Tag Archives: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth About Compulsions

Compulsions put the C in OCD.  This seems like “Captain Obvious” but it gets forgotten all the time.

Compulsions
…and I have oCd

People don’t connect their compulsive behavior to having OCD. The diagnosis of OCD gets lost in the sea of anxiety. Even though they intellectually know the behavior stems from a neurological condition, people get all tangled up in their OCD story.

What Drives Compulsive Behavior?

Anxiety

The urge to do a compulsion is purely anxiety-driven. During the performance of a compulsion, anxiety is outsmarting and outplaying the intellect. Compulsions are performed to avoid anxiety.

Clients often disagree, “But, I don’t have anxiety.” That’s because compulsions temporarily mask anxiety.

Let this sink in: If you are willing to be uncomfortable there is no need for a compulsion.

Delusion of Grandeur

Many people with OCD, believe they might possibly have the gift of intuition or premonitions. “I do these compulsions because I have good instincts.” Intellectually they know they have OCD, and that they don’t have a super power. But on the slim chance that their obsessions foreshadow the future, they’re going to keep up the compulsive behavior…just in case.

If they really could know what’s coming and stop something bad from happening, they’d be rich and famous. This idea of being gifted is nothing more than a story to help manage anxiety.

Let this sink in: If you are willing to surrender and find out what happens from moment to moment, there is no need for a compulsion.

What Drives Compulsive Behavior?

A Lack of Insight

Compulsions lack common sense. For example, what does counting car door handles have anything to do with pulling out of a parking spot? In fact, it doesn’t make any sense because mirrors help you see what’s around you; not door handles. But, you can see how anxiety, not intellect is driving this behavior.

Compulsive behaviors are unreasonable

Compulsive behaviors go beyond the limits of social acceptability and lack good sense. You can tell it’s a compulsion by applying the “reasonable person” test. In a room full of 100 people, how many of them are doing what you’re doing? “Not many!” That’s how you know this behavior is not reasonable and is purely driven by OCD.

Another way to know if your behavior is reasonable is to answer this question: Would you recommend that a young child or your best friend copy your compulsive behaviors?  Are you so confident that your compulsions are truly magical that you would recommend them to anyone else? Would you go on TV or write a book urging people to do them?

If your compulsions are so effective, why aren’t you teaching them to others? Because compulsions put the C in oCd and you know it! That’s why. 

You never used to have to do these compulsions, why now? Nobody else has to do these behaviors, why do you? The answer is because you haven’t learned <<YET>>  how to master your anxiety.

Let this sink in: If you are willing to put your trust in someone you consider to be reasonable and copy their behavior, even when it doesn’t feel right, there is no need for a compulsion. 

The Cold Hard Ugly Truth About Compulsions

You may think that your compulsions derive out of compassion and concern for others. But, they really are rooted in selfishness. Before you get offended with this idea let me be the first to say I am a very selfish person. I wholeheartedly and sincerely admit it.

I give everything I have to help people. Since 1983 I’ve been in the helping profession. Over the years I’ve left numerous positions when the job stopped making me feel good. I’m not an OCD therapist because I’m selfless. On the contrary, I’m a therapist because I’m selfish.

Compulsions
No such thing as selflessness

I’ve been told I need to start putting myself first. I reply, “I put myself first every single day of my life.” Because everything I do for others I’m really doing for myself. It makes ME feel good to help people. If I’m not making a difference in someone’s life, I don’t feel good about myself. I’m not altruistic. I’m selfish.

The same can be said about compulsive behavior. People perform compulsions to feel good. The story might be, “I do what I do to prevent harm.” But, that’s just the story. The truth is that every compulsion is performed in an effort to feel better. Every compulsion is selfish.

What Drives Compulsive Behavior?

Selfishness
  • Can you take responsibility if something you do or don’t do results in harm? Whatever the consequences, are you willing to pay them? “Yes, but I will feel horrible guilt.” Okay, so you’re doing all these compulsions to avoid feeling horrible.
  • If you get sick and spread it to everyone you live with, can you say you’re sorry and help everybody get well with home-made chicken soup? “Yes, but I’ll feel bad.” Okay, so you’re excessively cleaning and sanitizing so that you don’t feel bad.
  • Can you make corrections and apologize for the inconvenience if you make a mistake? “Yes, but I’ll feel stupid.” Okay, so you’re double triple checking your work so that you don’t feel stupid.
  • Are you willing to take responsibility and apologize if you say something displeasing to someone? “Yes, but I’ll feel like a jerk.” Okay, so you’re constantly making sure people aren’t mad at you so that you don’t feel like a jerk.

Whether feeding OCD or helping to starve OCD, both of these missions are done for selfish reasons. But, only one of these callings is truly helping others.

Let this sink in: No matter how much good we do for someone, it is for selfish reasons. If you truly want to help others there is no need for compulsions.

An Unwillingness to Accept Responsibility

Do you think it’s possible that you perform compulsions to avoid harm because you don’t want to feel responsible?

Maybe the plastic bag on the road could fly up onto the windshield and block the driver’s vision. It’s possible you should have gone back and picked it up. But, are you 100% sure this is something other people would do? Or, could the urge to remove the bag be nothing more than the “c” in oCd?

Are you considering picking up that bag because you can’t bear feeling responsible? Not that you would even know if anything happened, it’s just that you don’t want to have to worry about the possibility of being responsible.

The bottom line is that thinking about being responsible for something makes you terribly anxious. And you haven’t learned <<YET >> how to experience anxiety.

Just because you’re anxious doesn’t mean something’s wrong.

Let this sink in: If the time should come that you are rightfully blamed for something bad happening, will you accept the consequences? If you are willing to take responsibility for your honest mistakes, wrongdoings, mishaps or lack of attention, there is no need for a compulsion.

Feeling anxious? Getting an urge to perform a compulsion? Consider the following before trying to thwart the anxiety:

  • Is this something dangerous or just unpleasant that you are avoiding?
  • If you don’t know what happens next (like the rest of us) is that okay?
  • Are you 100% sure that a reasonable person is thinking or acting like this?
  • Are you being selfish in order to feel “just right?”
  • If something were to actually happen, are you willing to step up to the plate and take responsibility for any role you played in it?
Today’s Best Advice on Resisting Compulsions

It’s important to call compulsive behavior what it is. If you’re going to do a compulsion, at least get rid of the story and admit what you’re really doing. “I’m choosing to feed my OCD right now so that I can get temporary relief.” It’s that plain and simple. The story behind the compulsion is FAKE NEWS.

Resisting compulsions
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to resist compulsions
“The Only Reason For a Compulsion: It’s Not What You Think.”
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

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

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

Has Your Brain Been Hijacked by OCD?

OCD infiltrates. It worms its way into the brain and hijacks it. You begin to forget who you are.  This makes OCD sound like a monster.

It’s not.

There is not a shred of evidence that OCD is a monster out to get you. It feels that way, but there really isn’t some kind of wicked creature persecuting you. When you say, “I hate OCD.” You’re hating on yourself. 

There is no scientific study that shows there is an organism eating your brain.  

There is however, plenty of evidence that cells are still growing and neuroplasticity can happen… with skills & drills.

Translation: You can teach an OCD brain new tricks.

There is also a lot of evidence that self-loathing is detrimental and never brings about positive change. When you hate OCD you only hate yourself.

It feels like OCD is out to get you because the brain is misfiring messages and the central nervous system is responding with body parts. It’s a physiological experience complicated by thoughts.

The key to managing OCD is to stop thinking of OCD as a monster. Think of OCD with empathy. Compassion. And, you’re on your way to freedom.

A young boy was anxious just before his first concert. He was worried he might fall on the stage. What could be said to him that would help the most? What should he do? I took a poll to see what people thought.

Here are the results:

Poll Results

It is no coincidence that people suffering from OCD are self-loathing. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend and you will notice a change. 

Commit to this and start today.

You are love. “Love can only love” a very wise 12 year old told me.

Talk to your OCD firmly, but with loving kindness. OCD is not a monster. Just a lonely, lost and confused child in the terrible two’s.

Are You Brewing Anxiety in Your Kitchen?

“The most important decisions that determine the brain’s health happen in the kitchen, not at the pharmacy.”

~ David Perlmutter, Author of Grain Brain

Last night I made a healthy soup for dinner. It was made of avocado, swiss chard, spinach, kale, cilantro, sweet potato and onions with vegetable broth. It was very tasty and when I make it again, I’ll probably add white organic beans. 

I was so sleepy after I ate it that I went to bed early. Very unlike me! I didn’t even make it through the weekly Voice results! I thought I was just tired from Tai Chi.

Today, I read the recipe (I don’t usually read recipes–I just throw stuff together) and discovered the soup is intended to be a sleep aid! It’s very high in chlorophyll. The recipe actually says this: “The fat in the soup aids the absorption of the minerals from the greens and aids in sleep.”

Wow! Good thing I didn’t eat that at lunch!!! If any of you have trouble falling asleep, or need to calm your nervous system, email me (tammy@bossitback.com) and I’ll send you the recipe. It seemed very soothing, but who knows, maybe it was a combination of factors.

While I was waiting for new brakes (ugh) to be put on my car today, I thought about the soup’s effect on me, and found the above quote by Dr. Perlmutter. 

I always ask my clients if they eat a lot of carbs and 7 out of 10 people confess, “I crave carbs and sugar and eat a lot of both.” Yup! Jackpot!

Sugar Doesn’t Make You Healthy

It’s no coincidence my clients have a lot of anxiety. These foods are addicting and hype up the nervous system. They cause inflammation, overstimulate neurons in the brain and destabilize blood sugar, all of which creates mood changes.

One key to managing anxiety is to eat foods that provide grounding energy and relax the nervous system. What does it mean to feel grounded? Have you hugged a tree lately? Isn’t it amazing!!! Certain foods can help you feel that way too!

No matter how healthy you eat, you’ll still be anxious. But, why not give yourself a fighting chance? Why eat something that increases the anxiety? Well, if you need to learn to accept anxiety, then let me tell you, eat a lot of carbs and sugar and practice gladly accepting how you feel. Eating carbs and sugar certainly create a great exposure exercise.

But, if you want to put your mental health first and make your two brains the best lean, mean, fighting machines they can be, then put these brain healthy ingredients into your diet! (Two brains? Yes! Don’t forget about your stomach! More on that later…)

Brain Health from the Kitchen

Matcha Green Tea is really great for focus because it’s high in theanine, which produces alpha brain waves and also offsets the caffeine in the tea. Focus is important because you’ve got to be able to focus on your values. Otherwise OCD will take you on a purpose-less driven life.

B vitamins are important for the production of serotonin. Get tested to see what your levels are and be sure to read this article about what to do.

Coconut water is an excellent source of B Vitamins. Mackerel too, but certain kinds must be avoided due to the high levels of mercury. Red meat is a good source of B12 as well as eggs, milk and cheese. But, many people don’t eat meat and dairy is known to cause inflammation. 

You might have to acquire a taste for this but Miso provides healthy bacteria which boosts GABA, a much needed neurotransmitter that especially hangs out in the gut. Besides the first paragraph of this article, which claims unwanted intrusive thoughts can be ended by GABA, (not true!) this is a post that explains GABA

 

The Guts of Anxiety

The gut has its own independent nervous system and it’s obvious that the gut plays a critical role in anxiety and other mood states. After all, 95% of of the body’s serotonin is manufactured in the 2nd brain–the gut!

So taking probiotics and eating fermented foods (healthy bacteria) is a must for brain health promotion! One of my favorites is Kimchi and of course adding Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar to your water.

Having OCD is exhausting. You’ve got to be on top of your game all the time. It’s taxing to work so hard and you burn through your fuel before day’s end. So replenishing is critical and this can be done with food and exercise. For ideas about this go back to my blog, HERE.

Want to Make Your Kitchen Brain Healthy?

Get the Brain Warrior’s Way by Dr. Amen

I’ve only touched the surface about promoting brain health in the kitchen. I encourage you to do your own research and share anything you find helpful in the comments. And as always, look at benefits and side effects.

Basically eat foods that are grounding and stay away from foods that are stimulating. (Sugar and spice aren’t grounding!)

I had hoped to finish this post last night but I had more of that soup for dinner and once again I fell asleep early. So I don’t think it was Tai Chi. Definitely the soup. I don’t think I’m going to make that again! I ain’t got no time for sleep!!!

How to Control Anxiety: Should You?

The harder I tried to stop thinking about it…………..the faster I thought about it.

Don’t think about the pink elephant.

The harder I tried not to feel it….the stronger I felt it.

Don’t feel the couch on your back.

If you’ve been properly treated for OCD then you know the answer will never be to stop. You can’t stop thoughts. You can’t stop anxiety. And you shouldn’t try! What then should you be doing? 

Want the thoughts. Want the anxiety. The only way out is in, not out.

If someone is telling you to just “knock it off” send them this blog. If you’re telling yourself to knock if off…keep reading!

Let’s assume your OCD is a little you. A three or four year-old version of you. If this is true, and I think it is…telling such a young worrying child to “KNOCK it OFF” is not really teaching any kind of life lesson. 

A young boy is about to take the stage for the first time in his life and sing with the chorus. His brain is asking, “What’s wrong? How come my legs feel funny?” The brain MUST search for and provide an explanation. “Why are my legs wobbly???” The brain must explain. It’s human nature. If there’s an explanation there’s got to be a solution.

Searching for an explanation can occur below the threshold of consciousness. You don’t even know you’re doing it. The attempt to explain physiological sensations can be too subtle for the conscious mind.

Only one or two seconds have passed. Ah-Ha!!! The brain has found a reason for the wobbly legs!!!! “Mommy, what if I fall in front of everyone? I feel like I’m going to fall!”

What do you think most Mommies say? I hope you take the poll before reading any further! We’ll have lots of fun if you do!

 

The problem isn’t the wobbly legs. Agreed? The wobbly legs are a symptom of the problem. If we only talk about the wobbly legs, then we address the symptom but not the cause.

“You’re not going to fall. Your legs are very strong.” In this response the focus is on the legs. But, what’s causing the wobbly legs?  

“Here, drink some water and think about the pizza we’re eating after this.” The focus is on trying to stop worrying about the wobbly legs. Distract. Reassure. “You’ll be just fine.” Don’t think about the pink elephant. Don’t feel the couch against your back.

“The chances of you falling are very low. It’s possible but not probable. So far no one else on that stage has fallen. So you’re not likely to fall either. And I bet they’ve got wobbly legs too.”

Again, the focus is on the wobbly legs not being likely to cause a fall. Why won’t this work? Because that little brain of his quickly calculated that he could be the one and only kid that falls.


In this precious moment, this boy has an opportunity to learn a life lesson. This is the kind of lesson that will carry him through many rough times in his life.

The answer to his question, “Mommy, what if I fall” has the power to rewrite the script playing in his mind.

The way you answer your question also has the power to rewrite your inner thinking patterns. Even though your thought patterns are automatic due to practice and repetition you can retrain your brain.

Let’s talk about the little boy’s wobbly legs for a minute. We all agree that the problem isn’t his wobbly legs. Right? It’s his anxiety.

Anxiety is felt physically. In nerve endings. In muscles-tense or weak. Aches. Pains. Twitches. In breath-fast or slow. In the skin-clammy or itchy. The racing heart. Upset stomach. Tremors. Saliva.

There’s nerve endings everywhere so anxiety can be felt anywhere! 

The brain doesn’t like unexplained things. It will notice the physical sensation, create a story to explain the physical sensation, and it will build control mechanisms into the story.

When the brain explains the physical sensation, it won’t automatically consider that it’s just ANXIETY!!! And it certainly won’t conclude that the anxiety is okay. (That part has to be learned.)

Instead the brain will focus on finding a way to stop the discomfort. It will focus on the story, not the anxiety.

How can it be stopped. Hmmmmm, lets think of a story that has control mechanisms. How might this look for the little boy afraid to take the stage?

“If I skip three times and jump up once, I won’t fall.” Does that sound like OCD? The focus is on controlling the situation. The brain created a story that explains the physical sensation and now he has something he can do about it.

He probably won’t fall. So what will the brain conclude? “You didn’t fall because of that skip and jump thing you did. Good job buddy! See! Anytime your legs are wobbly, skip and jump and you won’t fall.” Liar, liar pants on fire!!!

The compulsion has been reinforced in the inner thinking-below the threshold of consciousness. And now the subconscious will run the show. This will easily grow into a habit and soon he won’t even remember why he does what he does.

This little boy has anxiety. Your OCD is young, like him. A three or four year-old part of your mind. It’s only a part of your mind. There are so many other beautiful parts to your mind. But, this part has the potential to run the entire show.

What is the life lesson this little boy has an opportunity to learn? What will make his brain a lean, mean fighting machine? Choose as many answers as you think will be most helpful:

 

The actionable steps for YOU to take are:

  1. Stay focused on the anxiety-not the story that is trying to control the anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t need to be fixed. Notice it, name it and move on. Steer away from the story and go towards the anxiety.
  2. Want the anxiety. Want the thoughts generating the anxiety. “Good, there you are. I need the practice.”
  3. Seek the anxiety. “Let’s see if I can make myself anxious right now and learn to experience it as something making me stronger.”

The anxiety comes from a very young part of you that truly doesn’t know very much about life at all. But, you have all these other beautiful parts of your brain that are very rationale and fun-loving.

Let those parts talk to the little you, who really shouldn’t be leading the way.  

I’ll lead the way now.

“I know you’re afraid and uncomfortable, but I know how to move forward. You can trust me.”

One other actionable step you can take:

To work on rewriting your inner thinking patterns, let’s rewire the messages that are exposed to the mind, but are too subtle for the conscious mind to know about.

Using post-it notes or reminders on your phone, or messages that flash on your computer while you work, write messages like these:

  • I can meet any challenge even though I’m anxious.
  • I’m ready for anything because I don’t mind anxiety.
  • I go after what I want in life even though I’m anxious.
  • Everyday my confidence grows stronger because I’m okay being anxious.

You don’t even have to read them. They’ll be picked up by your subconscious mind.

Why I Don’t Write Down Your Obsession

There are many OCD Facebook Groups. Quite often people will post about their therapy sessions.

They’ll share what the therapist said. And then they’ll post a question to the group, “Does this sound right to you? Should I continue with this therapist? She writes everything down. It’s intimidating. I don’t know what to do. Please advise.”

Hint: If your therapy session looks anything like this

you’re not in the right place!

I don’t write down a client’s obsession. Find out why.

But first, let’s talk about the goal of therapy. What is the purpose of therapy for OCD? Let’s take a poll and see what everybody thinks. Before you read this post any further, answer this poll first.

In last week’s blog post I asked what ya’ll thought about the questions asked during a therapy session. There were 14 questions and I asked which of the 14 questions had the best chance of helping this man break free from OCD.

Some people left comments on the blog, and others brought it up in their own therapy session with me.

Many people liked the questions that led the man to think about probability. What’s the probability that this or that will actually happen?

You’d think that once he realizes how slight the chances are of anything bad happening, he’ll come to his senses. But, that’s not how OCD works. OCD isn’t logical and will always exaggerate probability.

The problem with this “probability” thought process is that it focuses on the content of the obsession. (“If I don’t check this someone could get hurt.”) As if the OCD “story” is important. 

A few of the 14 questions helped the man see that his compulsions weren’t really as effective as he thought. His safety behaviors weren’t full proof or nearly comprehensive enough.

He was missing too many other safety hazards and was only fooling himself into thinking he was making the world a safer place.

While many of you thought it was very anxiety provoking to point out the futility of his efforts, you still felt it was a good way to get through to him. Once he saw how futile his efforts were he’d see no reason to continue these behaviors. 

But, that’s not how OCD works. It’s like a whack-a-mole. It’ll give you something else to worry about.

The problem with taking the time to reveal the futility of his safety behaviors is that it focuses heavily on the content of his obsession. The whole conversation focuses on the electrical cords. 

When it’s not at all about the electrical cords. It’s about not wanting to feel emotionally contaminated.

This is everyone’s OCD story. You might think you’re avoiding something to protect someone. You might think you’re performing a compulsion to prevent something bad from happening.

But, the only reason you’re really doing what you’re doing is to not feel emotionally contaminated with anxiety, guilt, depression, or fear…

These are just stories:

  • “I shower the second I get home even before I hug my baby. I don’t want to get my baby sick.”

Actually, you don’t want to feel the guilt of getting your baby sick. Your husband doesn’t shower when he comes home from work. He hugs the baby before he washes up.

“Well, that’s fine because if the baby gets sick, it will be his responsibility, not mine.”

  • “I circle back and check the road because I don’t want to leave the scene of a crime. If I hit someone, I should pay the consequences.”  

Actually, this isn’t about hitting someone at all. This is the story you tell. But, it’s really about not wanting to feel anxiety.

“I don’t want to be wondering all night if the sound I heard was me running over someone. If I check it out, it’s off my mind and I won’t be anxious.”

  • “I’m not afraid of anyone getting hurt. I do this hop, skip and jump until it feels right. I’m not worried about anybody getting hurt if I don’t do it right. I’m just doing it because it helps me feel calm.”

Right, you’re doing it to avoid feeling bad. You’re not willing to feel “just wrong” or ill at ease. Now this is everyone’s truth. This is not just a story.

The only content that matters, is the story about not wanting to feel uncomfortable. It’s not about germs, harming someone or the world being fake. It’s not about the unwanted, intrusive thought. 

You’ve got a sticky mind and the “stories” are just trying to explain why. There’s nothing to explain. You don’t like feeling uncomfortable. End of story. Nothing else matters.

The only story that matters is the one about not wanting to feel ill at ease. That’s the one story that can cause the “dis-ease.”

But, what if you see anxiety or discomfort as a challenge?

There are always two choices. Shrink from the discomfort and get caught up in a story that never ends…or seize the opportunity to practice your skills and become a lean mean fighting machine.

“Ah…there’s my worry. There’s my discomfort. Good. I want it. This is how I get stronger. It’s not about the story. It’s about my emotions. The content of my obsession is irrelevant. It’s always about being afraid of emotions.”

You can’t heal, what you won’t feel.

Maybe now you know why I don’t write down your obsession. I just don’t care what it is. It’s irrelevant.

Now, let’s take that poll again:

 

 

OCD and Guilt: Your Get Out of Jail Free Card

Breaking free from OCD can be quite troublesome when the obsession is accompanied with guilt or shame.

Hold on though…Not all guilt is bad. Right? Guilt causes people to fall in line and properly behave. We’re socialized to feel guilt so that we learn to control our behavior and emotions. If people feel guilt or shame they’ll be less likely to do anything wrong.

We’ve all experienced real or appropriate guilt.

Today at the grocery store I was using the self check-out. I’m proud to say I’ve memorized lots of produce codes. I entered the code 4011 for regular bananas. I was submitting my payment when it suddenly occurred to me that the bananas were organic and therefore I hadn’t paid enough.

I was in a hurry and shrugged, “Oh who cares. It’s 20 cents. Just go.” But then I thought, “No, if you don’t confess to your underpayment, you’ll get in a car accident.”

This is an example of how guilt stabilizes a society and prevents its citizens from wrongful behavior. If you do something bad then there will be a consequence.

Real or appropriate guilt happens when you’ve mis-behaved.  Guilt is the emotional penalty of misconduct.

The problem with OCD is that it generates inappropriate guilt. Nothing bad has to occur in order for you to be overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt adds a whole other dimension to OCD. 

When Should You Feel Guilt or Shame?

It’d be so much easier to break free from OCD if you weren’t dealing with so much inappropriate guilt.

When it comes to OCD, you’ve got to become defiant. OCD will tell you what rules to follow. These rules are not reasonable and will take you down the rabbit hole. You must disobey OCD.

To do that, it helps to have your own set of rules to follow no matter what OCD says.

To make it easier, what if there was a Code of Conduct for you to follow? No matter what OCD says, if you follow this Code of Conduct, you don’t pay the emotional penalty of guilt. Maybe it would be something like this:

(Draft Copy) Code of Conduct:
DO NO HARM
  • Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
  • Don’t destroy the environment upon which all life depends.
  • Don’t do to yourself what you wouldn’t do to others.
  • Don’t make decisions for people who can make their own.
  • Don’t manipulate and control others.
  • Don’t take care of others when they can take care of themselves.
DO GOOD
  • Do to others what you would like them to do to you.
  • Do practice gratitude and express thankfulness.
  • Do put the oxygen mask on yourself first; your mental health must come first.
  • Do help this needy world through acts of kindness, not fear.
  • Do respect a person’s right to self-determination. (A person controls their own life.)
What do you notice about this Code of Conduct
  • Is there a common theme?
  • Is there anything missing? Something you think people should pay the penalty of guilt for, but not mentioned here?
  • Is there something that doesn’t belong?
  • What do you notice about the transfer of responsibility? What are you essentially responsible for? What are other people responsible for?
  • If you stick to these rules would it be appropriate or necessary to still pay the emotional penalty of guilt or shame?

Please leave your answers, questions, and comments. As always I will post them anonymously.  

This publication is part of a series of posts about OCD and guilt. The next post will be “Guilt Beyond Circumstance: A Different Kind of Guilt.”

If you want me to address a certain question about guilt, be sure to leave me a message.

In addition to your other comments, please share what you hope this series of posts about guilt will accomplish.
Thank you for your comments. They mean so much to me and also help others!

I Used to Be Afraid of Elevators. I Took Steps to Overcome It.

“I took steps to overcome my fear of elevators.” Ha-Ha funny play on words. But, what does it mean?

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You took action steps to work towards being able to ride elevators? Or, you’re being sarcastic and you “overcame” your fear by avoiding elevators and taking the stairs?

Which is true?
  1. Your life will be better if you take action on the things you avoid.
  2. Your life will be better if you avoid unpleasant and seemingly dangerous things.

Are you picturing Captain Obvious right now?captainobviouschooseoption

There’s no way avoidance can make life better. Right? Hmmm…then why do so many people avoid unpleasant things? Why do people procrastinate? Why do people avoid triggers that cause anxiety?

Avoidance must make life better! Otherwise, why do people do it?

I searched the Internet for evidence that avoidance makes life better. It’s what people do so there’s got to be value in doing it. Right?

I Googled: “How Does Avoidance Makes Life Better.” Here are just 6 of the 28,000,000 results. They all say the same thing:

Avoidance Causes Anxiety to Snowball

The More You Avoid, the More Likely You Will Keep Avoiding

Avoidance Simply Produces More Anxiety

The Price You Pay for Temporary Relief

Avoidance Prevents You From Learning the Situations You Fear Aren’t Even Dangerous or Nearly As Unpleasant As You Think

Avoidance Solves One Problem But Creates Another

The list goes on and on. But, I could not find any bit of research to prove avoidance makes life better.

Every shred of evidence pointed to the fact that it makes life worse. Not the anxiety, the avoidance. The avoidance makes life worse.

So what to do? Become AWARE of the truth! 

I saw this acronym for AWARE at Uncommonhelp.me:

Accept the anxiety. It’s here to stay. Live your life with anxiety.

Watch the anxiety. Don’t evaluate it as good or bad. It just is. It’s not dangerous. Only your reaction to anxiety can be dangerous.

Act normally. Act as if you don’t have anxiety.

Repeat the above steps!

Expect to handle whatever. Whatever happens, happens. You’ll handle it.

160_f_54867862_hlxe0hmehr89ftlthjyx5yfp6n4jh6fpI know what you’re thinking. It’s easier to avoid than confront. It’s too hard to “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”

 

If you’ve been avoiding for awhile, of course it seems easier to avoid than confront. Hello Captain Obvious!

But, if you could remember the first days you avoided, it was hell. You beat yourself up. You lost sleep over it. You were torn up over what to do. It was so hard to get it perfected. It was hell!

Try this challenge:

Walk through your house for 72 hours touching nothing and nobody. Nobody can be be in the same room you’re in at the same time. Be very careful not to brush up against anything. If you think you brushed up against anything, go back out of the room and come back in. Don’t sit down. You can only squat. You can only eat Cheerios using chopsticks. When you sleep the only way you can be in bed is if you first wash the bottom of your feet while sitting on the edge of your bed. And you can only sleep, no matter how cold you are, on top of the covers looking up at the ceiling, with your hands folded behind your head.

The first 24 hours you do this, you’ll be agitated and stressed. The second day, it’ll still be hard but you’re getting better at it. By the third day, everyone around you is properly trained to stay away. You’ve figured out a few tricks to make it easier to avoid. You’re tolerating this kind of life better than you were the first 24 hours. Imagine in two weeks how much easier it will be.

Avoiding is only easy because it’s what you’ve been doing. It didn’t used to be this easy! You’re tolerating avoidance better now, than you did in the beginning. 

The same can be said about confronting. At first it’s anxiety provoking. You’ll feel indecisive and lose sleep. But, in time, it’ll get easier and you’ll tolerate the anxiety. 

You get good at what you practice. You can teach yourself to tolerate anything over time.

Don’t say, “Confronting my fears is easier said than done.” Once upon a time avoiding was hard. But you did it anyway. 

Your Life Will Be Better If You Take Action on the Things You Avoid 

Stop Reassurance-Seeking and Break Free From OCD

A person with OCD seeks one thing.

160_f_65315155_7vwgyjigwiujdbsmawjy00devygrmqej  CERTAINTY 160_f_65315155_7vwgyjigwiujdbsmawjy00devygrmqej 

 It’s your kryptonite. 160_f_54907399_wuafmp2ourzuib6z6zirtarbdu54cduy

Trying to Get It Deprives You of All Your Power 

If you’ve got OCD then seeking certainty is how you’re wired. It’s your automatic solution for doubt and anxiety.

OCD lies: “Get certainty and you’ll feel much better.” Unless you’ve learned how to shrug  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you’ll do whatever it takes to feel better. It’s odd, but actually shrugging feels better than seeking certainty. That’s because you’ll always end up empty handed.

The problem is, it can’t be gotten. Certainty isn’t possible. There’s a possibility you’ll (falsely) feel certain for a brief moment. But, in a matter of minutes or even seconds, the doubt and anxiety will return. It’s a vicious cycle.

The Most Frequent Way People Try to Get Certainty Is By Seeking Reassurance

Reassurance is your kryptonite. As long as you’re seeking reassurance you’ll be forever vulnerable. OCD will be your boss until you learn to shrug.

You’ll have no confidence in just about anything you do. Like an addict, you’ll be thinking about your next fix, and the next one, and the next one, all day long.

Reassurance can be sought in many ways:

It Starts With a Question and Then the Analyzing Begins

  • Am I okay? Is this okay?
  • What does this say about me? What does it mean?
  • Is this wrong? Is this bad? Am I a bad person?
  • What if I lose control? What if I make a mistake?
  • Am I going to act on this thought?
  • What if something bad happens? Won’t I be responsible? 
  • What if I get overwhelmed? What if I can’t relax?
  • Did I do something wrong? Am I making the right decision?
  • Is this OCD? It’s just my OCD. Right?

The Checking Begins and Never Ends

  • I don’t remember if I did that. Go back and check.
  • Do they know what I’m thinking? Let’s see if I can get them to smile. If they do, we must be okay.
  • Did I leave something behind? Look behind and check.
  • Did I touch that? Ask. Wash to be sure. 
  • Say it again. Make sure they heard it.
  • Give all the details one more time. Make sure they understand.
  • Do it one more time until it feels right.

Avoidance is Reassuring Too

  • The way to feel safe is to stay away. 
  • Don’t touch it. Don’t look at it. Then there’s no risk.
  • Don’t think about it. Then it can’t happen.
  • Replace that bad thought with a good thought.

You can spend hours reassuring yourself through compulsions and mental acts. You can involve others by asking for reassurance. But, it’s not going to lead to freedom. 

You can’t free your mind this way. There is no breaking free of OCD in seeking reassurance. Resisting reassurance will increase your level of anxiety and doubt. It’s not dangerous. It’s unpleasant. Be tenacious. Keep resisting. Shrug. Stick with it. Tolerate it. 

If you want to be set free, there is no other choice. You can start doing it now or do it years down the road. But, if you don’t start now…OCD will only rob you of more and more. 

Resisting reassurance is what you’re going to have to do eventually. Why not just get it over with? Lean in to the pain and break free.

Watch this cool video I made for you!