Seven Steps To Beating OCD
Now let’s go over the seven steps you can take to overcome OCD fears and win your freedom. I will begin by giving a description of each step, and then move on to a brief illustration of what this looks like in real life.
1. When choosing where to start you want to write down ten fears that keep you trapped in OCD. This list might include:
“I need to disinfect all the kitchen counters again or someone will get food poisoning and die.”
“The bathroom really needs a good disinfecting. Especially the sink. It may look clean but it’s so gross – people spit in it whenever they brush their teeth.”
“How disgusting. Everyone touches the light switches in the house and who knows where their hands have been.”
“The Tupperware should really be disinfected before we get food poisoning. I just don’t think the dishwasher can kill all the bacteria that might grow on them.”
And on and on the list could go. Try and write down at least ten fears, all of the same type (that is, fears related to contamination, or fears related to intrusive thoughts, or to imperfection, and so forth (see the infographic above on Types of OCD).
2. For each fear write down the mental and/or physical compulsions you use to tame the anxiety
3. Assign each fear a number with ONE being the most difficult to face and TEN being the least difficult to face.
4. For the fear labeled TEN write down your entire thinking process and carefully chart how the fear progresses from the moment it first enters into your mind, to the point that you are able to move on (brace yourself, this could take some time).
Are you fed up with having to deal with your OCD? Read What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and How To Overcome It
5. For each assumption you make in that charting process, consider alternatives that might also be true. For example, you may worry that touching the doorknob will contaminate your hand and make you sick if you do not immediately wash your hands. A reasonable alternative is to think “Perhaps, but I have a healthy immune system and that should keep me safe. Also, almost no one else washes their hands whenever they open a door. The whole world is not sick and keeling over, so it must not be as dangerous as it feels.”
Highlight each of these alternative explanations. You will be referring to them later.
6. Now it’s time to consider the specific steps you need to take to overcome the fear you’ve decided to tackle first (the one you labeled #10). What we want to do is break the process down into three, four, or even more small steps.
To do this you will need to consider what successfully conquering this looks like. If it was a fear of touching doorknobs perhaps your ultimate success, that final stage of being free from this fear, is when you no longer wash your hands after opening a door. Instead, you wash your hands only before meals or after using the bathroom.
Do you see how that sort of description of success gives you a crystal-clear goal upon which to take aim?
7. The final step is to move on and repeat this same process with the next fear on your list, and then the one after that, and the one after that, and so on.
You’ll find that the practice of confronting these modest fears makes it much easier, later on, to face more intense fears.
A Short Illustration
Imagine fear #TEN was the anxiety triggered by thoughts of contamination from touching doorknobs. Let’s also imagine that this fear was driving you to wash your hands every time you touched a doorknob.
No fun. Talk about bogging down your day.