5 things you need to know about overcoming OCD

Published on September 3, 2019

5 things you need to know about overcoming OCD 1

A highly used term, but very less understood – that is perhaps one of the most common characteristics of OCD in today’s day and age.

But what really defines an Obsessive-Compulsive behaviour? Does double checking whether you have switched off the stove once in a while constitute OCD? Or is the fear of germ contamination occasionally symptomatic of OCD?

If it is occasional, it is normal. It is only when such thoughts occupy one’s mind constantly, cause distress and interfere with daily life and relationships, that it becomes a disorder. If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours are irrational—but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.

Difference between obsessions and compulsions

Obsessions are involuntary thoughts or images that occur again and again in the mind. One doesn’t want to have them but can’t help it either.

Compulsions, on the other hand, are behaviours or rituals that one feels the need to perform again and again. Usually, compulsions are performed in an attempt to make obsessions go away. For example, if someone is afraid of contamination, they might develop elaborate cleaning rituals.

According to Health Guide,

Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include:

  • Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
  • Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
  • Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
  • Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
  • Fear of losing or not having things you might need
  • Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”
  • Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky

Common compulsive behaviours in OCD include:

  • Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches
  • Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe
  • Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety
  • Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning
  • Ordering or arranging things “just so”
  • Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
  • Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers

How can one overcome OCD?

While there are many ways to overcome OCD, here are the top 6 ways:

1.Identify the triggers

The first step is to identify what are the thoughts and situations that trigger obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Keeping track of your triggers can help you anticipate your urges, thereby helping you ease them when they arise. For example, if you have an OCD of checking that the doors are locked and windows are closed, try to do that activity with extra attention the first time. Then make a clear, mental picture and tell yourself, “ the door is now locked”. This way when the urge to check it again arises, you can dismiss it saying “it is just an obsessive thought”.

2.Reach out for support

Talking about things that constantly occupy one’s mind space, always helps. Talking about OCD to close friends or family members helps you to feel more comfortable about the condition and less lonely too. Spending time with other people who have OCD can also be very beneficial. It may create an openness to share one’s feelings without the fear of being judged.

3.Make lifestyle changes

Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol and nicotine are some of the ways to keep OCD related anxiety at bay. Try to get a 30 min aerobic exercise every day to relieve yourself from stress. Not having enough sleep also leads to overthinking, obsessive thoughts and anxiety. So a good night’s rest is important. As against popular belief, while nicotine and alcohol may seem to be relaxants, they are actually stimulants and can cause anxiety and stress in the long run.

4.Manage stress

While stress doesn’t cause OCD, it can trigger symptoms or make them worse. Physical exercise and connecting with another person face-to-face are two very effective ways to calm your nervous system. Alternatively, you can also listen to your favourite music, practice breathing exercises, visit a spa, or meditate to self-soothe your nerves and manage stress.

5.Get professional treatment

If the condition starts affecting your daily activities and relationships, it may be advisable to get medical help. The best-known form of treatment for OCD is Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy (CBT). And the type of behavioural therapy shown to be most effective for OCD is known as Exposure and Response Prevention (E&RP). According to experienced psychologists, E&RP consists of gradually confronting your fearful thoughts and situations while resisting the performing of compulsions. The goal is to stay with whatever makes you anxious so that you will develop a tolerance for the thought or the situation, and learn that, if you take no protective measures, nothing at all will happen.

If you are suffering from OCD or have recognised some of the symptoms, it is never too late to seek professional help. For a safe, unbiased and non-judgemental space to talk about your anxieties, please book an appointment with us at Tranquil Minds.