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How I Overcame My Compulsions and Gained Control of My Life
Compulsions can be both overt and covert. Overt compulsions are visible behaviors, such as hand-washing, checking locks, or counting. Covert compulsions are mental rituals, such as repeating certain words to oneself or mentally reviewing events to search for possible mistakes.
The most difficult for me was mental compulsions. I had to learn how to think differently and not give in to the compulsions. It was the most challenging task to accomplish. I had to work on it constantly and never give up.
My thoughts were always focused on something negative that might have happened in the past (that was at least what OCD told me) or would occur in the future, especially if there was a chance that it could cause harm to my loved ones.
How I stopped my compulsions
It’s not easy; at the same time, it is. It’s a simple process, but it takes time, practice, and dedication to get the result you want. There are two key factors that I used to overcome my compulsions:
– Exposure and response prevention (ERP)
I didn’t believe at first that these two techniques would work, but I was wrong 🙂 . I will explain both methods in detail and how to use them to overcome your compulsions.
Acceptance and commitment therapy
It’s a natural response to avoid things we don’t like or are afraid of, but this compulsion only reinforces the behavior and makes it challenging to reverse. Most people have intrusive thoughts, OCD or not. However, when you have OCD, your brain tends to focus on the negative ones and gives them more importance than they deserve.
Acceptance of uncertainty means embracing the reality that sometimes things will go wrong, and you can do nothing about it. You must accept what happened in the past or may happen in the future and use your energy to move forward, not look back.
I thought this technique was challenging when I first tried it because of all the catastrophic thoughts, but with practice and dedication, it became easier.
Acceptance of uncertainty is about learning to live in the present moment without worrying about what may be happening or may happen in the future. It’s not easy at first, but everyone can learn how to do it. If you are determined enough, then nothing will stop you.
Some Helpful Tips to Overcome OCD Compulsions
If you are struggling with OCD, know that you are not alone and that there is hope. These tips may not be easy to follow at first, but they will become second nature with time and practice. Do not give up on yourself – you can overcome OCD!
One of the most common types of checking compulsion is to check that the door is locked. For example, when you think, did I close the door? The OCD starts to say; maybe you didn’t. You can imagine how many times I had to check whether the door was locked or not. It can be one of the most exhausting types of checking compulsions.
How I reduced my checking compulsions
I would tell myself I could double-check the door once; after that, I needed to accept that it was looked, moved on, and resisted rechecking it. I needed to accept that it was just a thought and not real. I told myself if the door wasn’t looked, I would deal with it when it happened. I distracted myself from the idea by doing something else. The important thing was that I didn’t give in to my compulsion. It’s important to realize that checking is a compulsion and not a solution.
What are mental compulsions? It’s when you try to block, replace or hide your thoughts. For example, the Bad Thought “My mother will die.” Mental compulsion stops the idea, for example: counting to ten three times and saying, “all will be fine, my mother will not die” at the end.
Or, repeating a word or mantra in your mind, for example, “My mother will not die,” “My mother will not die,” “My mother will not die.” you do all this to prevent harm from coming to your mother, this is when the faulty belief system is at play.
How I reduced my mental compulsions
People will not disappear or die just because you do a compulsion or not. But this is OCD we are talking about, where the imagination takes control of you. It did for me 🙁
I learned not to give in to the mental compulsions because that was feeding my OCD for so many years. I realized that this could last forever if I did not stop. What I did was that I accepted my intrusive thoughts just as they are, without judgment. I let them come and go without any effort to block them. If an idea popped up in my mind that someone would die, I would say, “OK, that’s a bad thought, and it’s normal for me to have them.”
The key is not to fight the thoughts because OCD will only strengthen them. You need to be patient and let them be without any interference from you. It was tough initially, but I kept working on it and made a lot of progress. I told myself that it was OK to have these thoughts.
Then, I took the action of doing something else. For example, when my OCD tells me that “something bad will happen” or “my mother will die,” then I tell myself that it’s just an obsession, and for this reason alone, I don’t have to do compulsions, and I am not GOD I can’t make things happen just by thinking.
When you have OCD, avoidance behavior is one of the most common compulsions. For example, you avoid certain situations or people because your OCD tells you that “something bad will happen.” For example, everything that reminded me about my intrusive thoughts was avoided to a great length. It could be everything from people to places, even words.
How did I reduce my avoidance behavior?
When you are in the middle of an obsession, and your mind is telling you strange things, do not resist and do not try to block those thoughts.
Try to let those thoughts come and go as they please, don’t give them any importance. After all, why should you avoid something because your OCD says so? Avoiding compulsions will only make your OCD stronger, so please don’t do it! It’s hard at first, but you will see that the anxiety only worsens if you do avoidance behaviors.
I have lived with this problem for decades, so imagine how I felt when giving up avoidance behaviors. Fortunately, it worked; the anxiety slowly faded. Avoiding your OCD thoughts will give it more energy to come back stronger.
You go to your family or friends to ask for reassurance. When they tell you, “Don’t worry about it, everything is fine.”- guess what happens? The OCD comes back with a vengeance. Why does this not work? Because the OCD doubts everything, even reassurance. The more you ask, the more important OCD gets, so don’t do it! I realized that asking for reassurance was just a compulsion; it didn’t help me. The more I asked, the worse things got. So why should you do this if you know it doesn’t help?
How I changed my behavior towards reassurance seeking
To fight my Reassurance compulsion, I stopped asking for reassurance and telling myself that it was OK. Not easy, but it’s doable. After a while, the anxiety lessened and almost disappeared completely. The key is not to give in. Try to let those thoughts come and go as they please, don’t give them any importance. Trust yourself and your rationality, and the OCD will fade away!
A Final word on Overcoming OCD Compulsions
My OCD was so bad that I had to change my behavior drastically. It took a while, but it worked. When you have OCD, just let the thoughts play in your mind as they please. Do not give them any importance. I know it sounds crazy, but try to trust me on this one! It’s the only way to win over OCD, in my opinion. It’s hard at first, but it works.
Please leave your comment below. You are also welcome to join our OCD community, where we share our experiences and support each other to overcome OCD. We would love to have you! I hope this helps someone out there. Do you know any other way to fight intrusive thoughts? I would love to read it!
- About the Author
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Hello, I am Jonas Eriksson. I suffered from severe OCD for many years and have now recovered. My OCD is related to an autoimmune disorder called Autoimmune basal ganglia disorder. Sadly I was undiagnosed for 27 years. The inflammation put my brain to be in a state of constant terror. By sharing helpful information, I hope someone will get motivated to seek treatment and learn more about OCD and related disorders.