I suffer from really bad OCD. It usually manifests itself in the form of constant obsessions that run through my mind, like intrusive thoughts on steroids. When there’s any uncertainty in my life I obsess over it non-stop. It gets incredibly bad, to the point where I can’t conduct myself because of the overwhelming anxiety that this all causes.
It’s really difficult for me to share this intimate detail with the entire internet when this isn’t even something that most of my close friends know. But, I want to share it in order to share how to try to deal with all of this.
The Methods I Use
All of these things are things that have specifically worked for ME. Even then, they rarely work all the time. If they don’t work for you, I urge you to explore all of the other strategies and coping mechanisms that the internet and therapists have to offer.
Make A Brain Book
About a week after my girlfriend first saw me have an OCD-caused anxiety attack, she showed up at my door with a green spiral notebook. Inside, I found pages upon pages of research she did about the disorder, along with countless little worksheets she put together to help me get my mind on track when it got bad.
This book has been absolutely invaluable. Whenever I start to feel my chest tense up or my mind start to race, I grab the book and I leaf through the pages reading and filling out worksheets. Even if you don’t have the time or energy to compile a ton of information into a cohesive format like that, at least keep something such as a folder. Whenever you find an article that you like, a resource that helps you, or a mantra to remember; print it out and put it in your folder. That way, whenever you’re having bad obsessive thoughts, the folder will be a quick and easy way to have access to mind saving information.
Have A Default Activity
Through all of the things that I’ve read about handling OCD, one thing I never understood was the advice to have a hobby. In time, though, I realized that the important part of this advice wasn’t to find a passion or anything fluffy like that. Instead, the goal of a hobby for someone with OCD is to find something that you can fully immerse yourself in.
I thoroughly enjoy programming, as you could probably tell if you read any other posts on this blog. For me, this is my “default activity” that I can completely immerse myself in without having to think about anything else in the world. The fact that I am in the moment and completely focused on programming naturally snuffs out the self replicating cycle of obsessive thoughts. Instead of trying to force the thoughts out, I can boot up my computer and work on a programming project until the thoughts naturally just fade to the background as my brain is completely engaged with the task at hand.
The fact that I called it a “default activity” and not a “hobby” is very deliberate. To me, a hobby is something that you are incredibly passionate about, something that you dedicate hours on end to improving your craft. A “default activity”, on the other hand, has nothing to do with passion. It merely has to do with the fact that this is something you can pick up very fast (fast enough to counteract the thoughts) and feel fully satisfied and engaged while doing it. There’s a lot of overlap between these two definitions; for example, I’d consider playing the guitar both a hobby and a default activity of mine. I’d also consider computer programming as both a hobby and a default activity.
Although, there are some things that I’ve used as a default activity that wouldn’t make sense as a hobby. One example of this is the video game Just Cause 3. Before I beat the entire game, I would boot it up by default whenever I started to feel anxious and just take over a town or two until I felt better. It was very nice to always have something to fall back on and know that no matter what you’d be able to enjoy the next hour. A good book could be the same way.
Tell A Friend
(alternatively, Be Told You’re Crazy)
My OCD comes and goes depending on how stressed and tired I am. That’s how it’s worked through my whole family.
Oddly enough, a lot of the symptoms emerged when I was about 10 but disappeared again around 12 or 13. Maybe my late elementary school years were easy? Either way, they reemerged during a very stressful period of time while I was 17. The first night that my symptoms came back enough to interfere with my life, I happened to be with a long time friend that I’ve known since middle school. I told him everything I was feeling and he took me for a drive around the block to decompress. Every single obsessive thought that I mentioned would either be met with “You’re being crazy” or an in depth explanation on why that could not EVER be true.
I try to tell myself those exact things, but frankly, they don’t work as well when they’re coming out of the same mind that’s making the problems in the first place. Hearing someone else call my obsessive thoughts crazy somehow manages to kick my rational mind into gear. It’s confirmation that the reality your OCD has created isn’t real at all.
I’ve asked my significant other to tell me I’m crazy at least once or twice through a conversation if I’m in the middle of obsessing on something. That might be demoralizing to some, but for me, it’s probably the best reality check there is.
Go To Sleep
It’s hard to sleep when obsessions are dancing around your mind – but sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.
And If All Else Fails
I’ve only been in a situation where all else had failed one time. I had an anxiety attack for 15 hours straight, from 7 PM one night to 10 AM the next morning. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, and I barely moved from my position on the couch as I fought a mental battle against what my brain had convinced itself was real.
For those 15 hours, I felt the closest to death than I have ever been before. That sounds over-dramatic, but at one point your heart just beats so hard for so long that it doesn’t feel like you can keep up any more. There ended up being a huge scene, which included my girlfriend showing up to my door in tears ready to take me to the hospital.
Though I don’t want to share what it was I was obsessing over for so long, I will say that it was definitely something that I wouldn’t ever want to tell my parents. Not in a million years.
So, naturally, I called up my parents and told them everything I was obsessing over. They comforted me and calmed me down, and just like that, it was over.
I wish I had something better to put in this section, but the reality is that I don’t have any clue what I’d do if I got into a situation that bad again. If calling my parents didn’t work then I don’t know what would have happened to me. It scares me to think about the fact that my brain has the power to make me feel so awful like that, even when I work so hard to not let that happen.
None of the points in here relate specifically to compulsions because I don’t suffer from compulsions nearly as much as I suffer from obsessions. I’ve got the occasional tic and the odd urge to rinse my hands until I finally believe that there’s no more soap left, but nothing really debilitating. So, all of these methods that I use really relate more to the obsessing part of OCD.
Please enjoy your day and please please contact me down below if any of this helped you or if you want to talk about it. I want nothing more but to have a support network of people that feel the same way as I do. We could all over-analyze things together :)