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How to Help Yourself Overcome OCD

written by: Stephanie Torreno • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/25/2011

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can control an individual’s life with unwanted thoughts and repetitive rituals. Therapy and medication can make a tremendous difference, but self-help strategies matter, too. Read this article about OCD self help to stop this disorder from controlling your life.

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    Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

    People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can feel as if they have little control over any minute of their daily lives. Obsessions, or unwanted thoughts, and compulsions, or ritualistic actions, consume these individuals’ days and often lead to extreme distress. The unwelcome and persistent thoughts or obsessions cause rituals or behaviors that must be carried out again and again. People with OCD experience profound anxiety and act on their obsessions in an attempt to ease anxious feelings and rid themselves of the thoughts. These thoughts, and the feelings that started them, only become worse, however, after the compulsions are performed.

    Fortunately, OCD can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy to deal with obsessive thoughts without having to act out compulsions. Antidepressants are sometimes used in combination with therapy, though rarely alone. OCD self help is vitally important on a daily basis, too, to practice the skills patients learn in therapy.

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    OCD Self Help

    According to Dr. Jeffery Schwartz, psychiatrist and author of Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior, these four R’s are necessary for coping with OCD:

    1. Relabel Understand that disturbing and persistent thoughts and urges are the result of the disorder.
    2. Reattribute Recognize that the thought’s or urge’s intensity is the effect of the disorder and is probably associated with a biochemical imbalance in the brain.
    3. Refocus – Focus your attention on something else, if only temporarily, to circumvent the thought. Perform another activity.
    4. Revalue – Lessen the significance of an OCD thought. Do not give it much, if any, value.

    Schwartz also emphasizes what a difference the following self help tips can make in daily life.

    • Learn about the disorder. Read everything you can about OCD and gain knowledge from your doctor and therapist. More knowledge will give you greater abilities to manage your symptoms.
    • Practice what you have learned in therapy. The skills you have been taught in therapy take practice and an ongoing commitment to eliminate obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions and behaviors.
    • Join a support group for OCD. Your participation in a support group will remind you that you are not alone in coping with this disorder. Internet chat rooms also exist, but should be joined with caution and should not replace face to face support.
    • Allow family and friends to help. Avoid the social isolation that can accompany OCD, and even aggravate it, by regularly seeing family and friends. Caring loved ones should educate themselves and aid in your battle with the disorder.
    • Practice stress-relieving techniques. Exercising, meditating, deep breathing and performing yoga postures may reduce the anxiousness and other symptoms brought on by the disorder. Mindfulness meditation may especially help individuals with OCD.

    Remember, OCD self help tips cannot and should not replace mental health therapy and possibly medication. These tips, however, will make those interventions more effective and daily coping more successful.

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    References

    New York State Office of Mental Health. “Anxiety Disorders." www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/booklets/AnxietyDisorders.htm

    Smith, Melinda and Jaffe-Gill, Ellen. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Symptoms and Treatment of Compulsive Behavior and Obsessive Thoughts." helpguide.org/mental/obsessive_compulsive_disorder_ocd.htm

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