Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Examples for Managing OCD

Following are some ideas for exposure and response prevention (ERP) exercises. These apply to all different kinds of OCD, so some may seem irrelevant to you, and that’s fine. They are only a guide; you can be as creative as you like.

  • Collect dog poo in a jar and then handle the jar.

  • Touch the sole of your shoe and then touch your bed, your clean towels and everything in the kitchen.

  • Dilute urine to spread around the house.

  • Touch baby clothes and bottles in a shop to spread contaminant.

  • Record yourself saying an intrusive thought out loud over and over again and play it to yourself repeatedly.

  • Watch ‘trigger’ scenes from film, TV and so on over and over until you feel your reaction reduce.

  • Write out your worst fear of yourself or a loved one becoming ill and reread it over and over.

  • Write out your own account of a feared catastrophe taking place, such as being arrested by the police and having your computer confiscated, and read it repeatedly.

  • Draw a picture, even just a sketch or a stick diagram, of your feared image and put it up on your wall or fridge.

  • Place examples of all items that you feel are contaminated in a box or bag, rummage in it daily and spread those contaminants all over your home.

  • Walk around the house touching used underwear to everyday objects.

  • Deliberately think an unwanted thought while eating chocolate (or another treat).

  • Write your unwanted thought on a piece of paper and throw it in a public bin.

  • Leave your electrical appliances plugged in while you are out at work.

  • Sit on a public bench and then sit on your bed in the same clothes.

  • Leave a tap running and go and run some errands.

  • Walk under a ladder and open an umbrella indoors.

  • Leave a pair of scissors on the table beside you while you have coffee with a friend.

  • Visit a gay bar and strike up conversation with someone of the same sex.

  • Deliberately make a mistake in your homework or assignment.

The key is to see the world as full of opportunities for facing your fears and resisting compulsions. ERP does not have to be perfect and there is always a way of moving toward your fears and helping yourself overcome your OCD.