Why Is Coping with OCD Important?
For many people, coping with OCD is necessary to live a more fulfilling and less stressful life.
OCD or Obsessive and Compulsive Disorder is a disorder that causes the sufferers to have recurring obsessions and compulsions that disrupt their functioning in life. The obsessions and compulsions are time and energy consuming. They can also make the person feel ashamed and bad about themselves. That is why treatment and finding a way of coping with OCD is important.
What Are Obsessions and Compulsions?
Obsessions in OCD are recurring thoughts that cause anxiety. For example: an obsessive fear of contamination, obsession about avoiding certain numbers, obsessive fear of leaving something on and causing fire etc.
Compulsions are actions performed to make the obsessions go away. For example if your obsession involves fear of germs and contamination the compulsion would be to repetitively wash your hands.
Some common OCD types include:
The person is preoccupied with avoiding germs and other contaminants, so they wash their hands, body and possessions repetitively, many times a day.
These people are constantly questioning and analyzing their actions fearing they have done something wrong to someone or that they will do it in any moment. They may even engage in inappropriate confessions and repetitive apologies.
A person who suffers from hoarding OCD fears that bad things will happen if they throw something away (excessive fear they may need that object later). So, as a result they hoard things they don’t need.
Magical Thinking (superstitious) OCD
This type of OCD causes the person to have superstitious fears. They may fear that by their own behaviors and thoughts they may somehow cause a bad thing, or a back luck to happen. They may try to avoid ‘unlucky numbers’, ‘bad thoughts’ etc.
Reassurance Seeking, Checking OCD
Checking OCD makes the person constantly check for possible mistakes. They may check their appliances repetitively, check if the door is locked, constantly check if their possessions are still there etc. They may also constantly re-read things, ask repetitive questions and doubt the accuracy of their memory.
There are many more types of OCD, but these are probably the most common ones. Also, a single person can suffer from a few types of OCD and their types may change throughout their lives.
What Is Purely Obsessional OCD?
Purely obsessional OCD is when obsessions are present but compulsions are absent. You may still be getting intrusive, obsessive and distressing thoughts, but those thoughts do not demand any compulsive behaviors. For example: you may be getting intrusive blasphemous thoughts or inappropriate mental images and ideas for no apparent reason.
People with OCD are greatly bothered and ashamed by those thoughts and mental images. They don’t want to act on them and don’t find pleasure in them.
What Causes OCD?
While scientists can’t determine with absolute certainty the causes OCD, it is thought to have a neuro-biological origin. There are theories that claim that OCD happens because the part of our brain that is responsible for detecting errors is overactive.
What Can You Do About Coping with OCD?
There is nothing you can do to make OCD go away completely. There are fortunately many things you can do to decrease the level of your anxiety, your obsessions and compulsions. Coping with OCD can help you lead a more fulfilling and less stressful life.
1.Try to Resist at Least a Few Compulsions a Day
Yes, this may seem extremely difficult. Not performing a compulsion can cause people with OCD a tremendous amount of anxiety. But it’s definitely possible to resist a compulsion. Of course if you try to resist every compulsion you will fail and give up. That’s why it’s important to take it slow. For example try to avoid at least one compulsion once a day. Don’t listen to your OCD at least once a day. Then gradually increase the number to 2, 3 etc. By resisting your compulsions you make your obsessions less powerful. Your brain also gets the message that nothing horrible happens if you don’t perform your compulsions. The less you feed your compulsions, the less powerful your obsessions will be long term.
2.Engage in Creative Activities
You are less likely to get obsessive thoughts if you are in a creative state. A creative state of mind gives you an ability to focus on the present moment without anxiety. So how can you do this? Find a hobby or an activity that you enjoy that induces your creativity. Spend a good amount of time of the day doing that activity. At those moments your OCD will not bother you as much.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judging it as good or bad. How does it help with obsessive thoughts? OCD makes you focus on the future, (what if something will go wrong) or the past (what if I did something wrong). By focusing on the present moment you are doing the opposite of what OCD makes you do. You are simply living in the present moment.
4. Try to Talk Yourself out of Your Irrational Fears
Although this seems to be as time consuming as the compulsive behaviors, it can actually make some obsessions less powerful. For example if you have hygiene related OCD try to rationally explain to yourself that no one can possible avoid all germs at all times and that excessive washing can actually hurt you and make you even more prone to infections. Also, remind yourself that uncertainty and possibility of bad things happening is part of life.
5. Try to Expose Yourself to Your Fears
OCD is often tied to a particular fear. For example: fear of a having a messy, disordered room.
In this case you can do exposure therapy by purposely causing your room to be messy. It can feel extremely distressing at first but with time your mind will get used to the messiness and will not be so distressed by it. By exposing yourself to the fears associated with your obsessions the fears may become less intense. Your obsessions will also decrease as a result.
6. Don’t Force Yourself to Get Rid of Your Thoughts
Trying to not think of something can cause you to think of it even more. You are actually feeding your OCD by doing it. Our thoughts are automatic and can’t be controlled ‘on demand’. Sure you can occupy yourself with activities that are less likely to cause negative thoughts but you cannot force your thoughts out of your head. So when your OCD thoughts start coming just accept them for what they are (meaningless thoughts) and don’t take them too seriously.
7. Remember, You Are Not Your Disorder
Don’t identify yourself with your OCD. OCD is just a malfunction of a part of your mind. It is not what makes you, YOU. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying your life and pursing your goals. Coping with OCD also includes not giving OCD too much importance and not letting it control your life.
See also: Tap into Your Creative Flow State