Exposure Response Therapy
Exposure Response Therapy (ERT) is the most common treatment used for OCD. This is often most effectively done under the care of a mental health professional, but there are some key points in ERT that are great to learn for treating OCD naturally. Exposure Response is exactly what it sounds like- exposing yourself to the source of your anxiety and learning how to change your response. In OCD, compulsions are the coping skills for our obsessions. For example, a fear of germs may compel you to wash your hands repeatedly. Unfortunately, the compulsion only temporarily relieves the anxiety, making it come back with stronger intensity. The best way to really alleviate your anxiety is to expose yourself to the stressor and allow yourself to feel anxious. Repeatedly exposing yourself to the stressor will eventually become a conditioning exercise that will help curb your anxiety. Here is a step by step process for using these techniques at home.
Step 1: Identify the compulsion you would like to change. (This can be anything repetitive that you do to relieve anxiety. Some common compulsions include repetitive handwashing, unnecessary checking locks or switches on appliances, feeling like you have to do things "a certain way" etc)
Step 2: Recognize the stress that lies beneath the compulsion. This is the Obsession. You might be anxious about getting a communicable disease, so therefore you refuse to use public bathrooms at all cost. The fear of getting a disease is what causes you to react in an irrational way. You may have a constant anxiety that you forgot to turn off the stove. This could therefore cause you to drive back to your house numerous times a day to check.
Step 3: Understand that performing the compulsion, only makes the anxiety worse. If you go back to your house to check the locks, you will feel a temporary relief of anxiety, but it will continue to come back. Performing the compulsion allows the anxiety to have more power over you and therefore it will inevitably feel more intense.
Step 4: Think about challenging your anxiety. Think about what it would feel like to make yourself use a public bathroom. Rate this on a scale from 1-10 (1 being easy, 10 producing unbearable anxiety)
Step 5: DO IT! This is the hard part. If you are afraid of using a public bathroom try to take one step in the door and stand inside for 30 seconds. If you feel the need to check the locks, give yourself a few mintues before you embark on doing so. This is going to produce a lot of anxiety, but if you do this over and over again, it will eventually go down.
Step6: Repeat steps 1-5 as often as possible, and always reevaluate your stress level on a scale of 1-10. (before and after the activity) It would be helpful to make a chart so that you can see progress as your anxiety decreases.
There is a great workbook called The OCD Workbook Second Edition: Your Guide to Breaking Free From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder written by Bruce M Hyman, PhD and Chery Pedrick, RN. This workbook is a great tool for guiding you through treating OCD naturally. The work book breaks down the Exposure Response method and gives you activities to complete. The workbook can be done at home and will help you learn more about OCD and treat it naturally.