Self-management Strategies for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is like having a bully stuck inside your head and nobody else can see it” – Krissy Mc Dermott.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition where the person experiences frequent, intrusive and unwelcome thoughts, images and impulses along with repetitive acts aimed at getting rid of them. “Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that an individual experiences over and over again,” says Andrea Umbach, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders at Southeast Psych in Charlotte, N.C.

Confronting obsessions is not an easy task for all. The immediate thoughts that would come up in most people’s mind are ‘ I should consult a psychiatrist or ‘ I must go to a Therapist near me’.  “One of the most popular and effective forms of behavioral therapy for OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP). ERP involves exposing you to the anxiety that is provoked by your obsessions and then preventing the use of rituals to reduce your anxiety,” says clinical psychologist Owen Kelly, PhD.

But have we ever thought how we can deal with the problem ourselves? Undoubtedly psychotherapies like CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) yield solutions for any anxiety disorder, but knowing how to manage the problem ourselves ensures it. This article is about some of the simple strategies that we can do to help ourselves out of the Obsessions and Compulsions.

Examples of Obsession

There are different types of obsessions that affect people of all ages. According to Kate Gibson, PsyD, “Obsessions are thoughts that get stuck repeating in someone’s head that they try to get rid of. These thoughts are intrusive and persistent, and they cause distress.” These obsessions lead to compulsive habits and start interfering with the normal functioning of the individual. Some of them are :
  1. Hand washing – Whereby the individual has a continuous thought of touching dirt and washes hands to undo this feeling. This can become so severe and uncontrollable that he/she might stop touching things at all.
  2. Checking – Where the person keeps on checking his/her doors, cupboards, etc whether they are locked. He/she stays unreasonably preoccupied with the order of things and feels uncomfortable if things are removed from their places.
  3. Sorcerous thoughts and undoing rituals – This involves having thoughts of a loved one being harmed or some other unpleasant thought and follows neutralizing the thoughts with good ones.
  4. Recurrent thoughts of self-harm – This involves a person having violent and harmful thoughts of harming himself or others and results in following a variety of complex avoidance and reassurance rituals.

The 5 best ways of managing OCD alone
  1. Notice your thoughts – begin with taking a note of the situations where the symptoms occur (images or impulses that come in your mind) and understand it. Having a track of thoughts helps to gain control over them.
  2. Pay attention to your actions – Obsessive thoughts can be controlled till they manifest themselves through actions. Be vigilant to your actions. The moment you feel you are doing something to neutralize the obsessions, check yourself before it is too late.
  3. Be Mindful – Obsessions get the mind so preoccupied that people become inattentive to the other things happening around. Be mindful about yourself and the environment – that itself does a lot in reducing the intrusive thoughts.
  4. Rate your problems – This technique is more often used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, but it can be easily applied on self. The only thing to do is making a list of all the inappropriate thoughts that are running through the mind and rating them according to their severity. Once the numbers are before you, gaining insight becomes easy.
  5. Try to resist the compulsive actsChoose one compulsion and try resisting it. For example, as soon as you wonder whether you have locked the door, try recalling instead of checking. Once you feel that you have gained success in stopping it, then go on one by one till the habits fade away.

Always keep in mind that obsessions and compulsions get stronger the more we give way to them. Mental health professionals believe that “the goal of any good treatment is to teach you to become your own therapist.”

So before you seek for professional guidance, it is worth giving the aforesaid self-management skills a try to fight OCD.