This is probably one of the hardest parts about fighting OCD. You can never give in, not even to one compulsion because if you do it will never go away. OCD never gives in, so you mustn’t either. It can be so tempting sometimes, particularly with a new intrusive thought which can catch you off guard.
When it is a new intrusive thought (as opposed to a recurring one, which over time can be dealt with and it’s power diminished) the associated anxiety can be more intense and sometimes before I know it I’m spiralling internally downwards, becoming outwardly more touchy and irritable, my heartbeat is starting to rise, I’m getting hotter, my brain is trying to work out what to do to return me to equilibrium and more often then not giving into the compulsion is the quickest fix at this point.
Here are some of the scenarios I have personally faced over the years:
Whilst making a sandwich I thought I saw a black mark on the bread and my mind starts catastrophizing about what the mark could be and before you know it, I’ve convinced myself its going to do the person who eats it irreparable damage. At this point the thing I most want to do is throw the sandwich in the bin and start again. Even though I know logically that the black mark I saw was actually just an air hole in the bread but can I convince my OCD mind of that?
Whilst buying items in a supermarket, I pick up some toothpaste which has a grubby mark on the packaging. Once again my mind starts catastrophizing about what the mark could be and what I then want to do is just walk out of the supermarket and leave the basket behind.
Whilst leaving a store carpark I drive over a pot hole in the road. Once again my mind gets riddled with doubt and all I want to do is drive back to the car park and check the pot hole I went over wasn’t a child or animal.
Because hey, wouldn’t that be easier?? Well actually no. No, no, no, no, no, no NO!
This is where all your CBT training, mindfulness, distraction, the lot, all comes into play.
A couple of other tips that can sometimes helps me are:
- To take yourself out of the situation completely. So if I’m in the kitchen washing something and all of a sudden I have the thought that it’s still dirty for whatever reason and I need to rewash it, I can very often start to find myself in a spiral (as described above) and the only thing I can do is step away. Go and do something else for half an hour and then come back.
- Distraction: sometimes I sing to myself, I realise this sounds a bit nutty but actually the process of singing or even humming out load is sometimes a big enough distraction in my head that I can get my task completed. Even if I’m just singing “The washing is clean, it’s all fine” over and over to myself, lol.
Of course the price we sometimes pay for not giving into our compulsions is that they then hang around like a big heavy weight on our shoulders. I have had intrusive thoughts which have stayed with me for days, years even and this does make the fight particularly hard at times.
I find sharing the thought with someone as early as you can (if you have someone you are able to share them with) helps to diminish the thoughts power significantly. If you don’t have someone you can talk to easily about this stuff then try writing them down or say them out loud to yourself when you’re alone. Almost by getting the thoughts outside of your mind in someway, you can help to detach yourself from them and diminish their power. Sounds a bit crazy but this actually really works, give it a try.
and as always, Stay Strong xxx