Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can cause people to become fixated on anything from germs, accidents or injuries, which can lead to a person developing rituals to calm these obsessive thoughts. Some people with this anxiety disorder develop disturbing thoughts that they will inadvertently harm someone else. If you are struggling with OCD, here are some tips that can help:
• Explore Your Anxieties: Be honest to yourself about what provokes your anxiety. Then, explore which of your fears are truly realistic and which are not. “Anxiety loves ignorance, and anxieties are generated by these images in one’s mind,” says Martin N. Seif, PhD, a clinical psychologist. “The imagery becomes so intense that you start to believe it.” By challenging the validity of your obsessions, it can help to offset some of your fear and discomfort.
• Make a list: Write down all of your obsessions and compulsions, and slowly try to reduce your compulsive behaviors. For example, if you tend to check the door 10 times before bed, try to check it only twice.
• Acknowledge that compulsive rituals interfere with your life: When you start to become aware of the negative impact that compulsive behaviors have on your life, it means that you are ready to get help, says Seif. OCD can unfortunately affect your job, your social life, and may quickly expand beyond your initial obsessions and compulsions. When you recognize and acknowledge that every day you are being disrupted by your rituals, it is time to seek therapy.
• Face your fears with therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses repeated exposure to anxiety-provoking objects and situations to help desensitize you and alleviate your symptoms. Slowly you will start to face and eventually overcome your fears. If you see that nothing bad happens even when you don’t wash your hands 10 times, you can slowly take control of your compulsive behaviors and your life. Additionally, your doctor might prescribe anti-anxiety medications to help you through your process.