Category Archives: Mindfulness

What’s the Purpose of Exposure & Response Prevention?

The most widely used treatment for OCD is Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP.)

ERP is very effective when done right. The reason it works is because it updates the brain. In the past I’ve used other words to explain the effects of ERP. I’ve said “ERP is like getting a front-end alignment” and “ERP works because it re-calibrates the brain.”

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I recently received this tweet: “Recalibration is such a robotic word. Why do you think we apply inhuman words to ourselves?” While I don’t think we are robots, we sure can act like robots.

Studies suggest that 90% of what we do, we’re not even clear why we’re doing it. We have free will but without mindfulness we do only what the brain does by default:

1. Watch for danger and
2. Conserve energy.

If you don’t take your brain off automatic pilot your brain focuses on one thing: survival. Every single unwanted intrusive thought is about somebody’s safety. Every single mental act or compulsion is about reducing threat.

It’s all about safety and survival. Every time you resist a ritual or compulsion, you’re recalibrating or making tiny adjustments in the brain. Every time you expose yourself to a “threat” you are updating your brain.

Every tiny adjustment leads to an eventual rewiring of the brain. It takes time. Be patient. Engage in ERP and your brain will heal.

But, I digress and haven’t answered the question. Isn’t it inhumane to use a robotic word like “recalibrate” to reference humans? This never occurred to me and it would never be my intention to be inhumane.

I don’t think of OCD as a psychological problem as much as a neurological problem. How one reacts to OCD is psychological but the problem itself is faulty wiring within the brain. So that’s why I use mechanical terms I guess.

But, now that I know it can be hurtful I will certainly be more mindful of my choice of words. It just felt good to have one word that captured the science behind neuroplasticity (the brain’s capacity to change.)

If you’re keeping a journal answer these three questions:

What could you discover by confronting OCD and conducting exposure exercises?
How might you get stuck if you don’t engage in ERP?
How can you make it real and take action today?