Thought suppression doesn't work
One of the most common questions I get asked is….How do I STOP thinking about my fear? How do I stop obsessing? How do I STOP the anxiety.
If you’re like most, you’re searching videos to learn how to STOP your symptoms. There in lies the TRAP. We don’t learn to STOP thoughts or fears…we learn to respond differently to them….which in turn allows symptoms to decrease.
If you start off you search or mindset with….how can I stop……Don’t do it! It’s a trap!
Seriously. You’re just training your body to continually check To see if you are still having thoughts or not. Which actually produces more thoughts. It is actually natural for the brain to automatically start pushing thought we don’t want. Which is why it takes practice to lave them back.
Let me take you through what to do instead of pushing thoughts away or ignoring them.
So how to avoid suppression? To get out of the thinking that you need to STOP thinking about your fears. Well, you can start by learning to notice when these thoughts occur. Allow thoughts to be thoughts. Not put any meaning to a single thought. A thought is bad or a thought is good. When a thought brings anxiety or distress, we tend to label it as bad. When our brain hears bad, it goes to this automatic process of pushing. Practice having a thought than simply saying, “oh cool, there is the thought again. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want”
As your learning to accept a thought is a thought you’re also practicing not doing a compulsion. A compulsion is anything you are actively choosing to do to remove the thought, or to reduce your anxiety symptoms. For instance, if you have a distressing thought you quickly shake your head to get it to go away. Maybe you tap something a few times. It’s possible you go to the Internet to research different ideas about your thought. You might have to say a phrase for the thought to go away. These are all the things you have to be aware of and stop doing.
Because we cannot accept a thought, take value away from it, and also do a compulsion of the same time. It’s like we’re not fully accepting the reality of the thought. It’s a halfway effort.
Once you learn to accept our thoughts, even if you think it is the worst thing in the world to think. OCD can bring some pretty gnarly thoughts. It’s easy for somebody to say, yeah I can accept a thought about something small but this doesn’t apply to my big scary thoughts. Going back to what was said earlier, thoughts are thoughts. There is not one thought that has more value or power than another.
Some choose to use act therapy. Acceptance and commitment therapy. This builds flexibility in your thinking and allows you to accept the thought. Without changing it whatsoever. At the same time some choose to expose themselves to the triggers or obsessions. This is so you can continually learn. Learn to not respond the way you normally would want to with a thought.
For instance, I might pay attention and write down all the triggers I noticed that bring these thoughts. I might purposely expose myself to them. Not all at once, but starting off with something small. Maybe it’s looking at a picture of something, maybe it’s a video, maybe it’s hanging out with my kid, maybe is driving, maybe it’s cooking dinner, maybe it’s saying a certain word, maybe it’s touching something. Regardless of what it is, you are practicing engaging with this thing, not doing the compulsions, and pretty much acting like you don’t care. Allow the thoughts to come, allow them to leave.
You don’t care how long they stay. They have no value unless you give it value. This takes practice, practice, practice. It is easy for anxiety or OCD to say, this one is important. This one is different. The tools that were just presented to me, do not apply to me.
Let me tell you, your OCD or anxiety is no different than someone else. The next time you think, “I need to get rid of these thoughts. I need to get them to stop.” Remember that we are actually doing the opposite. You can even say, “oh boy, I love these thoughts.” “yes, thanks for coming my way.” “these are amazing!” “I wish you would stay forever.”
These types of responses, help the brain know that you simply don’t care.
Let me know in the comments, what response can you give your OCD and anxiety today when you have distressing thoughts?
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next time.
How to stop intrusive thoughts
How to stop OCD thoughts
What is a backdoor spike
Backdoor spikes are a response to your recovery and success. Those who are recovered with anxiety all of a sudden feel a SPIKE of anxiety that came out NO WHERE. It almost sneaks through the back door and says, “hello, is anywhere there….remember me.” “Let me make you doubt yourself, your diagnosis, and all your feelings.” “make you fearful that you’re going to get stuck with all these OCD and anxiety symptoms all over again.”
Introduction: Hi, my name is Nathan Peterson and in this video I want to share with you what a backdoor spike is and what to do with these nasty things. Just when you think you have it all figured out…..uhhhhhh
The “backdoor spike” is a term that is used to describe the overwhelming feelings that individuals with OCD get when they have thoughts that may make them worry that symptoms may come back.
A backdoor spike often comes about when an individual has been doing well with their treatment plan for a few weeks or months, leading them to believe that they no longer need treatment. This could be related to the person having had some success and believing they are doing well on their own, or it could happen simply because the anxiety-provoking events of their life are naturally subsiding. But then suddenly out of nowhere comes this thought:
“Even though I haven't had any obsessions or compulsive behaviors in weeks, I still may not be able to control them if anything happens to mess up my treatment plan. What would happen if my Dad got sick? Or if my family gets into another car accident? Then these thoughts wouldn't go away and I'd never get better.” (The word “I’ll never get rid of OCD!” is often present here.) This thought can also take the form of an intuition:
Because I have the thought it must be true. It must mean something great and amazing. It must be my intuition trying to warn me of something.
The individual struggling with a backdoor spike can spend days or even weeks trying to regain control over their thoughts and feelings as they cycle through obsessive questioning of their own sanity.
Even after many months or years of recovery, some people with OCD may still find themselves struggling with backdoor spikes. For example, a person might not be able to "really" believe that they are not going back into full-blown OCD because of feeling so depressed without their obsessions and compulsions. Or they may feel so much shame about having had OCD in the first place that any thoughts about getting better make them feel like an impostor who doesn't deserve such good fortune.
When symptoms start to decline. Individuals are feeling really good. I guess what, those darn intrusive thoughts don’t want to stop. So individuals can start questioning. Wait! I’m still having all these thoughts and I’m not feeling anxious about them. This must mean something. That must mean that I was really a bad person this whole time. Must mean the things I was thinking about is actually going to happen.
So with these backdoor spikes what we do about it? The answer may surprise you. Are you ready? You do everything you’ve already doing. That’s right! The treatment that you did which is most likely exposure and response prevention is the treatment that we continually use for backdoor spikes. Because the body and brain all of a sudden come up with a threat, tries to convince you that you’re in danger all over again and most of the time your job is to respond completely different to these threats. If you’re looking around you don’t see immediate danger we choose to leave these threats uncertain.
Responses like yeah totally I’m going right back into that OCD what a fun ride this is going to be. I sure hope these experiences come back that would be so amazing. It will not feeling anxiety about it probably does mean I like it. Some may choose to just stick with the uncertainty route which is those maybe maybe not statements.
Essentially, we are not problem-solving anymore. Not trying to figure out if you’ll have symptoms again or not. Not figure out why you’re not feeling anxiety. We’re not putting any value to this anymore!
Intuition isn’t a part of this. The brain is really tricky and make someone believe their thoughts are so powerful. Don’t fall for it.
One thing to know about backdoor spikes is that it may make you believe that this new topic or fear that throws your way is different. It can make you believe that this is so absolutely important. Because all it wants is for you to come back in to the OCD cycle. To reattach. They think about it, individuals may go weeks or months without anxiety, then all of a sudden comes back. We naturally are going up a lot of meaning to this.
In here is how we can see the difference between something you need to put value to something you don’t. When anxiety hits, you might look around you, if you don’t see anything happening. The ceiling is falling down, there isn’t a lion running at you, your child’s not about to fall off the counter, It has to be see something you can physically see. Not something you “THINK” is going to happen.
If there is nothing you can see where you would be in danger, you may choose to treat it as a false alarm and give it NOTHING. Answer a lot of fears with, Yep, maybe maybe not. Or Totally man.
To reduce the likely hood of a backdoor spike, people do treatment, even when they’re doing well. They do treatment. They continue to face the fears they did in the past. Just to remind them that they are still the boss.
If you are wanting to learn treatment for yourself, check out my online self-directed course for OCD. There are 42 videos this thing. Takes you through everything you need to know about your OCD and how to do treatment. I’ll leave a link down in the description below. You can even check It out for free.
So here’s my question for you, have you experienced these backdoor spikes? What did it look like for you?
Backdoor spikes with OCD
Anxiety backdoor spike
Nathan Peterson, LCSW
OCD can be tricky! I want to provide useful information for your OCD, anxiety, tics, tourette's, BFRBs, and many other anxiety related disorders.