Sunday, 23 October 2011

OCD self-help technique - Part 2

This post continues from part 1 and explains the final two parts of Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz's obsessive compulsive disorder four-step self-help technique. I recommend reading my introduction first, found here, followed by part 1 before reading this final instalment.

Refocus - This step is the part of the self-help treatment that should gradually enable you to free yourself from some of your OCD symptoms, or at least alleviate some of the intensity of your anxiety caused by them. This part, however, is the hard step. The part where you will start to take positive control but the part where you will need to muster all of your strength and resolve to fight back against your compulsions.

The aim of this step is to refocus your attention to some other positive action that is not related to your OCD behaviours and in the process, to occupy your mind with something more enjoyable and relaxing. This should help to distract your negative thought processes, your obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviours, and refocus them into something positive.

When suffering from an OCD obsession try to delay performing your compulsive response for 15 minutes. Even a short delay can help, each time extending the delay until at least 15 minutes are reached.

Do not be negative to yourself if 15 minutes cannot be reached as it is a difficult challenge, just try again next time, each time extending the time between obsession and compulsive response. After 15 minutes, the urge to perform your compulsion may no longer be as strong.

After you perform steps 1 (Relabel) and 2 (Reattribute), think of a new activity that you could carry out and occupy yourself with it immediately (or as soon as possible). This should help you refocus your thoughts and energies, and help you to reach the 15 minute time delay.

Perhaps you could read something, start a puzzle or game, sing along to your favourite music, or practice a hobby or pass time, just doing something that you enjoy is a good idea but it could be something simple like taking a walk or the ironing.

Refocusing is a difficult thing to do, particularly when your obsessions and compulsions are very dominating, but through repetitive training it will get easier and gradually the negative coping mechanisms that are symptomatic of OCD will fade in their intensity. Know that by paying little or no attention to your urge to perform your compulsion you are seizing the decision making power from your brain and regaining control.

Keep in perspective that compulsions are irrational and have no bearing on reality.

It could also be helpful to you to keep a diary/journal recording your achievements each time that you need to refocus such as:

·       What the obsession was;
·       What behaviour or activity you adopted to help you refocus;
·       How long that you managed to delay your compulsion.

Revalue - By performing the first three steps you will naturally revalue the significance that you place on your obsessive/intrusive thoughts and compulsive urges.

From gaining an understanding that OCD is a medical condition and that it stems from a chemical imbalance in your brain, and relentlessly practicing the previous steps, you will come to realise that gradually your compulsive urges have been reduced in their significance: You have revalued them and downgraded their importance.

You cannot make the obsessional thoughts go away but you can also learn to not pay any attention to them. When an obsession occurs, you will be prepared and will know that, 'it's just my stupid obsession. It has no meaning. It is just my brain and there is absolutely no need to pay attention to it.'

Do not take OCD thoughts at face value as they are not significant, they are not real, just:

·       Anticipate when an obsessive thought is forming or about to occur in order to be prepared so it can be recognised for what it is as it happens;
·       Accept that the feelings are due to OCD and refuse to let them shock you or get you down.

I hope that what I have written here will provide you with some direction as to how to fight back against symptoms of your obsessive compulsive disorder, particularly those of you, like me, who have yet to start their professionally guided therapy sessions.

The goal is to perform the steps daily as and when you have an OCD related obsession and compulsion. I have found them to be extremely effective at maintaining and controlling my own personal symptoms, although they do still catch me out from time to time, but I have definitely found some relief from how I previously suffered over the past few months.

So to recap the steps and what you need to do:

·       Relabel your obsessions as obsessions and your compulsions as compulsions as and when they happen;
·       Reattribute your symptoms to OCD by understanding the biological reasons behind them and convincing yourself that 'it's not me, it is my OCD. It's not me, it is my brain';
·       Refocus your thoughts by carrying out a positive activity and delaying your compulsive urge for a target of 15 minutes, and recording only your achievements (not your failures) in a diary/journal;
·       Revalue the significance of your obsessional thoughts and compulsive urges by knowing that you are able to delay them and ignore them, and anticipate them forming so you are ready for them and accept them as due to OCD.

Good luck to all of you in your success at beating some, if not all, of your obsessive compulsive disorder related behaviour.

I mean no breach of copyright, if indeed I have, and all credit goes to Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and the source of my OCD education, OCD-UK at their website -


Kat said...

In a nutshell....ERP. : )

OCD Anonymous said...

Is it? I haven't yet started my therapy sessions (there is a long waiting list!) so this is what I have been doing. Hopefully it will help others who stumble across my blog and haven't yet found a solution, or started their own therapy treatments! :)

Kat said...

Pretty much. It is a good practice and the therapist will help you tailor it more to you, working on the things that you need and and the speed that best suits you. The therapist can also help with other issues and help with other methods and coping techniques that will help with the ERP. Meds can help take some of the edge off the anxiety and help y our mind focus a little better to think things through before you do the rituals. I started with the ERP, with flooding actually, then slowly backed off, because I have other underlying issues that make the ERP too much for me right now, but hope to move back into the ERP eventually. It sounds like you already have a good start. : )