Coping with OCD (with pictures)

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Coping with OCD (with pictures)
Coping with OCD (with pictures)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessive thoughts, fears, and compulsive behaviors that arise from these thoughts and fears. Usually, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior do not appear at the same time. The exception is patients with OCD, because compulsive behavior is the result of an irrational way of coping with fearful thoughts. This disorder can be managed with a combination of psychotherapy, self-awareness, and self-help methods (including lifestyle changes).


Part 1 of 4: Controlling OCD with Therapy

Choose a Charity to Support Step 2
Choose a Charity to Support Step 2

Step 1. Choose a psychotherapist

Find a therapist with experience in treating OCD or related disorders. To find the right psychotherapist, talk to your doctor, family or friends for help.

Make sure that the therapist has all the documents confirming his qualifications and that you do not feel discomfort when talking with him

Recognize Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder Step 18
Recognize Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder Step 18

Step 2. Get a diagnosis of OCD

It is very important to have this diagnosis made by a qualified healthcare professional as there are other disorders that have symptoms similar to those of OCD. Your PCP can refer you to treatment, but you should only get a diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional. There are two groups of symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessional symptoms are persistent, strong and unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images that cause feelings of longing or anxiety. You will feel how various thoughts and images begin to arise in your head, which you cannot avoid or forget. Compulsive symptoms are actions that supposedly prevent your fears from coming true. They often act as rules or some kind of ritual. Together, obsessions and compulsions form the following characteristic patterns of behavior:

  • Those who fear contamination or contamination usually have compulsions based on cleaning or frequent hand washing.
  • Others recheck several times (whether the door is closed, whether the oven is off, and so on) those things that they associate with possible danger.
  • Some are afraid that if they make a mistake somewhere, something bad will happen to them or their loved ones.
  • Many become obsessed with order and symmetry. They often have prejudices about the arrangement of things in a certain order.
  • There are also those who are afraid of incurring misfortune if they throw something away. This makes them obsessive about keeping things they don't need (like broken items or old newspapers). This condition is called pathological hoarding.
  • To be diagnosed with OCD, you must have obsessions or compulsions most of the time for about two weeks. OCD can also be diagnosed if obsessions or compulsions have a profound effect on your daily life (for example, you are so afraid of germs that you wash your hands so often that they bleed and you cannot touch anything outside your home).
Cope with Suicidal Thoughts if You're Blind or Visually Impaired Step 2
Cope with Suicidal Thoughts if You're Blind or Visually Impaired Step 2

Step 3. Get psychotherapy to control your compulsive behavior

This type of therapy is based on the technique of confrontation with suppression of anxiety reactions. To do this, the therapist will expose you to your own nightmares, and then help you cope with these fears.

Therapy sessions can be taken alone, with a family, or with a group

Recognize Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder Step 19
Recognize Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder Step 19

Step 4. Talk to your doctor about finding the right medication

This can be a process of trial and error, and in some cases, combining several drugs may be more effective in treating your symptoms than taking one drug alone.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and escitalopram (Lexapro), are most commonly prescribed for patients with OCD. These medications increase the activity of a neurotransmitter that is responsible for mood balance and reduces stress levels (serotonin).
  • Another commonly prescribed drug is the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine, which has been approved by the Department of Health for the treatment of OCD. SSRIs are prescribed more often because they have fewer side effects.
  • Do not stop taking any medications without first consulting the doctor who prescribed the medications. This can lead to recurrence of symptoms and withdrawal symptoms.

Part 2 of 4: Confrontation Technique with Suppression of Anxiety Reaction

Stop Anxiety at Night Step 6
Stop Anxiety at Night Step 6

Step 1. Remember the OCD vicious circle

OCD occurs when an unpleasant thought arises in your head (for example, that someone close to you will get sick), followed by an extreme interpretation (for example, having this thought makes you think of yourself as a bad person who inadvertently can harm other people). This thought and its meaning creates a lot of concern.

  • Since anxiety leads to a lot of discomfort, you do everything you can to prevent this thought from coming true. For example, you can start washing your hands every time you touch something and say a prayer for loved ones in the process.
  • While doing this ritual should relieve you of your anxiety for a short time, this unpleasant thought will start popping up more and more often (due to trying not to think about it). This is the vicious circle of OCD.
  • The main goal of the anxiety suppression confrontation technique is to engage in situations that trigger obsession and then abandon the failed stress coping strategy (compulsive behavior).
  • If you have a severe case of OCD, the confrontation technique should be supervised by professionals.
Stop Anxiety at Night Step 3
Stop Anxiety at Night Step 3

Step 2. Define your triggers

Anything that leads to obsessions and compulsions (situations, objects, people, and other thoughts) are called triggers because they activate the OCD cycle. You must know your triggers in order to be influenced by them during the confrontation technique.

Use this form and write all your triggers on it for a week

Deal with a Fear of Loneliness Step 8
Deal with a Fear of Loneliness Step 8

Step 3. Create a hierarchy of fears

After you have tracked your obsessions and compulsions for a week, rank the situations from least scary to most scary.

  • For example, if you are afraid of being infected, the fear of being in your parent's home will be at the bottom of the hierarchy. On a ten-point scale, give it only 1/10. However, public toilet use can be at the top of the hierarchy with an 8 or 9 on a ten-point fear scale.
  • If your triggers fall into different categories, use different fear hierarchies. For example, all situations related to fear of illness would fall under one hierarchy, and fears related to averting disaster would fall under another.
Deal with a Fear of Loneliness Step 14
Deal with a Fear of Loneliness Step 14

Step 4. Face your fear

For this influence to work, it is very important that during or after the trigger you try to contain your compulsion (to some extent). The need for this is due to the fact that the technique of confrontation with the suppression of anxiety reactions teaches us to confront our fears without the compulsion that follows.

  • Ask someone you trust to take an action in front of you that affects your OCD. Learning by example is important because there is a possibility that you have been doing compulsions for so long that you no longer remember how to deal with fearful situations without them. For example, people suffering from a constant need to wash their hands may ask their relatives about their habits to understand how and when to wash their hands.
  • If quitting compulsions altogether is too difficult (especially in the early stages), at least try to postpone it. For example, when leaving the house (influence), wait 5 minutes before going back and checking the appliances, but only two appliances, not the usual five. By gradually lengthening the delay, you will eventually be able to give up this compulsion altogether.
  • If you do compulse, try immediately afterward to re-affect the fear trigger until your fear is halved. Leave the house as soon as you check your appliances and keep doing this until your fear score drops from 8 to 4.
Control Anxiety Step 21
Control Anxiety Step 21

Step 5. Extend Influence

If you start to feel very little anxiety after the effect of the trigger, you can move on to the next fear. For example, after a few tries, you will be only a little worried about having to check your appliances after being out of the house for 5 minutes. Then you can increase the time up to 8 minutes.

  • Remember that even with severe anxiety, fear spikes and then bounces back. If you don't respond to the fear, it will go away on its own.
  • The effects of triggers can be quite painful, so don't hesitate to ask your loved ones for help if you need more support.

Part 3 of 4: Dealing with Intrusive Thoughts

Cope with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Step 14
Cope with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Step 14

Step 1. Track your obsessive thoughts

To combat harmful interpretations of your obsessions, you must first understand what they are. To do this, start tracking two things: (1) your obsessions and (2) the meaning or interpretation you gave to those obsessions.

  • Use this form to record three obsessions (and your interpretation) per week.
  • Write down the situation that provokes obsessions and obsessions that arise in that particular situation. When did you first have this thought? What happened when you first felt it? You should also write down any emotions that you experienced at the time of the obsession. Rate the degree of emotion at the time of the obsession on a scale from 0 (no emotion) to 10 (as strong as you can imagine).
Write Sad Stories Step 1
Write Sad Stories Step 1

Step 2. Track your interpretation of obsessive thoughts

In addition to the thoughts themselves, you should also keep track of your interpretation or the meaning you attach to those thoughts. In order to understand your interpretation (this can be quite difficult), ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does this obsession upset you?
  • What does this obsession say about me or my personality?
  • What kind of person could I be if I were not influenced by this obsession?
  • What can happen if I don't do what my thoughts tell me?
Make Yourself Emotionally Numb Step 22
Make Yourself Emotionally Numb Step 22

Step 3. Challenge the interpretation of your obsessions

This will help you understand that, for many reasons, your predictable thoughts are not realistic. In addition, your interpretation of these thoughts does not help solve the problems that arise because of them. Prove to yourself that you are wrong by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What arguments do I have for and against this interpretation?
  • What are the pros and cons of this type of thinking?
  • Am I confusing my opinion with fact?
  • Are my interpretations of the situation accurate and realistic?
  • Am I 100% sure that what I think will come true?
  • Do I think the probable outcome is an established fact?
  • Are my assumptions about what will happen based solely on feelings?
  • Would my friend agree that the predicted course of events that I see in my head is unlikely to come?
  • Is it possible to look at this situation from a more rational angle?
Avoid Thoughts Hampering Your Daily Activities Step 7
Avoid Thoughts Hampering Your Daily Activities Step 7

Step 4. Learn objective methods of thinking

Misinterpretation is usually caused by confused thinking patterns that are often seen in OCD sufferers. Typical examples of mental traps include the following:

  • Catastrophization - when a person is sure (for no reason) that the worst development of events will come. Fight this thinking by telling yourself the worst is not likely to come.
  • Filtering is a thinking error that forces you to see only the bad and ignore or filter all the good. To counter this, ask yourself what aspects of the situation you are unable to take into account, especially the positive ones.
  • Over-generalization is the exaggeration of one situation in relation to others. For example, because you mispronounce something, you think you are always making stupid mistakes. Avoid over-generalization by remembering counter-evidence (times when you were pretty quick-witted or noticed and corrected a mistake).
  • Thinking in black and white means that situations are considered only to the extreme degree of success or failure. For example, if you don’t wash your hands once and germs remain on them, it will mean that you are a bad and irresponsible person. Try to counter this thinking by taking a serious look at whether your actions actually led to some kind of bad outcome and remind yourself that now (and in general, always) you should not make absolute judgments about your personality.
  • You can find more examples of mental traps here.
Convince Yourself That You Can Do Something Step 12
Convince Yourself That You Can Do Something Step 12

Step 5. Resist the need to blame yourself

OCD is a chronic condition, so you have no control over whether you have unpleasant or unwanted thoughts. Accept that these thoughts are only hindrances that have no effect outside of your mind. Your thoughts are just thoughts, and they do not in any way affect the kind of person you are.

Part 4 of 4: How to Control OCD with Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Deal With Less Intelligent People Step 9
Deal With Less Intelligent People Step 9

Step 1. Know that there is a connection between OCD and your habits

Because OCD is a type of anxiety disorder, stress can lead to symptoms that are much more difficult to overcome. Any lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the amount of stress and excessive anxiety can help reduce OCD symptoms.

Lose Weight in 3 Months Step 3
Lose Weight in 3 Months Step 3

Step 2. Eat food rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids increase serotonin levels in the brain. These are the same neurotransmitters that pharmaceutical drugs work to treat OCD. In other words, these foods also help manage anxiety. Choose foods rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids over dietary supplements. These products include:

  • Flax seeds and walnuts
  • Sardine, salmon and shrimps
  • Soybeans and tofu
  • Cauliflower and squash
Eat the Right Foods to Settle an Upset Stomach Step 17
Eat the Right Foods to Settle an Upset Stomach Step 17

Step 3. Reduce your intake of foods and drinks containing caffeine

Caffeine suppresses the production of serotonin. Foods and drinks that contain caffeine include:

  • Coffee and coffee ice cream
  • Black and green tea and energy drinks
  • Cola
  • Chocolate and cocoa products
Lead a Happier Life Step 18
Lead a Happier Life Step 18

Step 4. Try to exercise regularly

Exercise not only improves muscle strength and cardiovascular health, but it can also help counteract the anxiety and tendencies associated with OCD. When you exercise, your body increases the production of endorphins, hormones responsible for raising mood, reducing anxiety, and fighting depression.

Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Examples of beneficial exercise include running, cycling, lifting, swimming, and climbing

Deal with Unhappiness Step 12
Deal with Unhappiness Step 12

Step 5. Spend more time outdoors

Among other things, sunlight increases the production of serotonin, preventing nerve cells from reabsorbing it.. Exercise under the sun will help kill two birds with one stone.

Deal With Family Problems Step 9
Deal With Family Problems Step 9

Step 6. Deal with stress

When a person is agitated, there is a greater likelihood of OCD symptoms developing (or increasing in intensity). Therefore, you should learn some mental and physical ways to reduce stress. These methods include the following:

  • Long-term lifestyle changes (diet and exercise)
  • Using task lists
  • Reducing negative self-talk
  • Performing progressive muscle relaxation
  • Mindfulness and Visualization Meditations
  • Identifying sources of stress
  • Learn to say no when asked to take on more than you can
Make Progress in Your Life Step 11
Make Progress in Your Life Step 11

Step 7. Join a support group

There are support groups made up of people with similar problems. Here you can discuss your cases and problems with those who can understand you. Such groups are very useful when a person needs support and wants to relieve the feelings of isolation that often accompany OCD.

Talk to your health care provider or psychotherapist about a support group. You can also search the Internet for such groups


  • Symptoms of OCD usually progress slowly and vary in severity throughout life. They are most often at their peak when triggered by stress.
  • You should see a professional if your obsessions or compulsions begin to affect your well-being.
  • There are other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to those of OCD. It is very important that you are diagnosed by a psychiatric specialist. For example, if you feel a general, pervasive feeling of anxiety about everything at once, you may not have OCD, but generalized anxiety disorder. If your fear is intense but limited to just a few things, you may be dealing with phobias. Only a specialist can make an accurate diagnosis and provide the assistance you need.

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