Tag Archives: Treatment for OCD

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

Does Your Mind Feel Like Space Junk? What To Do When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Has OCD Made You Forget Who You Are?The thing about OCD is that it comes and goes. It rolls in from the sea and eventually goes back out. When the storm arrives though, it’s brutal. You forget who you are. And it feels permanent.

It’s such a desperate feeling and can easily make you forget about everything else that matters. You become disconnected from the core of who you are. Your sense of self is ruptured. The only thing you feel attached to is your worst fear.

In an OCD storm, you can’t stop thinking about something very troubling. The thought can’t be controlled, and yet, with all your might you try with compulsions or by avoiding. This only turns the storm into several hurricanes.

You lose sight of the “big picture.” You’ve lost your compass and can’t see your way out. There’s more to this storm than what meets the eye. But the eye of the storm has swallowed you up.

Without the “big picture” view, you forget that it gets better. Your mind can’t seem to hold on to anything other than fear. Everything else in your mind is space junk. It feels like you’ve regressed to the mind of a child.

Your inner voice becomes catastrophic and self-critical. You know the compulsions are useless, but you can’t seem to resist. You know that avoiding isn’t going to change anything, but you do it anyway.

You’re so frustrated with yourself. The choices you keep making over and over don’t reflect your wisdom and life experience. It feels like your brain’s been hijacked by a younger version of you.

You hold your head in your hand…exhausted. Overwhelmed. And you whisper, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”

You feel disconnected. Hyper-alert. Terrified. Ready to run. Ready to freeze. Angry with no will to fight. Hopeless. Helpless. Shameful. Compulsive.

You Can find Yourself By Letting Go of Old Ways of Coping

All of these feelings and behaviors helped you survive something in the past. We must honor the fact that they served you well once upon a time. A time when you were younger and less experienced.

For example, being afraid and unable to move or fight probably kept you out of harm’s way once when you were a child. But, now you’re more experienced and it’s safe to assert yourself and take action.

Maybe you experienced a traumatic event in your younger years and felt guilty about it. It was a useful feeling then because it kept you out of a deep depression. But, now you’re older and wiser and guilt is no longer age-appropriate. But, because you used it so much when you were younger, you’re still using it now.

We honor these feelings that helped your younger self-survive difficult times. But they’re holding you back now. These emotions aren’t congruent with who you are today. You’re an adult with life experience. Everything that happens is an opportunity to learn. Everything you face opens up a possibility for you to find your higher self.

You Can Find Yourself By Letting the Older Part of You Take Charge

Since then you’ve grown older and wiser. You’ve gained a lot of life experience. It’s no longer age-appropriate to handle anxiety the way you did as a child. In your heart of hearts, you know this and that’s why you don’t feel like yourself.

Can you bring the older, wiser part of you forward to deal with the anxiety and weird thoughts?

We can’t let a child drive the boat through this storm. There’s an older, more experienced version of you who knows a lot more about riding the waves and maneuvering all the twists and turns. Let’s get the right “wo/man” behind the wheel. After all, which part of you is better equipped for the job?

Can you bring that older part of you forward–that part that has dealt with real life problems before? You know, the part of you that holds it together while everyone else is drowning. (I know you have a memory like this because people with OCD actually handle real life problems better than most people. It’s the problems of the imagination that are utterly challenging.)

You Can Find Yourself By Setting Limits With Your Younger Self

Remember a time or situation when you were in charge, taking care of business like a pro. What did that feel like? What are the positive thoughts that go with that part of you? What does that feel like in your body? How are you standing? Where are your arms? Is your head up during these times you are most proud? 

How can this part of you take the wheel away from the child? What would you say to the child? “I know that you’re afraid, but you can’t drive this boat. You’re still in diapers and have no life skills.”

How would you set limits? “I know you want what you want when you want it, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset. Get out of the driver’s seat.”

What happens to the child when you take the wheel? Naturally, the child stays on the boat. No part of you can be disowned or thrown overboard. Remember, this is a child who doesn’t even know how to doggie paddle yet.

Kindly, but firmly take the child under your wing. “I know how to move us forward. Sit back there. Watch and learn. And if you get too noisy, I’m going to tickle you until you pee in your diaper.” No, wait. That’s firm, but not very kind. 😉

How about, “I know you’re afraid so you’ll probably get noisy. I’ll hear you, but I can’t reassure you. I’ll be busy. I know you’ll get upset that I won’t let you steer the boat. You’ve had your way for awhile so I completely understand that you won’t like this and will probably have a temper tantrum.”

Two Ways to Visualize Your Older Self Taking Charge.

 

  • Look at your hands. In one of your hands is the terrified, inexperienced child. Imagine how this child feels. Small, terrified, vulnerable, lost. In your other hand is your older, wiser stronger self. Feel how much bigger and stronger this hand is? Bring the older wiser hand over the younger hand. Hold that child. Let the child feel surrounded by your strength and wisdom. Tell the child you’ve got this. “I’ve got this. I’m driving now.”

 

  • Name all the other parts to you besides OCD. Using props (such as ducks), put these parts in the order you want them to be. Who’s in charge most of the time to least of the time? Here in this picture, we see there is a loving part taking the lead. Then we see a wise part and an all around good guy, who likes to help others, sharing the leadership role. Not far behind is a curious part who likes to learn and grow. In the back is OCD. Lots of people would keep OCD away from the rest of the Team. But, he’s too young to be on his own. That’ll only scare him more if you try to get rid of him. The Team keeps him close by and kindly but firmly says, “I know you’re afraid, but, I’ve got this.”

Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture, Not the Storm

The “big picture” older version of you says life is bigger than this storm. Big picture thinking allows you to be hazy and uncertain around the edges. It’s a growth mindset. “I’m willing to find out what this storm makes possible for me.”

Whatever is causing the storm, whatever the storm is about–doesn’t matter. If you were truly at sea and you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a storm, would you be trying to figure out what it means? What caused it? Why it’s happening? Did you do something wrong? Did you overlook something?

No! You’d be focused on doing your best to weather the storm–how to withstand it. You’d be focused on outlasting the storm. And, the child would not be allowed to steer the boat. Do you want a scared child steering in a storm or an experienced, wise “sailor” who has ridden huge waves before?

An OCD storm comes down to one thing: The storm will be an experience you can draw from in the future.

No matter how bad it feels, an OCD storm comes down to one thing. It’s about the opportunity and challenge of weathering the anxiety and resisting the young child’s urge to avoid or do a compulsion.

An OCD storm is a strangely wrapped gift. It doesn’t look or feel like a gift but give permission to learn from the storm and you’ll soon discover something amazing about yourself.  The next storm will be easier because you’ve gained experience from the last one.

If you liked this post, you might also like a cheat sheet for quick reference. It’s only one page–quick read! Click on the image below to get your printable cheat sheet:

“Has Anyone Else Taken This Medication for OCD and Has It Helped?”

Something that you want very much but is very hard to get or achieve.

You probably think I’m talking about the Holy Grail.

An object or goal that is sought after for its great significance.

Still think I’m talking about the Holy Grail?

Well…I’m not talking about thee Holy Grail–the Cup that is said to have been used by Jesus Christ. I’m talking about a different holy grail. It seems to be highly sought after by many who have OCD.

I’m talking about the holy grail of medication for OCD sufferers.

“Has anyone else taken this medication for OCD and has it helped?”

I’m asked this question a lot about medication. At OCD conferences people line-up to ask the experts questions about medication. I can predict the answers will sound a lot like this:

  1. Be patient. It takes time to reach a therapeutic level.
  2. The needed dosage for SSRI’s is higher for OCD than it is for depression.
  3. No one drug stands out as the front runner. 
  4. It’s chemical warfare. Be willing to try this. Try that. Watch for side effects. 
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use a combination of CBT and meds.

The holy grail of medication…Something you want very much but is hard to get or achieve. An object that is sought after for its great significance. 

Therein lies the problem. Its significance is not that great. It’s part of the solution. Not the main solution. I’m not making this up. It’s in the literature. Authors, speakers, and researchers say it all the time.

Despite all the many warnings to not become preoccupied with medication, it happens. As evidenced in Facebook posts and the long line of people at the mic at the OCD conference waiting to ask the experts a medication question.

Has anyone else taken this medication for OCD and has it helped?

Yes, other people have taken that medication. Has it helped? Sometimes.

Even if the answer is: Most of the time ~or~ a lot of the time, the answer will NOT be all of the time. Even if the answer was, “9 out of 10 times that medication helps,” there still will be room for doubt. Even if I say every single client I know who has taken this drug has been helped, it might not help you.

There’s no way to feel comfortable with a medication until you take it and see what happens.

If you have been prescribed medication for the first time, it’s reasonable to have doubts and even worry. In a room of 100 people, how many of them would be concerned about taking a medication they’ve never taken before? Probably the majority, especially since we’ve been influenced by the commercials suing drug companies.

If you are suffering from OCD you’re desperate for relief. It’s understandable you’re looking for a medication to reduce your symptoms. And it’s very possible to find such a medication. It’s very possible to get relief.

Having hope that a pill can provide relief isn’t the problem.

The problem? Analyzing by comparing and contrasting people’s experiences, repeatedly seeking reassurance from googling or talking with numerous pharmacists. Questioning for hours and days, “should I take it?” Thinking about all the “what ifs” over and over. Searching for something new and looking for hours to find someone with the same symptoms and finding out what they take.

This is the problem…the preoccupation with it. The compulsive checking and analyzing.

Get off the fence as soon as possible. If it takes you two hours to take the first pill, then it could take months to get up to a therapeutic dose. Commit. Don’t waste time and energy deciding. Stay in close contact with the doctor who prescribed it and in the meantime here’s where you’ll find the holy grail of beating OCD:

Channel all that beautiful energy on self-care and therapy.

  • Work on flipping your mindset from negative to positive. Write 10 positives day if positivity is hard for you.
  • Look for your blessings. Seek and ye shall find. They’re there!
  • Ask “What does my anxiety make possible for me?” If you’re not sure what this means, go HERE.
  • Help make your own serotonin by being just as kind and loving to yourself as you are to your best friend. (Until you practice self-compassion, OCD will have a hold on you, even with the perfect medication.)
  • Remember what you’re fighting for! Super pose like a superhero if your brain needs a little extra jolt! KAPOW!
  • Help make your own dopamine by developing one new healthy habit, solving puzzles, learning something new or doing something adventurous.
  • Help make your own oxytocin by hugging friends and family, your pets and even trees!
  • Eat well…lots of berries and green vegetables.

And when you’re ready to face your fears, start Exposure & Response Prevention. Maybe you won’t feel ready, but your mind will begin to tell you it’s time.

A life of avoidance is a life not lived.

Feel free to leave an anonymous comment if you want to add to the holy grail of beating OCD!

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.

My Critique of a Recent Interview on TV About Anxiety

Benita Zahn recently interviewed psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Ferraioli on News Channel 13 (WNYT.) The title of the interview, “Coping with Chronic Anxiety.” 

However, if I were to title the interview it would be “The Worried Well and the Worried Sick.” Terms they both used frequently and Benita and Dr. Ferraioli chuckled while identifying themselves as the Worried Well.

You’ll find a link to the interview below.

The Interview

160_f_107247391_v4mwqtf0fkb4reusuyicexjoc47kgoqcDr. Ferraioli reported that most problems never come to fruition. All the worry is useless. He indicated that you could get rid of 90% of worries by asking these two questions:

  1. Is this problem real at all?
  2. What’s the worst that could happen?

Benita understood that could be done for imaginary problems but wondered what could be done about real worry? Dr. Ferraioli offered three suggestions.

  1. Can I do something about it right now? If so, take the action immediately rather than waste time uselessly worrying.
  2. Can’t take the action right now? No problem. Schedule the action for another time. When can you take the action? In an hour, next week? Schedule the action in your calendar and then let it go until the scheduled time rolls around.
  3. Can’t do anything at all, ever about this real problem? Then let go. Just let it go.

160_f_105122628_d6w3uqm2ynfxl6secdpjdexcjxhym7jqBenita said that for some, letting go is the tough part. Dr. Ferraioli agreed and suggested a person who can’t let go might have serious psychological problems and should see a doctor. This sort of person he calls, “the worried sick.”

The Worried Sick spend more time worrying than not. Their worry affects their functioning and interferes with relationships. This person, Dr. Ferraioli suggested, needs to see a doctor.

Benita asked if learning to put worry aside—deal with it another time—if that was something that could be practiced. Dr. Ferraioli replied, “It’s a skill like any other skill…gotta practice.”

At the end of the interview the two joked around hahaha let’s “Not worry about anything for the next 10 minutes.”

A Critique of the Interview

Missed Opportunity

160_f_63078737_5v3mkgmxt8zbbgnxn700ffwgbdcm2jbxThis interview was held 9/26/16, just days before October 9th, which kicks off National OCD Awareness Week. Benita’s interview with Dr. Ferraioli produced a brilliant moment to segue into talking about OCD.

Instead a nonclinical degrading term was used: The Worried Sick. Sadly, the opportunity to raise awareness about OCD was missed yet again. Every year I see this opportunity missed in the news.

I met Benita Zahn when she introduced me to the 2014 YWCA Resourceful Women’s Luncheon. As she handed me an award she told the audience I was fighting for a population of people who suffer from an obsessive compulsive disorder.

So I know she is aware of the disorder and if only she had thought more deeply about the gift she has to influence and make a great impact for those, “Coping with Chronic Anxiety.”

I assume a psychiatrist is familiar with the symptoms of OCD. Although I’ve heard many stories over the years of people being misdiagnosed and treated instead with medication for Psychosis, ADHD or a Bipolar Disorder. I’ve had several clients say they weren’t diagnosed with OCD because the doctor said, “You don’t excessively wash your hands.”

Maybe I’ve unfairly held Dr. Ferraioli to a higher standard than I should. But, I think this would have been a great opportunity for him to educate the public about OCD. Especially nearing OCD Awareness Week.

The Worried Sick

160_f_59059956_rxqkb5vnyjcctqjh2ruex4y3jh9zqnsyBenita and Dr. Ferraioli referred to themselves as the Worried Well. The Worried Well apparently can let go. Those who can’t let go are apparently called, the Worried Sick. Maybe this is just semantics, but I don’t refer to any client or anyone feeling distressed as sick. I might suggest someone is misinterpreting stimuli or lacking resources, but not sick!

The fact that someone has trouble letting go of worry doesn’t mean they’re sick. People who are riddled with worry and anxiety can play competitive sports, work long days, take care of children, get a 4.0 GPA and help take care of a needy world. Despite all the worrying, they’re strong and competent.

The background noise in Benita and Dr. Ferraioli’s interview seems based on a medical model that sees people as having faulty chemistry that makes them “sick.” That’s disempowering and misleadingly suggests a pill is the answer.

No matter how much anxiety a person has, they can nurture what is best within themselves. Living with anxiety is not about weakness and damage. It’s about strength and living a value-driven life.

When you see the title, “Coping with Chronic Anxiety” you think, “oh there’s going to be some good tips about how to cope!” Yet, the focus of the interview was mainly speaking to the Worried Well and only offered one tip for those who chronically suffer from anxiety: go see a doctor.

Chronic anxiety is no laughing matter but the two of them were lighthearted and had a few laughs over their Worried Well selves. I suppose I sound a little mad. I’m not feeling angry, just disappointed. The interview is not correctly titled. 

In this interview Dr. Ferraioli gives a few tips.

The tips are good and sound familiar to me, and probably will to you too.

The Tips

Stay in the Moment

The tips Dr. Ferraioli talked about were good ideas. They sounded a little like the “3 Door” technique I talk to clients about. It’s a systematic way of properly compartmentalizing and prioritizing thoughts and worries.

The first door is Yesterday’s Door. Does your thought come from the past? Are you rewinding and replaying something that already happened? Nothing can be done about what has already happened. Put it through Yesterday’s Door and close the door. Walk away and move on to Today’s Door.

Your thought belongs in Today’s Door if there is an action that needs to be taken TODAY. You’ll work this worry through by taking action today. Make a to-do list and start checking off the steps to take,TODAY. If there is no action to take TODAY, then the worry goes in Tomorrow’s Door. This worry will be looked at again tomorrow.

And when tomorrow rolls around, you’ll ask, “Is there any action I’m going to take about this problem TODAY?” If not, it goes back into Tomorrow’s Door. When tomorrow rolls around, you’ll handle it the same way. “I don’t need to think about this TODAY unless there is some action I’m going to take today.”

160_f_63058634_3qpdnbyhlfaklmxrxveaeja5ndc4x3oqWorst Case Scenario

Dr. Ferraioli also mentioned taking a worry and walking it through to the worst case scenario. I agree wholeheartedly that when people actually do this, they discover they would actually be able to handle whatever happens.

Worst case scenarios are unpleasant but endurable. The most liberating statement I’ve ever heard a client say is this: I’d rather have my worst fear happen than live in constant fear of it happening. Just give me the bad news and let me deal with it.

Wasted Energy

Dr. Ferraioli said that worry is useless. Absolutely! All the worry in the world can’t prevent something from happening. You can try all all kinds of safety behaviors (compulsions) to keep something bad from happening but none of it truly controls outcomes.

We simply don’t have control over what does or doesn’t happen. Control is nothing more than an illusion. Life is not about what happens to us but how we handle what happens to us.

Easier Said Than Done

And Benita’s right, letting go is easier said than done. Letting go is hard to do! Especially when the worry seems so real and catastrophic. Even harder, when the person has OCD which is like being led around by a chaperone on steroids.

Calling people the Worried Sick is not exactly inspiring. It’s not a strength-based approach and is not likely to empower or motivate someone to do something as hard as letting go.

The word “sick” swallows up strength and courage. And it probably creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’m considered sick so I can’t act well.”

How to Let Go When It’s Hard to Do

This is the question that needed to be answered in a more hopeful, inspiring manner in the interview. Instead we heard that if you can’t let go you have serious psychological problems and need to see a doctor.

How is it possible to let go when your brain is telling you that your fear is so real and likely to happen? And the thought of this terrible thing happening feels overwhelming and impossible to endure. How is it possible to let go of such intense frequent worry?

This is the pain point of people with chronic anxiety. Whether it’s a phobia, generalized anxiety, OCD or panic attacks…how is it possible to let go?

No Matter What You Do It’s Going to Be Hard

Last week I posted in this blog on the topic of letting go. Using a shrug and saying, “Whatever happens, happens.” A few days later this comment was posted in response: “This [post] is very helpful. It is hard, however to shrug off the thought and not do the compulsion when your mind tells you to. But, that is the nature of ocd and the nature of bad habits.”

My response is that no matter what you do it’s going to be hard. Worrying is hard. Trying to control something you can’t is hard. Engaging in safety behaviors (compulsions, reassurance-seeking, avoidance) is hard. Doing something until it feels “just right” is hard.

160_f_113915283_usrc1mr5oepxvhdspuadulvpktbp8pbsLetting go is hard. It’s all very hard. But, if you don’t let go you’ll be dragged. And being dragged is the worst possible hard you can go through. You’re strong enough to let go. Yes, it’s hard but not as hard as being dragged.

Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You have to choose your poison. Face your fears and free your mind. That’s going to be hard. Avoid your fears and be held hostage by your mind. That’s hard too. You choose.

The sort of thoughts you have–that’s not a choice. How you react to those thoughts–that is a choice. Your brain is lying if it tells you that you have no choice. You can’t choose your thoughts. Nobody can. But we all choose how we respond to our thoughts.

You’re strong enough to do HARD. You’ve done it before and you can do it again.

Develop New Rules to Follow

OCD is a rule monger. It defies all common sense and tries to get you to follow ridiculous rules. In order to let go, you’ve got to create a new set of rules you follow no matter what OCD says.

If you’re worrying about what people think about you. Follow this rule: Until someone gives you negative feedback to your face, it’s none of your business what people are thinking.

Obsessing about possibly being terminally ill? Follow this rule: As long as I can stand up straight, I’m not bleeding profusely, can take deep breaths and there is no pain unrelieved by medication, I’m not going to stop what I’m doing and rush to the emergency room. My doctor will follow me at a frequency s/he determines to be medically necessary.

Do you have harm avoidance OCD? Do you question your intentions and doubt your goodness or beliefs? Follow this rule: Actions speak louder than words. I can think bad things. I can feel bad. My behavior, the actions I take define me. Not my thoughts or feelings. I focus on my actions.

Letting go is not easy. True. But you’ve got to say, “so what.” I can do hard. I’d rather take the risk, than live like this.

Dr. Ferraioli mentioned the importance of practicing skills. There is no way to cope with anxiety without practicing. What you practice you get good at. So make sure you’re practicing skills that pulverize anxiety. If you fall, get back up.

It’s not the fall that counts. It’s the getting up. You’re not sick You’re strong. You’re in the fight of your life. You have every right to be hopeful. Everything you need is inside of you.

There’s a good wolf and a bad wolf. Which one wins? The one you feed. Nurture what is best…within you.

We kick off OCD Awareness Week October 9th at 2:00pm at the Calvary Methodist Church in Latham, NY. Our topic is:

“Owning Our Story and Loving Ourselves Through It: Embracing Who We Are.” 

Here, you will not find the Worried Sick. You will find people coping with anxiety who are everything you would ever want to be:  Strong, Compassionate, Empathic, and Conquering.

I’m not sure how long the interview link will work but here it is: The Interview. I’d love your thoughts! 

What’s the Purpose of Exposure & Response Prevention?

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

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

160_F_31090355_QcsNrNUmrhz8B7qKlCg2X592aBA4Vwxl

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

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

1. Watch for danger and
2. Conserve energy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Day is April Fool’s Day with OCD

Today is April Fool’s Day. But you’re ready for it. Right? You’re not going to be easy to fool. As long as you remember what today is, it’s going to be tough to trick you. And if you do get tricked, you’re going to try and trick back. Get even with the trickster.160_F_106415060_ShSdt4UUjCtwx2qLZNZTwTKKc598kzU2 Every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day. As long as you remember that every day is April Fool’s Day, it’s going to be hard for OCD to trick you. 

This is day 1 of a 30 day challenge to make a plan to defy OCD and stick to it. Here’s your first challenge. Write a short paragraph about how every day with OCD is April Fool’s Day. Feel free to add your paragraph to the comment section. It’ll be anonymous. 

As promised this 30 day challenge has been removed from the blog. Due to its popularity and helpfulness, it will be repurposed soon in a different format.

If You Had A Chance To Be Assertive Today-Would You Be Ready? (Hint: How Spock Did It Every Time.)

assertive

If you have OCD then you know it’s an enormous force to come up against. There are moments of clarity when you know it’s nothing more than a neurological condition. “I know that’s ridiculous” and you give OCD a disinterested shrug. But, then there’re times when you’re flooded with fear and you totally forget to boss it back. In these moments OCD seems like a merciless bully and you don’t dare assert yourself.

Chances are you have an equally difficult time asserting yourself with people. That’s because a person with OCD detects, perceives and labels situations as threatening when they aren’t. “If I tell this person what I want then I’ll sound mean.” So what? Work on your tone! Say what you mean but don’t say it mean. True, sometimes there really is danger, but not to the catastrophic degree that OCD has you believing. “If I say no to him I’ll be a lonely old maid the rest of my life.” The OCD brain impairs your ability to reason. It keeps you in fight, flight or freeze mode. So when you encounter a situation that requires you to be assertive, you either:

  • Come on too strong to force the unpleasantries to stop
  • Hide and avoid the unpleasant situation or person
  • Freeze and regret not standing up for yourself

While most people have a hard time being assertive, a person with OCD has an even more difficult time. You have deeply embedded neurocircuitry that tells you to do the same thing over and over and over. This circuitry is deeply embedded but has no deep meaning. That’s where the tragedy lies; you think it does have deep meaning. Brain circuitry is nothing more than patterns like on a flannel shirt. Patterns develop based on usage. Your circuitry tells you to fight flight or freeze when there is uncertainty. Asserting yourself can result in any number of possibilities—that’s a lot of uncertainty! Fight flight or freeze is your default circuitry.

comfortzone

To be assertive you must step outside of your comfort zone, assume whatever risk you think is there and accept uncertainty. In order to become assertive you have to break the deeply embedded code in your neurocircuitry that wrongfully cries out: “Don’t Do It!” If you break this code and practice being assertive with people, you’ll be bossing your OCD around like a pro. You get good at what you practice.

circuitryThe question is how to break the deeply embedded code that makes you nonassertive with people and OCD. Here is the strategy for breaking the code and becoming assertive with people and OCD:

I Statements

Being assertive is stating what you want. It sounds like this: “I want…I need…It’s important to me.” Use a matter-of-fact tone of voice. There is no need for emotion and if you remain calm you will actually remove 70% of the other person’s urge be dramatic. You’re taking ownership of what you want, using direct eye contact and your posture is energetic, not slouched or aggressive. “I” statements work with OCD too. If you truly don’t want to be doing compulsions, then you have to stand up for what it is that you do want! “What’s important to me, OCD, is that I spend time with my family. Lying in bed all day—that’s not what I want.”

Repeat and Don’t Attack

After you communicate what you want you are likely to get a “yeah, but” response. You acknowledge the rebuttal (“hmmm that’s interesting…”) and then repeat your point of view again; what it is you want. Don’t attack back by trying to be logical. The same goes for OCD. Do not try to reason with OCD. Just repeat what it is you want. Don’t engage in any lengthy explaining or defensive argument.

Be Absurd and Over the Top

If a peer is being rude to you take it to an absurd level. If someone calls you an idiot because you made a mistake exaggerate your mistake to absurdity. “Oh you’re right this mistake is serious. I can’t seem to stop making mistakes. One of these days my mistake is going to end all mankind.” This by the way is exactly how to talk to OCD. Agree with it to the point of absurdity.

Rehearse Being Assertive

I’ve attached a video of 10 scenarios of people struggling with being assertive. Watch all 10 clips every day for 7-14 days. This is called a computer-aided exposure exercise. Studies show that people who experience Exposure Therapy vicariously improve more than someone who doesn’t.

Meditation

Another way to break the code of fight flight freeze is to imagine being relaxed in uptight situations. Listen to this Assertive Meditation.

Dr.Spock

Finally, we have some good advice from Dr. Spock. He responded to most things with nothing more than curiosity and intrigue. Nothing kills a bully’s buzz more than fascination. Same goes with OCD. It’s hard to be afraid when you act fascinated.

Please consider sharing this post with anyone you know that needs to be more assertive. Also at the top of the post click on “Leave a Comment.” Feel free to ask questions, tell a short story or share an idea! We’re building a community of bossy pants!