1. It dials down the sense of temptation (by removing you from its source… the cookies in the breakroom)
2. It also enhances motivation by reminding you of the importance of not giving in to the urge to snack.
You can apply this same principle to OCD. Whether your urge is to double-check the locks on your front door, wash your hands, perform a ritual, or something else, add a hurdle to that process.
For example, “I can go back and check the front door again once I’ve gotten a mile away from the house on my way to work.” Or, “I can wash my hands again after I finish writing myself a note about how much I want to be free from this compulsion.”
Many times these small delays create enough emotional distance to make it fairly easy to resist the compulsion. Even in those instances when the urge is acted upon, one’s sense of control begins to grow stronger as a result of having forced yourself to delay responding.
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.