Self-Help Tips for Managing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorderby Eileen Bailey Health Writer
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions, or pervasive and upsetting thoughts, and compulsions, rituals used to help manage the obsessions. Treatment for OCD usually consists of medication, psychotherapy or both. There are also a number of self-help strategies you can use in your daily life to help manage symptoms.
Brush up on OCD facts
Understanding that OCD is a type of anxiety disorder is a great first step to understanding how to overcome it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 2 percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from OCD at some time in their life, and symptoms normally appear around the age of 19. Symptoms can severely interfere with your life in various ways.
Understand your anxiety
Think about what situations make you anxious. Think about which are realistic and which aren't. Often, when you have anxiety, you know your fears are unrealistic but feel powerless to stop. Writing down anxious thoughts and exploring each one, noting whether it is a realistic worry or not may help. Be sure to include what happened before so you can begin to identify your anxiety triggers.
Get some exercise
A small study published in 2017 found that aerobic exercise can reduce OCD symptoms. Researchers found that an exercise program, alongside existing OCD treatment, resulted in significant reduction of OCD symptoms, depression and anxiety. This was true whether it was a home-based exercise or a formal, health-based program.
Challenge your interpretation of the situation
Think about your fears and challenge them by asking yourself whether this is a realistic fear, whether you are confusing facts with thoughts, whether your thoughts are accurate, what are the disadvantages of thinking this way. When you challenge your fears, you open yourself up to finding new thought processes. One study found that mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCT,) which helps change thinking processes, was helpful for people with OCD.
Accept that your OCD is interfering with your life
Acceptance is always the first step to taking proactive steps to control your anxiety. Information and understanding are helpful, but healing and recovery often come by acknowledging how the illness is impacting your life and shifting your mindset.
Keep a journal
Write down your unwanted and intrusive thoughts, noting what rituals or compulsions you did to try to combat these thoughts. Be careful though, while journaling can help you objectively look at your thought patterns, it can also make you self-obsessed. Talk to your therapist about beneficial ways of using journaling.
Try to slowly cut back on your compulsive behaviors
For example, if you must check to see if the stove is turned off 10 times, allow yourself to check eight times, then six, then four until you are able to check only once. If you are still struggling with OCD, talk with your doctor or therapist about other types of treatment and work closely with a therapist to come up with additional self-help strategies for your unique situation.
Delay performing your ritual
If you must immediately perform a ritual, for example, if you touch someone you must immediately wash your hands, try to delay washing your hands for one minute, three minutes, five minutes, etc. Try to continue to delay the time between the incident and the ritual until you feel comfortable not performing the compulsion.