Once upon a time a young man was walking through the mountains near his home. A cute little kitten appeared. It looked hungry and lost. He decided to take it home. He took good care of the kitten, but every time he fed it, it seemed hungrier. One day he noticed it was eating a mouse. He realized his kitten was ready for big cat’s food. But the problem continued. The more he fed it, the more the kitten wanted. One day, a friend came to visit him. The friend was shocked and said, “What in the world are you doing with a tiger?” The young man had gotten so used to living with his pet and its demands that he had not even noticed that it had become a tiger!
You may have heard similar stories to illustrate how individuals who comply with OCD’s demands, only grow and fortify it just like this young man did with his pet. Here are some suggestions to START making changes for a better life despite OCD:
State the circumstances out loud. Verbalize what you are feeling, thinking, and sensing. Avoid getting caught up in figuring out their meaning. They are what they are. You can disarm OCDs power over you as you externalize what you feel, think, and sense in your body. Then move on to what’s important in the present moment. Try it!
Tackle the situation by using the right tools. Don’t try to be a hero and endure anxiety without the right skills. Notice your strengths and use them as you take small steps towards decreasing your compulsions. When OCD sufferers attempt to do exposures without proper training, they may get discouraged and discontinue their efforts. Check legitimate websites such as the IOCD Foundation and consult with therapists who have been sufficiently trained.
Awareness of your thinking errors is paramount. Are you aware of what type of thinking errors prevail in your mind? We cannot change our behaviors until we become aware of them. As you recognize those negative thinking patterns, you can decide that they are not worth your time. This in turn will help decrease the rumination tendencies you may often have.
Risk taking is key. If your therapist were to ask you to climb up to a high diving board and jump into a pool of muddy water, how would you feel? It may be murky, grimy, and scary. But if you know that by jumping you’ll begin your journey of recovery, would you take the risk? Taking risks as you begin exposures is difficult, but in the end it will be worth it. Take the jump, you’ll be glad you did!
Tolerating anxiety and uncertainty is the ultimate goal. Quite often, OCD sufferers find that statement troublesome despite evidence-based practice, research, and clarification by their therapist. They may understand the concept, but it usually takes longer to digest. Where are you with this goal? Is the fantasy of someday being totally liberated from anxiety and uncertainty still lingering in your thoughts? Anxiety and uncertainty are part of life. Ironically, as you embrace this fact, you will begin to feel empowered and confident. Are you ready to START?