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The Battle with OCD – Are You Winning?

10.8.18

Many individuals who suffer with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and those that support them often talk about the fight with OCD. “I won’t give up the fight with OCD.” It feels hopeful and encouraging when you say those words. Certainly, individuals experiencing OCD do not wish to let OCD get them down in life.

If individuals stay focused on what matters most despite their OCD, they can continue to pursue life with vitality. They would not let OCD get in the way of their relationships and their values. This is what they mean when they say, “I’m not going to let OCD beat me!”

Though people’s intention is not to let OCD ruin their lives, the mind grasps the word “fight” and it changes things around for them. Without realizing it, they begin to fight their intrusive thoughts. Though they may be told this is not effective in the long run, their mind insists, “You can be a fighter.” Individuals begin to literally “fight” OCD as if it were a boxing match. Yeah, “You can’t beat me OCD!”

OCD is an ego dystonic mental disorder, so individuals become distressed when their thoughts are incongruent with the type of person they are or want to become. Whether it is intentionally or unconsciously, individuals battling OCD begin to spend time, energy, and mental effort fighting their thoughts.

For example, when a loving mom notices a thought such as, “You may molest your toddler.” This caring mom will panic at this thought. “This is a disgusting thought. Why did I think that?” Right there and then, the contest begins. The war with OCD seems endless as she becomes stuck in the OCD cycle.

Individuals often try to suppress, fight, escape, and hide from situations they believe will trigger the unpleasant and disturbing thoughts. Many individuals who’ve tried suppressing their thoughts report experiencing massive headaches, and others report ending up in a panic state. Many people resort to daily avoidance, which is their way to confront OCD.

However, rumination seems to be their most handy strategy to fight OCD. For those struggling with OCD, the mental urge to reassure themselves becomes repetitious and unconscious. The unpleasant feelings that include anxiety lead individuals to obsessions and compulsions that usually bring short-term relief. This short-lived comfort causes the individual to follow the mind’s advice again and again.

Though individuals may logically understand their obsessions and compulsions keep them stuck, they cannot resist the urge to fight the thoughts. After all, those thoughts do not match their values, and what they want out of life. Fighting becomes a blind obsession that leads them to avoid precious time with loved ones. They halt their life until they can “beat OCD.” The question is will the war ever be over? A better question is, who is winning the war?

Researchers report that OCD is a chronic illness. This means that the intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and other feelings and sensations that come along with OCD will not completely disappear even after being treated by a clinician who understands and knows how to treat OCD effectively.

The good news is that clients can learn skills that will help them develop psychological flexibility. They can learn to look at their internal events (thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges) with a different mindset. They can learn that at times of stress OCD will most likely flair up. They can learn that pleasant and unpleasant thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges, are part of being a human being.

You can learn to apply the tools taken from modalities such as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention –the behavioral part of CBT), and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) that includes mindfulness training. Then you will be empowered to live with vitality.

You don’t need to battle OCD any longer. You are a winner when you get out of the boxing ring, even when OCD taunts you to put your fighting gloves back on!

Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

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