Category Archives: OCD Strategies

What Most People Don’t Know About FFF

What is the Fight-Flight-Freeze (FFF) Response?

amygdalaFFF is an automatic response that prepares a human to fight, run or hide from a perceived attack, harm or threat to survival. The amygdala yells “danger,” and the body goes into survival mode.

Fight or Retreat

In the face of supposed danger, the body responds faster than the rational mind can react. Before your intellect can kick in, fascinating instantaneous changes take place in the body to prepare to fight or retreat such as: 

  • Muscles are prepared to fight or run. Blood is diverted from toes and fingers to core muscles in the arms, shoulders, and legs.
  • The skin acts like an air conditioner. Sweating occurs to prevent the body from overheating and getting sluggish. 
  • Adrenalin is released and the pancreas secretes sugar to give the body a jolt of energy. 
  • You need to be light on your feet, so there is a relaxation of abdominal muscles. The digestive and urinary system might need to empty, to ensure the body can be light and fast. 
  • Pupils dilate which shrinks peripheral vision and allows for straight-ahead vision to keep the focus in front.
  • The breath becomes quick and shallow to increase airflow and bring oxygen to the muscles and lungs.

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WHAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW

Freeze

There is more to the FFF Response than preparing the body to fight or run. When there is a perceived threat, the body might not FIGHT or FLEE but instead FREEZE. Perhaps the body comes to a literal halt, but another way of looking at this is the freezing of emotions. When a threat is perceived sometimes the response is to numb the anxiety.

Freezing is especially true in OCD. The purpose of performing compulsions, including mental acts is to numb anxiety. You might argue compulsions help stop thoughts, but we know that’s OCD talking. Compulsions provide temporary relief and numb the anxiety for a short time. But did you know you can’t isolate one emotion to anesthetize? When you numb anxiety you numb all feelings. 

Rusty at Being Human

Numbing becomes deadening to all emotions. You become flat and muted—perhaps depressed. Indifference sets in and you feel stripped of joy or pleasure. Motivation is practically nonexistent. When you spend time with friends and family, you feel detached. It feels like you are on the outside of life rather than “in” it. You become rusty at being human.

Numbing has helped you to survive awful thoughts and feelings, but it is after all, another word for avoidance. Numbing puts a wall between you and the life you want. Stop numbing, and yes, you’ll experience anxiety, but you’ll also feel other emotions like happiness and connectedness.

The Body Responds Faster Than the Rational Mind Can React

When triggered by an obsession, a client with OCD reports: “I’m having trouble breathing” or, “my heart is racing” or “I feel like running.” These are all signs that the body is responding to a perceived threat. 

If the client can ride it out, and do nothing to get rid of the anxiety the jolt of adrenalin will dissipate, and the rational mind will win. The brain will make a connection: Just because my body prepares for a threat doesn’t mean the danger is real. When the body goes into the fight-flight-freeze response, it doesn’t say there was actual evidence of risk. The body responds faster than the rational mind can react.

OCD is a fantastic storyteller. If it used facts to tell stories, you wouldn’t pay any attention. You’d be bored. So OCD does whatever it can to captivate you and set off adrenalin. It makes you feel fear and doubt not because it’s out to get you. OCD wants to save you from ruining whatever is precious and sacred to you.

The problem is you don’t need saving. It’s not the rational mind deciphering what needs saving. OCD can’t tell what is dangerous, so it takes a hard “just in case” stance. 

Summary
  1. The Fight-Flight-Freeze Response automatically kicks in when there is a perceived threat.
  2. The body responds to a perceived threat before the rational mind can react.
  3. Using avoidance or compulsions to numb anxiety suppresses good feelings too.
  4. OCD is nothing more than a talented storyteller that has no clue about what is or isn’t a true threat. OCD wants your body to live in a “just in case” fight-flight-freeze mode.
Ride the Wave

Notice your anxiety as a physiological response to a perceived threat. Get curious and determine whether your body is preparing to fight, flee or freeze. Is blood diverting from your fingers to your core muscles? Are you sweating? Do you feel like going to the bathroom. Are you feeling nothing? Did you numb?

Thank your body for being so fascinating. 

Keep it real. Just because your body goes into FFF it’s not evidence of true danger. Anxiety doesn’t mean something is actually wrong.

OCD prefers you to adopt a “just in case” way of life. So it’s going to use storytelling to get you to do it. Your best bet is to agree with OCD, “Maybe that’s true. Maybe it isn’t. I’m willing to find out.” Resist trying to figure out if the threat is real.

Use your script:

“I notice I’m feeling ____________. I’m worried that:__________. Yes, it is possible that my fear will come true. I would not want this to happen but I can’t control what happens. I need to be in charge (not OCD) so I’m going to accept the risk that [this thing will or has happened]. I’m not going to check or use some magical wand (compulsion) to make sure all is well. I will never know if I do or don’t control outcome. I have to live with this uncertainty.”

Remind yourself to ride it out until the adrenalin fades. Don’t engage in compulsions and you’ll arrive in a non-aroused state quicker.

Maintain a growth-mindset. Never put yourself down as you practice these steps. You’re on this earth to learn. You’re not here to be perfect. Perfection can only be faked. Practice makes…progress.

Remember the Goal of Resisting Compulsions:
  1. Develop the ability to tolerate “hard” feelings like anxiety.
  2. Discover you’re stronger than you thought.
  3. Surrender to the fact you cannot control what happens.
  4. Accept uncertainty as a way of life.
  5. Let your guard down and allow feelings of vulnerability.

Why OCD Visits You In Your Sleep

It’s hard enough to have OCD during waking hours, but why does OCD infiltrate dreams too? Are you performing rituals even in your sleep? Do you obsess in the form of a nightmare? 

While you might feel alarmed about OCD visiting you during sleep, I’m here to tell you it’s a good sign. Your mind is looking out for you by using dreams to get your attention. 

Dreaming about OCD is signaling you to step up more than you have been. Perhaps there is a compulsion you need to resist or someone in your life you need to stand up to. The purpose of dreaming about OCD is to get you to stop doing what you’re doing and take a different action. You’re not listening while awake so now the message is being delivered at a subconscious level. 

Whatever you are avoiding, it must be having a negative impact on the quality of your life. So your dreams are here to help.

Stop Procrastinating

If you’re dreaming about OCD, ask yourself what you need to change. Your dreams about OCD means it’s time to take charge of a situation that has become serious. Consider the strong possibility that you need to stop procrastinating and confront an uncomfortable circumstance.

Take Better Care of Yourself

Has feeding OCD reached critical mass? Be honest, have you become severely impaired because of compulsive behavior? Is there a compulsion (including avoidance) that is detrimental to your health or making you unsafe? You might be dreaming about OCD because, at a deeper level, your mind is warning you. Your dreams might be saying the way you are feeding OCD is unhealthy if not dangerous.

Be Assertive

Sometimes when you dream about OCD it’s your mind’s way of saying you need to be more assertive. Clearly, with a diagnosis of OCD, you are constantly reminded that only one of you can be the boss. So when you start having dreams about OCD it might be your mind’s way of reminding you about the importance of being enduring not wary, decisive not hesitant, daring not fearful, and authoritative not bullied. 

Take Charge

Your dreams might be saying this is no time to be timid. Do you need to take charge of OCD or some other circumstance in your life? Perhaps there is a person who is taking advantage of you and needs to be confronted. Maybe there is a daunting task you keep putting off and it’s weighing on you heavily. Your unsettling dreams are telling you time is running out…take action…resolve this.

If you are performing compulsions it’s detrimental to your well-being. If you are avoiding conflict or necessary tasks, this will increase your level of stress and keep you from fulfilling your “dreams”–the ones that matter.

Don’t be surprised if the dreams about OCD persist. Never estimate the power of your brain and its ability to signal you to take action.

I’m Falling in the big unknown

“I’m just trying to hold on. I’m falling in the dark below. I feel I’m falling in the big unknown.

I will rise. I will rise. I will rise again.”          

 ~Songwriters Ben Travers/ Helen Adu

I heard this song sung by Sade and immediately thought of OCD. I know it’s how it feels to have OCD. When you think you’ve figured out how to beat OCD, you find yourself falling back into the big unknown. It feels permanent. Every single time the threat feels like the real deal. But lo and behold, you rise again. Life feels like a Yo-Yo: downward—upward—downward—upward.

By changing just a few words of this lyric the remedy to living well with OCD is revealed:

“I’m just trying to let go. I’m jumping into the dark below. I feel I’m welcoming the big unknown.”

Living well with OCD means letting go and surrendering to not knowing. So rather than falling into the unknown, it’s better to jump right in. Any of these words will do: Leap, bound, hop, skip, jump, seize, grab on to…

Having a bug phobia, when I see a suitcase in the closet I immediately fear there are bugs in the suitcase from a recent trip. In the past, I would have thrown it into the garbage. But I’ve progressed and even though I’m anxious, and have thoughts of infestation, I grab the suitcase, embrace it, and say “come and get me. Whatever happens, happens.” I jump into the unknown.

A bee trap is successful because the bees fly into the plastic bottle for the honey, but then won’t fly back out because there is black tape wrapped around the outside of the bottle near the exit. Bees don’t like the dark. If only they’d agree to be uncomfortable and fly through the darkness they’d be free. But they won’t do it.

What do you wish you knew for sure? What is it that you’re trying to get to the bottom of? It’s at the center of your obsession. You won’t stop until you gain certainty. But certainty is unachievable. It’s like flying into a bee trap to find answers. You’ll do anything to get rid of the doubt. But now that you’ve been tricked and you’re in the trap how will you get out? You’re going to have to go into the big unknown. Will you do it? Or will you stay in the trap trying, and trying, and trying to answer the unanswerable?

The fact that you have OCD means there is going to be something you will never know for sure. You can gain clarity, but at some point, a question will surface that has the potential to pull you into the trap. 

How to Stay Out of the Trap?

I don’t know for sure. 

That statement might not be what you wanted to hear but it is the truth. There are many books about OCD and specialists who can tell you what to do to live well with OCD.

But all of those ideas can end up being a trap. 

When you apply a therapy principle and get relief, you’re going to expect that principle to save you every time. And when it doesn’t, it causes you to spin. You begin to compare and contrast, “What did I do then that I’m not doing now?” You analyze why the thoughts are back. You are utterly surprised the thought patterns are there. And suddenly you’re in the trap.

When you get a thought that disturbs you say, “good, there’s my thought. I want this.” Better yet, spend a lot of time trying to get disturbed on purpose. Create as much doubt as you can and tolerate it. Look for things, places, or people that trigger your thoughts and make you uncomfortable. 

Be willing to be uncomfortable and JUMP into the unknown! Jump! JUMP! JUMP!

But Ask Yourself This Question:

WHY ARE YOU JUMPING?

Why are you agreeing to jump into the unknown?

The reason you are jumping into the unknown cannot be, “So that I get relief.” This lacks commitment and your efforts will be half-hearted and superficial. The reason you are jumping must be, “because I’d rather live in doubt than try to figure stuff out.”

Do not try to control how you feel or think. You can’t heal what you won’t feel. Say, “I notice I’m feeling anxious. Good. I need the practice.” 

There are no guarantees that you’re doing the right thing by surrendering to the unknown. There is no such thing as knowing anything for certain. No decision guarantees a specific outcome. No action guarantees a particular result.

You have to be willing to find out what happens and deal with whatever happens. “I’d rather live with uncertainty than waste time trying to answer the unanswerable.”

Who do you want to be and how do you want to spend your time?

If you’re not answering this question when you wake up and throughout the day, you’re drifting aimlessly with no sense of purpose or self. You must commit to spending your time being the person you want to be, no matter what you are thinking or how you are feeling. Don’t drift. Jump. And don’t plug your nose when you do it!

A Special Gift For You

I use a lot of catch phrases with my clients so they can stay focused on the mission. If you would like access to some of these phrases, just click BELOW and you’ll be able to print out these free posters.

If you like these posters then you might also like my book, Gratitude, the Great OCD Sanitizer.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://blog.bossitback.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/inspirational-posters.pdf” title=”inspirational posters”]

Loving Someone with OCD

This is an open letter to those of you who are loving someone with OCD. 

I can’t imagine how frightened you were when your loved one was first hijacked by OCD. Everything was suddenly turned upside down. I’m sure you were terrified that things would never be the same.

160_F_66646545_CoogltlEzKSU9l92TxSz6qqIQibQt3Tw

In the beginning, you tried to do whatever made your loved one less anxious. It hurt so much to see your child or family member in such agony. So you tried to end the horror as best you could.

Enabling and Reassuring Doesn’t Work

160_F_87314604_cXY7LMNX2XytR4PZrfpMnu823xukjMrCYou offered constant reassurance and tried over and over to use common sense and logic to get rid of your loved one’s fear and worry. But that part of the brain didn’t seem to be functioning properly. (There’s no logic in OCD!) So you ended up talking and talking until you were blue in the face.

You complied and met every OCD demand because it just seemed easier. You even joined in on some of the rituals like saying “I love you” five times or washing your hands when they weren’t even dirty.

160_F_76900683_xLdS4hkfytRXqf2KOLFEtKVyObB0sn7gYou kept the environment free of triggers and censored people’s words to keep them from triggering your child or family member. People stopped visiting because they didn’t want to make the situation worse.

You lost a lot of sleep and resorted to lecturing and giving the cold shoulder. You lost your cool many times. You thought, “This is so ridiculous. Just stop it!” 

I hope you know that you were coming from a place of love, not doubt, when you cried. And a place of fear, not hate, when you yelled or walked away in frustration. 

Your loved one has a problem with self-compassion. I don’t have to meet you to know you have the same problem. Maybe you weren’t always resourceful but you were always doing your best. Always.

In desperation or out of convenience, you kept enabling and reassuring. But, the relief was only temporary. OCD seemed to just get bigger and bigger. It robbed all of you of everyday pleasures and new experiences. The world got smaller with every passing day.160_F_101490863_zrPBrMmSdlxiWuDh94SwpgK0sRPut9ci

You thought all the reassurance would help ease the anxiety but it actually made it worse. The demands were getting more intense and frequent. Accommodating wasn’t helping anything other than providing one very brief moment of relief.

And then your prayers were answered. You found out that giving in was actually feeding OCD. 

Gradually Stop Accommodating

You knew that if you stopped feeding OCD your loved one would protest. Things were going to get worse before they got better. You worried: What if we’re biting off more than we can chew? 

160_F_111735791_JTouzhQEZie5tshllaRTtlFzFqSq38mDBut, you believed that in order to get a better outcome, the approach needed to change.

You stopped giving in and your loved one cried, “Don’t you love me? Why aren’t you helping me?” Talk about being stabbed in the heart—ouch.

You got tougher and your loved one accused you of not understanding, “You just don’t get it! I’m all alone now.” Ouch, that hurt too.

You stopped enabling but your loved one put you to the test, and said, “Fine, “I’ll go without.” Oh no! So afraid. What if things get worse now?

Support Your Loved One, Not OCD

You validated your loved one’s feelings, “I know this is hard. I can tell this is causing you a lot of pain.” Validate. Acknowledge. But, don’t take away the pain. Soften into the pain. It’s hard to be anxious when you want to be anxious.

160_F_88892850_k54dF5pbMxv6ZBXVl1U40GHXPK8Hh43HYou also showed how much faith you had in your loved one’s ability to overcome, “You’re stronger than you think. I know that you can do this. It’s hard, I know. You’ve done hard before. You’re not alone. I’m going to help you boss it back. I’m not going to feed OCD anymore, but I will help you defeat it.”

As time passed you remained patient. You stayed the course and your loved one began to understand there would be no more avoidance. Your message was loud and clear: THE FEAR HAD TO BE CONFRONTED.

Your loved one had no other way out—but in. No more avoiding.

  • OCD said, “Leave.” Nope, everybody stayed.
  • OCD said, “Don’t go.” Everybody left.
  • OCD said, “Avoid.” Everybody leaned in.
  • OCD asked, “What if?” Everybody shrugged and said, “Whatever.”
  • Your loved one sought reassurance, “Could this happen?” You put it back on them, “I don’t know.”
  • “Will it be okay?” You shrugged, “We’ll deal with it. Whatever happens, happens.”
  • OCD warned, “You’re getting too anxious. You can’t handle it. Do something.” You all said, “Good. We want that anxiety. We need to practice handling it.”

It wasn’t easy to Boss it Back. But feeding OCD wasn’t easy either. It was scary bossing it back, but feeding it was scary too. Both seemed like poison.

Boss it Back or Feed It
Boss it Back or Feed It

You picked the right poison. Which ended up being the antidote—the healing potion.

The catastrophes have ended. Life has returned. No more tiptoeing. Your loved one still has weird thoughts. But, they’re fewer and fewer.

There are still triggers but nothing a good shrug or “yup” can’t fix.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Honestly, I’m really happy today because I’ve learned that a number of kids, near and dear to me, have returned to school this week with nothing more than a tiny little hiccup. (I’m thankful for the hiccups because they will only build more skills and cause more mastery.)

What About Those Who Are Still Being Accommodated?

I’m thinking now of those who haven’t been set free. Family members who continue to accommodate and reassure. There’s not a lot of bossing it back going on but, there’s a lot of tension. It feels like a hostage situation, I know. 

Perhaps you have OCD and are reading this, realizing the ways YOU are being accommodated and enabled. Whether you’re requiring your family to accommodate you, or just passively allowing it—how’s it working out? Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Go get it!

If you are a family member who is enabling, write down all the ways you are doing this—feeding OCD. Rate each one in terms of which ones you think would have the least impact on your loved one’s life if you stopped doing it.

160_F_85393917_Ld7cw3wo904aefXzfIgDbj04rNRYBVjMDiscuss the list and your ratings with your loved one. Then ask him or her to rate the same list and to “feel free to add to the list” any missed accommodations. Compare the two lists and acknowledge all the difficulties your loved one faces.

The next step shouldn’t be done unless you’re prepared to follow through. I recommend you do this with the help of a therapist who specializes in OCD. An OCD therapist will tell you that accommodation has been tied to poor treatment outcomes. A nonOCD specialist is likely to get caught in the trap of reassuring your loved one a lot.

You can also find expert help and guidance in several books. There are numerous books to guide you through the process too. 

Loving Someone With OCD

There are some people with OCD who will threaten harm to self or others if they are not enabled. Do not be held hostage with this threat. If your loved one makes such a threat or goes on a hunger strike, take your loved one to the emergency room or call 911 immediately. Don’t mess around! 

But, in many cases, your loved one will (begrudgingly) go along with this plan. They don’t want to live like this either! A 25-year-old feeding OCD for almost 10 years now, was asked by someone else’s parent, “What do you wish your parents had done differently?” He answered, “Not accommodate me.” WOW!!! High Five!

Explain Why Things Have to Change

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Explain to your loved one the current method of accommodating isn’t working. “There’s only temporary relief and that’s not good enough! At this rate, we’re all just hamsters in a wheel.” Try to gain permission to stop the enabling. It can be done gradually by withdrawing some of the easier accommodations.

If you don’t get permission to stop, that’s okay. Your loved one will probably be overwhelmed by this conversation but in their heart, they know it’s what’s best.

You’ll be tested. Mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. Explain if they don’t want to participate in the planning you’ll be picking the accommodations that will be stopping yourself. Look at the calendar with your loved one and write down the day you are going to stop each accommodation.

An Example of An Accommodation

Let’s use the example of contamination fears. Are you opening doors for your loved one so that s/he can avoid germs? This is an example of YOU feeding OCD. It’s one thing if your loved one, unfortunately, chooses to feed OCD, but why are you? Your loved one might still feed OCD by using a Kleenex to open the door but at least you’re no longer reinforcing the fear! 

What If You’re the One with OCD?

If you’re the one with OCD being accommodated, do yourself a favor! Get your life back by telling people who love you to stop enabling you! With calendar in hand, sit down with your enablers and say, “This is the day you’re going to stop this accommodation. I’ll need your encouragement but please stop feeding my OCD.”

Accommodating someone with OCD and offering plenty of reassurance is usually the mistake everybody makes in the beginning. If you conduct a cost/benefit analysis on accommodating you’ll discover the costs outweigh the benefits.

Hopefully, you’ll continue to get more informed about how enabling someone with OCD is actually…disabling. Just start with gradual changes and you’ll make good progress.

Bonus: If you want a Quick Guide for 6 kind and gentle ways to stop accommodating your child, Click HERE. It’s great for the fridge! Once you click, just check your email.

By the way, the Quick Guide? It’s good advice for adults with OCD too. ac41290798310afdf52eccaaf1ba73af

As always, your comments are welcome and really make my day. But, in addition to commenting, if you know someone who’s coping with OCD share this post with them!

Nobody’s healed until everybody’s healed!

Rock Out This Summer!

Do you bounce back-n-forth between feeling either wired or tired? Many people with OCD find it very difficult to have a “moderate” or “ordinary” energy level.  It’s quite unsettling because it seems like there is rarely a happy medium; energy is either blocked or excessive.  

When you’re feeling wired, you tend to burn off your excess energy with unfounded fears. You can literally feel your brain buzzing. If your energy is blocked you’re here, but not here. Some of you describe it as feeling empty, foggy or “out to lunch.”

Wired or tired; you’re ungrounded. It’s the perfect opportunity for OCD to chatter away because when you’re ungrounded, there’s an imbalance of power. OCD knows you’ve only got “one foot on the ground,” and that’s not a stable position.

When you’re ungrounded, you lose control of your focus and become hyper-fixated on nonessentials. OCD wreaks havoc on your sense of reality. You begin to imagine all kinds of things. Everything OCD says seems real. Which leads to compulsive behaviors and useless in-depth analysis.

However, when you’re grounded your energy feels balanced, and you think logically and look upon each day with clarity.

grounding activity

How can you get grounded?

Many people exercise to release excess energy. Exercising provides a grounding effect, especially if you exercise outdoors.

However, exercising isn’t an option for everyone due to physical limitations, time constraints or it’s just not enjoyable.

How can you get grounded if exercise isn’t an option?

The disconnection from the earth is an often overlooked contribution to the imbalance of power—too much anxiety or too much depression.

Connecting the Body to the Earth

Many of you know I highly recommend hugging trees or laying down on the grass or digging into a garden to get grounded. Think of it this way: Direct contact with anything from the ground provides you with “electrical” nutrition. You can find plenty of research about this in the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever. Numerous studies are showing that grounding can reduce inflammation, which has been tied to symptoms of OCD.

So…this leads me to rock out this summer!

My latest fascination with grounding techniques involves rocks! Can you believe it! Even rocks provide electrical nutrition!

Rock Out This Summer With These Activities!

Collecting Stones

Even hunting for rocks is nutritional! You will feel balanced and grounded simply looking for rocks–much like walking on the beach looking for shells. Read what one person wrote about his love for rocks:

They are pure magic!

I love when you pick up a boring grey stone and then it sparkles in the sunlight. I love the amazing patterns. I love the geometry of crystals.

I love that crystals can make a radio work. I love that rocks and stones are millions of years old in a world of 2-minute attention spans. I love all the colors.

I love that a stone will look different when it gets wet. I have even been known to lick a stone to see that, but I prefer dribbling some water from my H2O bottle on it.

I love that the Ancient Greeks were able to carve stone and make it look like sheer fabric.

I love the feel of a smooth river stone in your hand.

I love that they hold clues to other worlds. Images of dinosaurs and coral, plants and insects made millions of years before the invention of cameras and Flickr. And I love that some of them have traveled all the way from Mars and beyond, despite the fact that they can’t move on their own.

I love that some can be melted to make glass and that some can, counter-intuitively, float.

I love skipping stones on glass-like water.

I love that people build houses from them that last thousands of years.

I love that I can cross a creek without getting my feet wet by stepping from rock to rock and finding the “best” way across.

I love that I can turn a rock over with my kids and discover a bunch of hidden animals. Salamanders, millipedes, worms, beetles, ants.

I love that all children love to collect pretty rocks and line them up on the porch railing.

I’m pretty sure this person doesn’t have contamination fears! Might as well do an exposure exercise while you’re grounding!

Stone Stacking

I came upon a Rock Cairn one day in my travels, and it piqued my curiosity. I Googled rock stacking and soon discovered it’s used for directional purposes AND a brilliant grounding activity.  

Initially, you might lack confidence. “I don’t think I can find a way to make them balance.” Build it anyway. It’s very rare that people feel confident about trying something new. Confidence is something that is developed AFTER trying something new.

This picture of a rock cairn was sent to me by a client who was on a hike. The top stone is a “beak” or a “duckie” and it’s pointing the direction of the path.grounding activity

Stone Painting

I first became fascinated when I learned of a Facebook Group called Grand Rapid Rocks. They paint stones and then leave them in public places for people to find. What a great idea! It’s a beautiful way to practice random acts of kindness. And, it’s also a fantastic grounding technique.

I’m not crafty at all but, I decided to try painting a stone. I found lots of ideas on Pinterest and selected a bee as my first attempt. (I saved the pin if you want to see the directions.) 

Considering my bug phobia, I thought painting an insect was a kooky choice. I was ill-equipped with only one too-large paintbrush. So at first, I was self-critical of my crooked lines but then I reminded myself it doesn’t matter! Who cares!

Then I let my inner child out and had some fun. 

focus activity

I hope you ROCK OUT this summer!

Connect with the earth and get nourished!

The more grounded you are the more power you have to beat OCD.

p.s. If you have children, rock painting is an excellent grounding activity for the whole family.  Just google Stone Activities for the Backyard.

How to Deal With OCD in 5 Seconds or Less

Here’s the problem with all the cool stuff you know about beating OCD. You can’t always remember the cool stuff. At least, not in the heat of the moment. When your anxiety is at a 6 or 7 (out of 7), you’re not going to remember much of anything that helps. You need something that doesn’t require a lot of thought. Something that takes less than 5 seconds.

It’s not your fault that you forget to use your tools! The reason you need a strategy that doesn’t take a lot of thought or mindfulness is that your Four Lobes (in your brain) are offline. When the Four Lobes are offline, the reptilian part of your brain takes over. Fight-Flight-Freeze. Danger-Danger-Danger. Fight-Flight-Freeze.

Your Four Lobes are there to help you. When the Four Lobes are online your brain is a lean, mean, fighting machine. The ability to be rational and logical is essential in beating OCD. But if your Four Lobes are offline, it’s impossible to think or feel like a reasonable person. Good news! You can get your Four Lobes online in less than 5 seconds.

The Four Lobes are Driven to Help You Adapt to Anything

Beating OCD

The Four Lobes remind you: If it’s not happening NOW…it’s NOT happening. Live in the moment and cross each bridge if you get there.

When the Four Lobes get deactivated, the ability to reason is lost. You need something that gets your Four Lobes back online. Something that doesn’t take a lot of thought and works in 5 seconds or less. Otherwise, you’ll spend days in your Threat-Alarm System.

The Threat-Alarm System is your Fear Center (a.k.a. Limbic System) and it is Driven to Alarm You!Beating OCD
Guess what triggers the Threat-Alarm System?

If you answered, “a worry” or “an unwanted, intrusive thought,” you’re WRONG!

OCD certainly spins a tangled web, but the tale itself isn’t what initially triggered the threat-alarm. At some level you know thoughts aren’t true, and feelings aren’t facts. But, something influences you, and suddenly you forget all of this. What influenced you? If you answered, “my thoughts,” you’re WRONG. 

Everybody gets weird, intrusive thoughts. Some people shrug them off. Some people don’t. Why? If it’s not the thought that triggers the fear. What else could it be? 

Plenty of people can touch doorknobs and eat food that fell on the floor. Almost 60% of people don’t even wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Why do some people care and others don’t?

The more you care about your unwanted, intrusive thoughts the more your Four Lobes will fail to function. The size, activity level and the number of neural connections will only increase in the fear center of your brain.

What makes people live in their Fear Center and others in their Four Lobes? We could certainly propose that anxious people were born with an overactive Fear Center. It would explain why you’re more likely to feel threatened and subsequently lash out, avoid or freeze-up. 

Maybe you weren’t born this way, and it has more to do with experiences early in life. Don’t worry. We’re not going to excavate or dig up those early life experiences. That certainly wouldn’t take 5 seconds! 

It’s probably a combination of nature and nurture that causes you to live in your Fear Center. But, what triggers your alarm system? Do your thoughts trigger your Fear Center or could it be something else?

Guess What Triggers Your Threat-Alarm System?

Your thoughts don’t trigger the alarm system. The trigger comes from sensory input. Something you saw, smelled, tasted, touched, or heard triggered your threat-alarm system. Anything you perceive requires sensory input.

Something you saw, smelled, tasted, touched, or heard is associated with a memory of an early learning experience. You probably don’t even remember what that experience was. It could have happened in real life or on TV. 

You think you’re afraid of something bad happening but oh….what tangled webs OCD weaves. The way it spins tales should earn it an Academy Award. OCD can make a story so believable that you think there’s fire where there’s only smoke.

The story is irrelevant. The sensory input is relevant. Stay away from the tale OCD is spinning. Do this instead:

  1. RECOGNIZE you were triggered by sensory input.
  2. Go into RELAXED BODY.

This will not take more than 5 seconds. Try it now. Set your stove or stopwatch to 10 seconds. Say, “Sensory input triggered me. Relax body.” Right now that might have taken you about 6 or 7 seconds to say, and you probably didn’t <YET> get into “relaxed body.” It’s okay with a little bit of practice look what you will learn to do in 5 seconds or less:

  1. You’ll notice the OCD tale,
  2. Attribute your anxiety to sensory input (not your thoughts or the OCD tale.)
  3. And get into the relaxed body

All in 5 seconds or less.

What Does “Relaxed Body” Mean?

Right now scan your neck and shoulders. Are they tight, tense, or stiff? Maybe you even have pain that travels down into your arm. Can you feel the knots and hard spots around your shoulders?

Your neck and shoulders have 12 bones. Your neck and shoulders are tight and tense when you’re not letting those 12 bones govern. You’re asking your muscles to do the work, and they can’t do it!

Your neck connects your body to your head. Imagine the responsibility! Your muscles can’t handle this job. They’re telling you this! Deuteronomy 31:27 “For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are.” Your muscles are rebelling! They don’t want the job! Let your bones do all the work.

OCD will spin tales until your neck and shoulder relax. As long as your muscles are tight, the Limbic system will stay online. Tight muscles signal danger. How can the Limbic system go offline when there is perceived danger. And the threat is first perceived by sensory input-not thought. 

We don’t have to figure out the specific sensory input. Just know it as a fact. Stay away from the OCD tale. Stick to the sensory input. Now ease into “relaxed body.”

This is not the same as relaxation therapy. We don’t have time for that or meditation. We only have less than 5 seconds. And we need to be able to do it on the go…we can’t go into a dimly lit room and take a break. This is done in real time.

How to Get Into “Relaxed Body”
  1. Let your bones do the work. When you turn over all responsibility to your bones, it will feel like you’re floating. Do this all day long! It’s not “set it and forget it.” Keep doing it whenever it occurs to you. It only takes 5 seconds! Or;
  2. Visualize that you are warming your hands over a fire or holding a warm beverage. Don’t close your eyes to do this. On the go just picture it in your mind. Or;
  3. Try to see what’s in your peripheral vision without moving your eyes from side to side. Or;
  4. Touch thumb to the index finger and say “sa”; thumb to the middle finger and say “ta”; thumb to ring finger and say “naa”; and thumb to pinky finger and say, “maa.” Or;
  5. Take deep breaths from the belly, not the chest. Inhale to the count of 4 and exhale to the count of 1. Your breath is portable; it goes wherever you go and this exercise can be done in real time.
Beating OCD Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

These techniques counteract the stress response which will immediately put your Four Lobes online. Choose what works for you as long as it’s something you can do on the go. You don’t need something you have to do behind a closed door. Do it on the move. And it needs to be something you can do in 5 seconds that doesn’t take a lot of thought.

Not Buying That Something So Simple Can Work?

Despite my efforts to explain that anxiety is a helpful messenger telling you to change course, and reminding you to keep your Code of Honor, there are still many who see anxiety as an evil perpetrator. I can spend a whole day with clients and not once do they mention their Code of Honor. Instead, they want to talk about the tale OCD is spinning–which is so irrelevant!

So those of you who continue to see OCD as a perpetrator, “how long do you want this perpetrator in your brain and body?” When you spend your time listening to the tales being spun, how does that work out? Why keep doing something that doesn’t work? Every time you break your Code of Honor you will experience anxiety or depression.

Try this instead: Attribute your anxiety to sensory input not story. Whenever you are anxious or notice tension in your neck, shoulders (or stomach) get into “relaxed body” and see what happens to your perpetrator.  Focus on your Code of Honor. It’s much more meaningful than the OCD tale.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Dem Bones, Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again

Exposure & Response Prevention (ERP) Is Not Enough

Beat OCDI’m a big believer in ERP. But why stop there? Did you know you can beat OCD with your bones! I know, I know you keep hearing ERP is the way to go. Confronting fears changes lives. You even hear it from me. It’ll probably be on my tombstone. “The only way out is in.” But over the years I’ve learned there’s more to beating OCD than just confronting fears and resisting compulsions.

ERP is a slow method of facing fears by taking tiny little baby steps. It takes time to climb a hierarchy and become desensitized. It’s true ERP helps you build skills and gain confidence. But, unless you’re committed and determined it can take too long. Recovery can be spotty–two steps forward and five steps backward.

It’s not good enough to confront fears just so you can white-knuckle your way through life. It’s a complicated therapeutic process because in addition to confronting fears, you have to develop a very specific mindset–Mental Kung fu.

  • You have to embrace doubt and hunt down anxiety. “I want this anxiety and I want it to be intense.” That’s easier said than done, Tammy.
  • You have to see everything as a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Developing a growth mindset takes time and diligence but also a willingness to fail. That’s a tough pill to swallow, Tammy.

The effects of ERP and Mental Kung-Fu are not immediate. Many people get frustrated and quit. It’s hard to do this kind of therapy when the fear seems real and believable. It’s just easier to avoid and give in to compulsions.

Beat OCDIn the heat of the moment, it’s so hard to remember what to do. You know what the treatment principles are but when push comes to shove they don’t come to mind.

Are you feeling stuck? Do you keep forgetting to use your tools? Then you’re going to like this simple answer.

Your Bones Have the Answer

People who are anxious have tense muscles. They are constricted all of the time. If you can rely on your bones your muscles will relax. If your muscles relax then your frontal lobe goes back online. You gain clarity and insight to the point where your weird thoughts are just that…weird.

The Limbic System Needs to Be Offline

If your muscles are tight your limbic system is online. This is your default system. It’s the part of your brain that sounds alarms…especially false ones. It’s where you live day in and day out. You perceive danger when there is none.

Danger! Danger! Danger! That’s the message tight muscles give to your brain. This puts your limbic system in a frenzy. What kind of day does this give you? Fight, Flight or Freeze. You’re doing whatever you can to avoid pain and get certainty.

The Frontal Lobe Needs to Be Online

Your frontal lobe has to be functioning in order to beat OCD. Why? Because it’s the rational, logical part of your brain. If it’s functioning you will make good choices. You’ll choose to live your life and not feed OCD.

When your frontal lobe is offline your limbic system goes online. You’ll easily fall for OCD’s tricks. All the cool stuff you ever learned goes out the window. No frontal lobe…no choice. You will automatically feed OCD.

Your Bones Can Get Your Frontal Lobe Online

From now on put your trust in your bones. What bones? The video below offers a bit of humor but it’s also shared to remind you of all the bones you have in your body. Nevermind the joints. Look at the bones.

How To Beat OCD With Your Bones

You can beat OCD by being in a relaxed body. A relaxed body keeps your frontal lobe online. How do you get into a relaxed body? By letting your bones do all the work.

This is NOT relaxation therapy. Relaxation therapy is something you set aside time to do. It’s guided imagery and tightening and releasing muscles. Relaxation therapy doesn’t teach you to self-regulate anxiety. 

This is NOT meditation. Meditation is something you set aside time to practice. It also requires frontal lobe functioning. Many people with OCD have a terrible time meditating. That’s because the limbic system is online which makes you too hypervigilant to meditate. 

Using your bones will automatically put you in a “relaxed body.” The effect is immediate. Using your bones is done in real time. It’s not something you stop to do or set aside time to practice. Using your bones is done “on the go.” You do it the same time you are conversing or performing activities of daily living. 

This isn’t relaxation therapy, mindfulness or meditation. It’s not any kind of therapy. Learning to rely on your bones is part of normal human development.

I think anxiety exists to help you self-regulate and choose a path that leads you to your higher self. But, seeing one’s anxiety as helpful is a hard sell. Release your muscles and rely on your bones. It can only help to add this to your toolbox.

“But, Tammy this is very unlike you to talk about relaxing. Whenever I tell you I’m anxious you always say, “Good. You need the practice. You’re always telling me to go find ways to be anxious.” True. But how many of you agree with me? How many of you want to practice being anxious and hunt down triggers?

I’m not opposed to anything if it sets you free and changes your life for the better! A person who knows everything learns nothing. I’m not going to stop learning how to beat OCD. I will spend my life offering you hope. Besides, using your bones isn’t about relaxing. It’s simply about letting your bones do all the work. 

skill for OCDLook, you either see anxiety as a perpetrator or a friend. If you see anxiety as a friend then you use KAPOW. If you see anxiety as a perpetrator then I need to ask you something.

“How much longer do you want this perpetrator in your body?”

Have you had enough??? If you’ve suffered enough you’ll start using your bones. It’s simple. Every single time you use your bones the quality of your life improves. It’s impossible to experience stress when you use bones instead of muscles.

Every time you use your bones you’re restoring frontal lobe functioning. You immediately gain confidence and insight. If you see anxiety as a perpetrator then why wouldn’t you use your bones to eject it from your body? You can’t possibly be suffering enough to NOT try this!

How to Beat OCD With Your Bones

All you have to do is set your intentions to rely on your bones, not your muscles. It’s simple but hard. It’s hard because over the years you’ve put all of your weight and all of your stress on your muscles. It’s time to interrupt your default system. Let’s give your bones the job of carrying the burden, not your muscles. 

How to Do It

Beat OCDTell yourself, “My muscles aren’t needed. My bones do the work.” Find your “sit” bones. Place your hands, palm up on your bottom and rock side to side until you find your sit bones. (Once you’ve found them you won’t need to keep touching them. You’ve created an anchor in your memory.)

Whether you are standing or sitting imagine that your “sit” bones are holding you up. If you’re standing your knees might get wobbly. It’s ok just adjust a little. If you’re sitting you might feel a bit floppy–like a wet noodle. It’s okay just adjust a little.

Do this in real time. While you are listening or talking to someone put all your weight on your sit bones. Whatever activity you’re engaged in trust your bones not your muscles to help you complete the task.

But, Tammy doesn’t this require frontal lobe functioning? How will I remember to do this if my frontal lobe is offline? This takes no more than 5 seconds each time you do it. There’s not a lot of thought put into using your bones. In fact, there’s just enough space between a trigger and your response to remembering to use your bones. This does not require deep thinking or full body attention. 

Trigger   <<Space>>  Response (no compulsion)

In the space shift your weight to your bones. Even if you forget after you’re triggered, you’ll probably notice how tight you feel. Do it then…shift responsibility to your bones.

It’s also possible to use your bones in the space before a trigger.

<<Space>>  Trigger  <<Space>>  Response (no compulsion)

But, Tammy if I use my bones before or after a trigger, which interrupts the anxiety, am I not neutralizing the anxiety which you always tell us not to do? If you’re not confronting your fears and not embracing anxiety AND still avoiding and using compulsions AND white-knuckling your way through it’s because YOU’RE MAKING YOUR MUSCLES DO ALL THE WORK.

Soldiers with PTSD tried Exposure Therapy with terrible effect. When they learned to trust their bones and release the muscles from such a heavy burden…they got better!

I’m not telling you to use your bones to neutralize anxiety. This is just normal human development. It’s what the rest of the population without an anxiety disorder does! You can be on the same playing field as everybody else!

I’m still telling you to confront your fears. I’m still telling you not to feel sorry for yourself because you have unwanted intrusive thoughts. I’m still telling you to not argue with OCD. I still don’t think OCD or anxiety is a perpetrator…But, I think you do.

Even if you use your bones you’ll still have weird thoughts. You can’t control what you think. You can’t control what triggers you. But, you can put your attention and energy where you do have control…You can shift your weight to your bones. This is something you control! Take control all day long!

  • It’s simple.
  • It takes no more than 5 seconds.
  • It’s done in real time, on the go.
  • Every time you do it your life improves. So do it all day!
  • The effect is immediate.

Dem bones, Dem bones…Are you going to use them and rise up?

The Skillset Every Person With OCD Needs

Every person with OCD needs this skillset.

It’s called, KAPOW!!! 

Many people say they forget what to do when their anxiety is high or the OCD thoughts seem so real.

All you have to do is remember KAPOW! It’s an acronym you need to memorize. In the heat of the moment, use it!skill for OCD

K= Kooky. The quickest remedy for OCD is to respond to its strange thoughts with silliness. Get Kooky!

OCD: What if (that terrible thing happens?)

Kooky: Not only could that possibly happen, but this might too! Go over the top. Be outlandish. To make it even kookier, say it with an accent!

Getting Kooky is a way to tease OCD. “Oh yeah, OCD? You think that bothers me? Hah! Watch this!!!”

Be paradoxical. Lean in when OCD says lean out. If you’re having trouble getting unstuck from a thought or worry, look for a way to get Kooky.

You know what helps in a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious way? Get somebody else to be Kooky with you.

A= Agree. strategy for OCD

OCD: Oh no, this means [some bad thing] is going to happen.

Agree: Maybe. Time will tell. 

Don’t waste your time disagreeing with OCD. If you have OCD or are helping someone with OCD, it’s better to not argue with OCD. Nod your head and pretend to agree. “I hear you OCD. You might be right. Time will tell.”

Accepting uncertainty is vital. OCD will always have an opportunity to lead you astray if you don’t play along and say, “Maybe” to OCD.

Trying to ignore OCD does not work! OCD is like a telemarketer that won’t stop calling until you pick up! It’s just that when you pick up say, KAPOW!

This is no time to slump

P=Punch.

OCD: You’re too tired. You don’t have what it takes today.

Punch: I am tired. Let’s see what 10 jumping jacks can do.

Check your body language. Get into a competitive stance. Sit up. Stand up. Use your anxiety as energy to move onward…not downward. 

I’m not suggesting that you punch OCD in the face. I haven’t found that hating OCD is very helpful. I’m suggesting that you see your exhaustion as a challenge. Besides, even friends spar in a boxing ring. 

Every person with OCD needs Kapow!

O= Onward.  

OCD strategies
Convert anxiety into energy

OCD: This day is dreadful and best approached with avoidance.

Onward: There’s an action I need to take and I’m taking it.

Think of your anxiety as a Global Positioning System (GPS). Most everyone uses a GPS to reach an unfamiliar destination. You enter the address and the GPS tells you when to turn. If you don’t take the recommended turns your GPS will recalculate.

When your internal GPS recalculates it sends you a signal that feels like anxiety. It’s simply telling you that you’re not taking the path you’re supposed to take. The anxiety is used to get your attention and help you move onward.

Your GPS will keep recalculating until you take the path you’re supposed to take.

If you have anxiety consider which of the following messages it’s trying to give you:  

  1. Are you avoiding or neglecting something? Your GPS is sending you a signal to attend to a need or confront a fear. Until you take the necessary action you’re GPS is going to keep recalculating.
  2. Do you feel vulnerable? Your body knows when you don’t have enough energy to deal with everything on your plate. The anxiety is reminding you to stay in the here and now, take one priority at a time and replenish your fuel throughout the day.
  3. Are you tackling something that is above your “pay grade?” Are you trying to do something you don’t know how to do? It’s time to get coached and sharpen your skills. Reach out! Your GPS is telling you to stop and get directions!
  4. If you’re hiding something then you’ll feel guilty which is just adding to your stress. I’m not talking about the guilt you feel from your OCD thoughts. That’s just straightforward inappropriate guilt because nobody can help what they think. I’m talking about guilt caused by a non-OCD thought or event. Are you keeping secrets from your accountability partner? Your GPS will keep recalculating until you tell the truth. 
  5. Your attitude needs a front-end alignment. Perhaps you’re having a pity party. “Why is this happening to me? This isn’t fair.” Self-pity sits in the middle of your soul and eats everything nearby, except itself. Your GPS is telling you that whatever you are experiencing it’s a challenge and an opportunity to grow. Remember, it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react to what happens that counts. Make this your motto: Change, learn and grow!
  6. Does your lifestyle need a change? If you’re eating sugar, nightshade plants, or drinking too much caffeine, your GPS will signal toxicity and try to flush it out of your system with anxiety pushing through your veins. Ever experience an increase in urinary frequency when anxious? Now you know why. Your GPS is trying to rid you of toxins. 
  7. You’re not hanging up on the conversation fast enough. OCD is like a robocall telemarketer. If you don’t answer, it keeps calling.  Answer the phone, say something KOOKY with an accent and HANG UP! No more discussion! When you start conversing with OCD you’re headed for a wrong turn and your GPS is yelling at you to find the nearest U-turn!

Think of anxiety as your friend. Your negative evaluation of anxiety is getting in your way. Anxiety is trying to steer you in the right direction.

OCD strategiesW= WW__D? What would (the most reasonable person you know) do?  Copy them! It’s hard to know for sure whether a thought or worry is OCD. Ask yourself what your BFF would do.

OCD: I don’t think you should do that.

WWTD: OCD, you have zero life experience. Everything scares you. I don’t have to do or avoid anything that ________ (the most reasonable person you know) doesn’t.

If you have OCD, say KAPOW!

Want some help facing uncertainty? Add this book to your toolbox![amazon asin=0998359726&template=add to cart]

People With OCD Don’t Realize They’re Making This Mistake!

If you’re making this mistake, it’s easy enough to correct. At first glance, it seems like a healthy choice. But, for someone with OCD who is already susceptible to high levels of anxiety, it’s probably NOT a wholesome choice. It’s likely that you think you’re doing something beneficial, when in fact you’re not.cause of anxiety

After ten years of helping 100’s and 100’s of people with OCD, I’ve made a fascinating discovery. People with OCD eat excessive amounts of nightshade plants.

Nightshade plants include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.cause of anxiety

Nightshade plants produce their own toxins and proteins to fight against various insects. A potent poison is found in these plants and can occur in any part of the plant, including leaves, fruit, and tubers. This is a natural defense to help prevent being eaten by insects.cause of anxiety

These plants produce pesticides that can repel or intoxicate insects, and even interfere with their digestion. So when you eat a nightshade plant, you’re ingesting the pesticide used to ward off insects.

People say, “Well, I’ll just triple wash my vegetables or buy only organic.” That won’t make a difference. This is not a man-made pesticide.

Do you feel more anxious than usual?

causes anxietyNightshade plants are on the “do not give to your dog” list or it could be fatal. The World Health Organization sets a limit of how much of this toxin can be allowed. Above that limit, they cannot be sold in stores, as they are considered too toxic for human consumption.

Nightshade plants are neurotransmitter inhibitors. This causes a communication breakdown within the brain. An OCD brain already has communication problems! The depths of the brain has trouble communicating with the front of the brain (the reasonable, logical part of the brain.)

If you’re feeling foggy-brained or experiencing a buzz of anxiety, consider deleting nightshade plants from your diet. It’s probably not necessary to be an extremist about staying away from these plants. To the best of your ability try to eliminate them from your diet.

If you’re not sure you’re sensitive to these plants, you could have a “nightshade party” week. Eat them in excess and see what the effect is. But, watch out because it can take 6-12 weeks for the effect to get out of your system! 

Compulsions: Once You Start It’s Hard to Stop

Compulsions Feed OCD

Compulsions might help you avoid discomfort but the price you pay is enormous. Every single compulsion feeds OCD. Anything you feed gets stronger. 

Resist compulsions
The One You Feed

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “Son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. 

One is troubled. It is worry, anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inadequacy, lies, self-loathing, and fear.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, vulnerability, humility, kindness, gratitude, empathy, generosity, truth, self-compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, the one that you feed.” (click for podcast)

Compulsions feed the troubled wolf…the OCD. So of course in order to beat OCD, compulsions must stop.

resist compulsions
If it’s hard to do is it worth pursuing?

Inevitably the client says “I’ll try but that’s easier said than done.”

I respond, “It’s supposed to be hard! Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”

The relief from a compulsion is only temporary!

Yes, compulsions can provide relief. But, for how long? It’s similar to the relief an addict gets from drugs. It’s a vicious cycle. You just end up needing more. It might initially feel good but on the other hand, it makes you feel powerless and stuck in a hamster wheel.

The relief you get from a compulsion is temporary but the effect is long-lasting. What is the effect? Think about it. You started compulsions to:

  • get rid of doubt and now you’re more doubtful than ever
  • feel in control and now you feel out of control most of the time
  • avoid discomfort and now you’re more uncomfortable than before
  • improve the way you feel and now you feel worse
  • feel “just right” and now you always feel “just wrong”

What If Resisting Compulsions Makes Me Feel Worse?

As an OCD therapist, I can’t give reassurance. I have to shrug and say, “Maybe things will get worse.” 

However, for educational purposes, I say this one time to every new client: “If you provoke your OCD with exposures and resist the urge to do a compulsion, your chances of getting strong and healthy is very high.”

resist compulsions
Compulsions help you to avoid. Avoiding is costly.

Besides, ask yourself if compulsions are sustainable. Is this truly something you want to do for the rest of your life? Once you start it’s hard to stop. 

You get good at what you practice. Are you sure you want to keep practicing compulsions? All compulsions help you do is avoid. Are you sure you want to get good at avoiding?

The Risks Outweigh the Benefits

In what way do you benefit from doing compulsions? If your answers are the ones below, hopefully, you know this is nothing more than trickery.

Are these the reasons you think you benefit from compulsions?

  • My compulsions are protective and keep bad things from happening. You’d be rich and famous if that were true.
  • This compulsion keeps me from feeling gross. No, actually it keeps you from feeling anxious. Gross is just another word for anxious.
  • The only way I can feel “just right” is by doing this compulsion. How many people stop and think, “I can’t leave my house until I feel just right?” To be concerned with feeling “just right” is exactly what drives you to feel “just wrong.” People who don’t think about feeling “just right” typically feel..just right!
  • Until the compulsion is completed I won’t be able to sleep. This just means you’ll have to do compulsions every night for the rest of your life in order to sleep. Is that really what you want?

You’ll discover the only benefit to a compulsion is temporary relief from anxiety. That’s it. There is no other benefit. And is that really a benefit–to avoid anxiety for brief moments of the day? Wouldn’t it make better sense to learn how to experience the anxiety?

Every Compulsion Feeds OCD

The only reason you’re performing compulsions is that you don’t <<yet>> know how to experience anxiety. Any other reason is just a story that your very creative brain has made-up.

A question I get asked often:

I’m prescribed drugs to help me feel better, so why can’t I use a compulsion to feel better?

I’m not a chemical warfare expert but there’s a huge difference between the purpose of taking a medication and performing a compulsive behavior. Prescribed medications like Prozac or Luvox help you to experience your anxiety. Compulsions help you avoid anxiety.

If you are having trouble being with your anxiety talk to the person prescribing your medication. Resisting compulsions might initially make you feel panicky, but if it continues and you’re not having much success saying no to OCD, a medication adjustment might help.

Another question often asked:

It seems like I get rid of one compulsion only to develop a new one. How can I make sure I don’t start a new compulsion?

The answer to this question is twofold. 1.) Evaluate the way you are talking to OCD when you’re resisting compulsions. 2.) Consider the possibility that you haven’t come to terms with your lack of control over what actually happens in life.

Evaluate the Way You Talk to OCD

If new compulsions are popping up, perhaps you haven’t really confronted your core fear. You’ve resisted a compulsion which is the “B” of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You’ve changed a behavior. But without the “C” of CBT, you haven’t grabbed the bull by the horns. 

When you’re resisting compulsions it’s important to talk tough to OCD. No rationalizing or answering any of OCD’s questions. OCD is trying to convince you that a compulsion will prevent something bad from happening. “If you do this compulsion there will be no harm” or “If you do this you won’t end up abandoned.”

Your response must sound like this, “Yup. You might be right OCD. That might happen. Time will tell.” Just nod your head in agreement and resist the compulsion. You might not feel in agreement with what you’re saying. You’re telling OCD you don’t care but you probably really do. 

It’s okay. Keep talking tough. Answer none of OCD’s questions. Shrug at OCD and say, “whatever.” Sound like a broken record and just keep repeating your “I don’t care” act. Fake it ’til you become it. This is a mental Kung Fu game you must play with OCD. 

Do You Practice Radical Acceptance?

The answer seems to always come back to whether or not you are willing to see what happens next. Be curious to see what happens in this very moment. The only other choice is to try and control what happens. We know where that gets you. It’s better to accept whatever happens happens.

If in this moment you are experiencing anxiety, be curious about it but not analytical. Curiosity is the opposite of fear.

Now is the time to challenge the dysfunctional belief that you have control over what happens in life. This is not true. Practice radical acceptance, “Whatever happens happens. It is what it is.”

If nobody else has to do these compulsive behaviors neither do you.

Stopping compulsions isn’t just about halting the repetitive behavior. Another compulsion will just pop up. OCD morphs into all kinds of things until you finally start to accept the anxiety. First of all, your obsession is just noise. What really needs your attention is your anxiety.

Most importantly, every time you are in the process of performing a compulsion acknowledge the repetitive behavior is just your way of avoiding anxiety. The only time the details of your thoughts and beliefs is of any interest is when you’re trying to figure out how to provoke your anxiety.

Provoke your thoughts. Don’t argue with them. Shrug and say, “time will tell” or “maybe, maybe not.” Step toward the threat and embrace the anxiety. Build an ERP hierarchy and move forward.

Notice the anxiety and be with it. You don’t have to like the anxiety. But be grateful for the opportunity to practice your skills

Today’s Best Advice On How to Resist Compulsions:

Finishing a compulsion might feel good. But, it’s temporary. The anxiety returns. In no time at all, another compulsion is needed. Practice radical acceptance. Whatever happens happens.  Otherwise more compulsions are likely to pop-up like a whack-a-mole.

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

 

When Resisting Compulsions Backfires: Find Out Why 

Resisting compulsions
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