There are a number of methods of tackling this debilitating condition. Some involve medication but personally, while they may be useful as a temporary measure to get you through the day, I’m not a fan of things which treat symptoms and let the causes go ignored.
The most common non-drug treatments are Cognitive Bias Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (often in combination).
These methods are not easy, but, if you can do them, they are effective.
Think of a small example of the thing which causes your anxiety. Not something which will really drive you wild, just something which may cause mild anxiety; the smallest example you can think of. Maybe, move one item out of place on a shelf if that’s the cause. Or turn the cooker off once and don’t touch the switch again if your problem is needing to check.
Don’t correct it. Just look at it. Sit for 15 minutes and look at whatever is causing the anxiety. If the anxiety usually causes you to do another compulsive behaviour, for example, playing with your hair, tapping your fingers or washing your hands, don’t let yourself do it. Sit on your hands if you must; whatever it takes. Unless of course your hands are what you’re staring at, in which case, don’t sit on them, but don’t wash them either.
- Don’t put it right
- Don’t let your usual compulsive behaviours happen
- Just look at whatever causes the anxiety
Looking at the cause for 15 minutes without acting on your feelings, tells your mind that you can let the thing happen and you have the choice not to respond, and that not reacting is OK. And gradually, you will learn that the reaction is unnecessary.
Take a break for a couple of hours and then do it again, but this time for longer. Try 30 minutes. Then 60 minutes. Then do 60 minutes, 4 times a day. Of course, if you find that 30 minutes is too much, stick with 15 minutes for a few sessions before increasing. But move up to 30 as soon as you feel able, and so on.
Once you have mastered the above and your anxiety level has dropped off, do something slightly bigger. Repeat the same steps but with something that makes you more anxious than what you did above. Don’t leap up to full panic mode, just something SLIGHTLY worse than above. Move up step by step, slowly.
By doing these steps you are confronting the fear, but not allowing yourself to react. It allows you to separate thoughts, from feelings, from reactions. It allows you to see that, letting the causes of your anxiety remain won’t make the world end; that your compulsions are unnecessary. And you may say “well, I know that”, and maybe consciously you do. But if your subconscious was convinced, you wouldn’t feel the need to do something about the cause of the anxiety.
Performing the compulsive activity reinforces the need to do it. Ignoring the compulsion, but confronting the cause will, in time, turn anxiety to boredom. You will become so bored with staring at the cause that you will forget to be anxious about it.
Depending on how serious your OCD is, it may take several months to a year to get over it completely but hopefully, you will see some progress quite quickly.
More on OCD next time.