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Self-Help for OCD

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/23/2011

OCD manifests in many forms but all are marked by obsessions and compulsions. There are ways people can help themselves to overcome the problems caused by their OCD.

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    Tips for Self-Help when Suffering from OCD

    When looking at self-help, OCD sufferers need to address their cycles of obsessions and compulsions. No matter how entrenched the behavioral patterns, people can change them with perseverance and effort. Here are some suggestions of how to respond when the urge comes to start tidying, cleaning, ordering, hoarding or engaging in any other compulsive behavior:

    • Educate yourself by reading books about OCD and gaining an understanding of what causes it. Looking into the future and seeing how drastically OCD could affect your life may be a motivation towards self-help.
    • Label obsessions and compulsions for what they are and when the thoughts and urges come, remind yourself it is OCD speaking not a rational voice.
    • Be assertive and firm in telling yourself that compulsive thoughts are not the truth, but are prompted by OCD.
    • Recognize that the goal is to control your response to the obsessions and compulsions rather than trying to prevent them from entering your mind altogether. It is almost impossible to stop the thoughts coming but it is possible to control your response to them.
    • Remind yourself that the urges and discomfort are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain as opposed to a physical reality.
    • Tell yourself that you do not need to carry through on a compulsion to clean, pray, order or count.
    • Pre-plan a pleasant activity for when obsessive thoughts strike. Make a determined effort to push aside the obsession and walk away and engage in a hobby or listen to music for a few minutes. This act refocuses and retrains the mind.
    • When choosing to try self-help, OCD sufferers should be aware that the process of refocusing thoughts can take large amounts of mental energy and can take weeks to show positive results. It is essential to persevere and be consistent in ignoring the uncomfortable feelings.
    • Don’t let yourself linger on obsessive thoughts that pass through your mind. Consciously set them aside.
    • It can be helpful to keep a journal of successful days when you managed to avoid acting out your compulsions. This gives you a record to look back on as well as written proof that abandoning your compulsions did not result in a terrible disaster.
    • Join an OCD support group. Hearing stories of hope and success in overcoming OCD from people who understand your struggles can be extremely helpful.

    When considering self-help, OCD sufferers may find the process easier if they are on anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a doctor. The medication can help them relax to a greater degree as they work on refocusing their thoughts and behavior patterns. It is possible to overcome OCD and the resulting benefits in quality of life make this a worthy goal to reach for.

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    References

    Help Guide: http://helpguide.org/mental/obsessive_compulsive_disorder_ocd.htm

    Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders: http://www.hope4ocd.com/foursteps.php