Before doing that, however, I want to briefly mention two things that many people find helpful to use when battling OCD. The first of these is to find an experienced therapist to help guide you through the process.
A good therapist will act as a coach, providing you will important feedback, teaching you skills, helping identify corrective experiences, and giving encouragement. It would be a good idea if you decide to work with a therapist, to find one that has experience helping people overcome OCD. You will also want to make sure that on a personal level you feel that the therapist is someone with whom you can work.
The second thing to keep in mind is that medication can be extremely helpful in overcoming OCD. Many people who read that last sentence will immediately think “Never! Not in a million years.”
OK, I get it. And that’s fine if you insist. But the fact remains that for many people a low dose of medication, prescribed over a limited period of time, is extraordinarily helpful.
Medication should not be relied upon with the idea that it will ‘cure’ OCD. It won’t. It provides a different benefit.
Medication can reduce the intensity of anxiety just enough to allow the person with OCD to effectively fight back. That is, it reduces anxiety to the point that it is much easier to engage in constructive experiences instead of compulsive behaviors when anxiety strikes.
That’s a huge victory.
When medication allows that sort of behavior, neurons begin to ‘unwire’, and new healthy patterns begin to form.
For a brief review of when to consider medication look at this resource.
The DIY Approach To Beating OCD
Next, we will get into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how you can attack OCD and get control of your life again. There are several steps involved.
We will begin by looking at how to pick a goal, and then identify the steps it will take to reach that goal. After that, we will look at coping skills you need to learn in order to maximize your chances of success.
Coping skills are simply things you can do to reduce the stress and anxiety that will come up as you fight your anxiety. But first, let’s talk about selecting a goal and figuring out how to reach that goal.
1. Building Coping Skills For Less Stress And More Success
For this battle, you will want to build up some coping skills. Don’t go into a fight with OCD without making sure you have the tools needed for success. When confronted with the intense anxiety and stress that can arise when facing down fears, it pays to have some coping skills.
These skills will help put a damper on your anxiety. They act like a light dimmer that can turn down the intensity of fear, even if they cannot extinguish it all together (but that’s OK, you’re going to do the major beat down by not giving in to your compulsions).
There are many types of coping skills and we will focus on just two. For many people, this will be enough to get the job done. If you need more ideas for coping skills, however, the Very Well Mind website is a good place to continue your search).
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
The first of these is called is diaphragmatic breathing. This is breathing that focuses on using your diaphragm (that sheet of muscle under your lungs).
Some people refer to this as ‘belly breathing.’ The idea is to focus on expanding your lungs by contracting your diaphragm when inhaling. This causes your diaphragm to draw downward, and your stomach to move slightly outward.
OK, you’re thinking “Who on earth cares? More specifically, why should I care?”
Here is the answer. You should care because using your diaphragm muscle stimulates your vagus nerve. This, in turn, sends signals to the brain that induces a sense of calm.