Acquiring Anti-OCD Attitudes and Action

Part of Managing OCD with CBT For Dummies Cheat Sheet

OCD’s maintenance mechanisms have deep roots in your mind, which is why OCD tends to be a long-lasting problem unless you make a considerable effort to break free. It’s like asserting yourself against a bully; you have to be forceful and deliberate. That’s why you need to devise a plan that is actively anti-OCD to free yourself from OCD’s grip. Here are some tips:

  • Reduce and (most importantly) stop yourself from using the compulsions that you carry out physically and in your mind (called response prevention).

  • Deliberately face your fears and/or the triggers for your unwanted mental events — thoughts, images, impulses and doubts. Doing so helps you overcome your fears as you become more used to them and also gives you an opportunity to practise responding differently.

  • Understand that literally no one has control over the thoughts that pop into his or her head and that thoughts and images can just as easily reflect something that you don’t want to do as something that you do want to do.

  • Reinterpret your unwanted mental events as normal. Yes, even yours. Even that one.

  • Recognise that if a thought of disaster has occurred to you, you don’t have to take responsibility for preventing it from happening. Letting thoughts of catastrophe pass without checking or taking precautions is normal, not irresponsible.

  • Know that the thoughts that pass through your mind mean about as much about you as a cloud passing in the sky does. Some are nice, some nasty and some in between. Judging yourself on the basis of your thoughts is like judging the planet Earth on the basis of a cloud that you’re looking at. Yes, the cloud is a product (is part of) the planet, but it hardly gives you a good understanding of the nature of the place.

  • Allow any unwanted mental events, emotions or bodily sensations to pass of their own accord without engaging with them (for example, trying to stop, change, replace or get rid of them).

  • Restore confidence in your mind. Put trust back into the aspects of your mind that you may have come to mistrust: your morality, your memory, your judgment and so on.

  • Reclaim your lost hobbies, interests, activities, and relationships and fill the void left behind as your OCD reduces.

These steps have helped countless people with OCD before you. Stick with them, and they can work for you too.