like a bad person. I’ve got to stay away. If I act on these thoughts I’ll feel guilty and won’t be able to live with myself (destroyed) and no one will ever love me again (abandoned).
  • I don’t think I’m good enough. I’m so inadequate. I have to double triple check everything. If I make a mistake I’ll be held responsible. I could lose everything (destroyed) or be laughed at (abandoned).
Compulsions
Baaa hahaha…

In OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions, there is a cartoon of OCD basically boasting from underneath a bed, “Baaa hahaha…if you were willing to be uncomfortable there would be no need for a compulsion.”

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to avoid discomfort and now you’re more uncomfortable than ever. 

In OCD’s Playbook of Compulsions, there is another chapter called, “How to Manipulate the Reward Center of the Brain.” It goes into great detail about how OCD manages to get you addicted to compulsions. 

For now, we’ll have to save that chapter for another time. (Unless OCD finds out I have the Playbook and breaks into my house and steals it back.) But OCD also briefly mentions the “reward center” in the current chapter we are reviewing: 

Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions

#4) Performing a Compulsion Only Gives Temporary Relief

In a nut shell, the reward center in the brain reinforces the compulsive behavior by releasing a happy juice called, Dopamine.  Pleasure becomes associated with the compulsion. You become addicted to the compulsive behavior.

You become addicted because the dopamine doesn’t last long and you crave more of it. How to get it? Perform the compulsion again. C’mon, repeat it. Once more, repeat it. Last time, repeat it. The relief doesn’t last long. That’s how you get hooked.

OCD is like a drug dealer and entices you with its promises of feeling good. The idea is to get you to buy without even thinking about it. Once you’re hooked the price just keeps increasing.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started compulsions to feel good and now you’ve never felt worse.

#5) The More Compulsions You Perform, the Less Confident You’ll Be

Compulsions are performed to gain a sense of certainty. Except OCD is a fraud and can’t give you certainty. Nobody on this earth has certainty.

Did I turn off the faucet? If you check you won’t feel very confident the next time you use the faucet. When you check you give your brain the message that you can’t be trusted.

Compulsive behavior
My memory is horrible!

If you take a picture of the iron unplugged and bring it to work with you the picture tells you that you left the house with the iron unplugged. Unless of course OCD messes with you and makes you doubt what day you took the picture. 

You’ll need to take a picture every time you use the iron because you’re giving your brain the message you can’t be trusted. In fact, you’ll start to doubt whether you turned other appliances off and take pictures of them too. Soon you’ll be dragging photo albums to work.

What OCD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Compulsions:

You started the compulsion to get rid of doubt and now you have more doubt than ever. 

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Everything you think a compulsion will do for you–expect the opposite to occur. If you are willing to experience uncertainty and doubt (discomfort) there is no need for a compulsion. There is no need to avoid.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions
“The Cold Ugly Hard Truth About 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. I’ll be sure to address your questions and give you…

The Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions

7 thoughts on “Five Little Known Secrets About Compulsions”

  1. (#2) Yes, so many compulsions start as habits. I never thought of it that way. Whereas, putting the cap on the toothpaste- you don’t really think about, checking the lock is a physical and mental and emotional decision. It may feel good for the moment, but 30 seconds later-here comes OCD!
    Great post! Looking forward to “the cold hard ugly truth.”
    Thank you, Tammy!

  2. When you said, OCD is a fraud and never gives us certainty, something clicked for me. A lightbulb moment for me. Also, I like the style of the post, the Playbook reminded me of Barney Stinson’s Playbook on the TV show “How I Met Your Mother” 🙂

  3. Something that’s happening a lot recently involves “obsessing about obsessing.” Although in my case it’s been obsessing about if something is an obsession, a compulsion, or neither. First I’ve found myself trying to figure out if something is an obsession or not: This is pretty easy for me, even when I know I shouldn’t be obsessing over obsessions: “What you think about is not your choice. You can’t choose your thoughts but you can choose how to react to your thoughts.” A reaction can be a compulsion. Lately, however, I’ve been CHECKING to see if something is a compulsion! It makes me feel like Charlie Brown in Peanuts: “Auuuuuughhh!”

    The other night I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep while listening to something. I’ve done this plenty of times, but was having trouble on this occasion. I kept on having wandering thoughts, and I kept saying to myself “No, focus on what you’re listening to.” The more I tried to focus on what I was listening to, the more and more thoughts I got and the more I tossed and turned. Eventually, I just said (internally) “I give up. I’m not fighting my thoughts.” My mind calmed down and I fell asleep. It’s funny how the mind can work.

    1. Oh yes, that’s so true, people start checking to see if what they’re doing is a compulsion. This question can sometimes help: “Would anyone else be checking for this?” Glad to hear you gave up fighting your thoughts!

  4. Kind of an update if you will, after reading this post and realizing that i do mental compulsions: I started looking for mental compulsions and found i keep re-reading sent email to make sure i didnt offend someone, or provide incorrect technical steps to solve their problems (work-related). now i’m conscious of it, and trying to expose myself to the uncertainty by not re-reading sent mail. didnt even know i was doing it before this blog posting!

    1. Great job resisting the response OCD wants you to take! Why not get it over with and send an email that might offend! Sometimes you just have to do the thing you fear. The guiding principle, of course, is to do no harm. Feel free to offend me!

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