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
Inhibitory Learning For OCD
When somebody is facing their fear, they repeat this process over and over again their body tends used to it. We’ve seen this in many different ways such as jumping into a really cool swimming pool. At the very beginning it is very cold but their body adapts and get used to it. We didn’t have to spend time convincing ourselves it was going to get better, it just happens. This can be seen when we are using exposure and response prevention. When you are exposing yourself to the upsetting fear it’s going to feel very difficult at the beginning. Overtime, you may face the same fear but notice that the anxiety level is a lot less. This is seen as the habituation model. That we essentially are doing exposures to reduce your anxiety by half or more. You’re getting used to it, you’ve taken the value away from it. When it comes to the habituation model, it’s all about this anxiety reduction in your body adapting just like the swimming pool. We will often use us as a measure of success if you were doing exposures correctly. If you’re anxiety is reducing this is a good thing.
There are definitely some drawbacks from using the habituation model. Anxiety is something that we want to take value away from as well. If we are focusing solely on anxiety and having us go up and down individuals can get stuck in paying attention to the anxiety and wondering if they are doing the exposure correctly or not. Let me start obsessing about the actual anxiety versus the actual fear. Many will start to question and wonder why they’re in anxiety is not reducing. Well evidence shows that the habituation model does work, individuals can you get stuck with these pitfalls often.
This is why there is another approach to exposure and response prevention called inhibitory learning. While this is still being researched there is evidence that shows that this helps reduce OCD symptoms as well. The difference is not the actual exposure you were doing but rather the way you were approaching it. With the inhibitory learning model you are teaching your brain more than reducing anxiety. Exposures are all about what can your brain learned from this experience. It doesn’t matter if your anxiety reduces or not. It might not even matter if you have anxiety while you’re doing the exposure. The whole mindset is all about your brain learning something new. So if I was facing a fear that really caused some anxiety, the way I approach is designed is to face the fear, expose yourself to it and RESPOND differently to the fear. You sole focus is what am I teaching my brain by every movement, words I’m saying, what I’m thinking, how I’m behaving.
If I avoid touching something because it’s contaminated, my brain learned that that thing is dangerous. If I touched it and acted like it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t do any compulsions, then my brain learns it’s not a big deal. You may learn time and time again that you faced your fear and NOTHING happened. That is what the brain is learning.
If you’re confused by the two, here is an easy way to remember:
The habitual model means your body is getting used to it and your anxiety is reducing.
Inhibitory learning model means your mindset is all about what your brain is learning from the exposure regardless of the anxiety felt.
Realistically, there isn’t the right choice comes to do an exposures. You do what you feel like is best for you. I have used both models together where I focus majority of my time making sure that the person knows that the brain is learning something. We use anxiety as a measure but ultimately it doesn’t matter if the anxiety reduces or not.
If your brain can learn that the fear that you have is not happening and it is it because you’re trying to control the situation what is the compulsions and to me that’s one of the best ways to do an exposure. Let things be. Stop controlling. It feels like an experiment, but the experiment is worth taking for your brain to learn something major. That you’ve never been a danger.
Habituation For OCD
Inhibitory Learning Exposures
How To Stop Asking For Reassurance With OCD
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This video is sponsored by NOCD – NOCD is great. You get connected with a licensed, OCD-trained therapist right on your phone. They help diagnose what you’re experiencing, you actually do the the most effective treatment for OCD with live video appointments online and you get support in between sessions by messaging your therapist. You can check them out at www.treatmyocd.com
A really common question that I get often is this. How do I know if I’m seeking reassurance? How do I know what I can ask and what I can’t? Our entire life we have been trained to seek for reassurance. We been trained to give reassurance. But if you think about any moments of your life, when someone gives you reassurance whether this is OCD related or not has it actually helped. And if it has how long does it last?
Before you’re about to go on stage in front of a lot of people someone will say you’re going to do great or you got this. Does this automatically change every emotion you have and now you’re super confident and nothing to worry about? I would guess not. So then why do we give this reassurance. We do it because it’s a temporary fix someone might feel great for a second maybe 10 seconds but we are who we are. Before feeling anxious or feeling anxious. If we have a what if in our mind were going to have a what if in her mind.
But because of this natural training we seek this reassurance throughout life. When it comes to OCD, reassurance tends to be one of the biggest compulsions that I see. So I can see where individuals are cautious when they’re trying to figure out if they’re seeking reassurance or they just want to know something.
Here are some indicators that might help you recognize if you’re using reassurance or if you’re generally curious. The first thing you do is recognize your motivation. You have a question in mind that you want answered. If you don’t get the answer to this question are you studying to be okay? Will you move on? We move forward? If you are motivated to find an answer only to feel better or to feel some relief you are likely searching for reassurance. If you’re only wanting an answer because you feel curious about something then go ahead. But again look at your reason for why you are asking. You have to be okay with not knowing the answer.
You can almost assume that if anxiety is present within an urge to know an answer we are just going to say OCD. Even if you’re wrong. Individuals sometimes come up with this guideline, if I’m feeling anxious whatsoever I don’t get to know this answer right now. I may reevaluate after the anxiety is gone to see how important it is for me to know this thing I want to know.
Reassurance is not just asking questions. It can be in the form of researching online, checking your body for different symptoms, or even reassuring yourself that everything is going to be okay that maybe thoughts are not facts.
While reassurance gives that very temporary fix. When some to go through treatment they are really learning not to seek this reassurance. Some may choose to write down every question that they continually ask on a piece of paper and have that handy to remind them that this is not the thing that you’re asking anymore. Some may ask their loved ones or friends to give them an answer like “maybe maybe not” to a question that you may have asked them multiple times. To remind you all right a message to be asking this.
But when individuals choose to not do the compulsion of reassurance, they need to know to do about this. It’s not just sitting through the anxiety and staring at a wall. It’s teaching your body how to respond differently to these thoughts and feelings. So we do this through exposure and response prevention. You are essentially responding differently to the fears that come your way. Through your body language, through thoughts, and through behaviors.
So to go back to the original question, how do I know if I’m asking for reassurance or not. Come up with a guideline for yourself, if you feeling anxious you’re not gonna do it. If you’re genuinely curious maybe you do. If you’re questioning if it’s reassurance or not you might just assume that it is.
Finding a therapist can really help you through this. I’ll leave the link down in the description if you’re looking for a live therapist for an NOCD and for my online self-directed course for OCD.
So here’s my question for you, what things do you find yourself seeking reassurance for?
Reassurance and OCD
Reassurance OCD compulsion
My OCD is different
You are not special! WAIT! Don’t don’t run away! I needed to get your attention for a moment. If you leave now you think I’m just a big jerk. Here’s what I mean by this!
So here is what I mean by you not been special. First of all your special. You matter in your feelings matter. Because you’re even watching this video right now it shows a lot of strength.
So what I’m really meaning is that the OCD that you are experiencing is not different. Individuals can often think that the topic or theme that they are going through this special, it’s different, no one understands exactly what they are going through, its untreatable, I hear all these videos online I see all this advice but it doesn’t apply to my theme.
Errrrrr! Nope! Your OCD is not special or different. This to me is one of OCD’s biggest lies. If it can make you believe that you are untreatable and that you are different from what you are experiencing then it’s got you. Individuals will often tell me that exposures they hear the specific theme just don’t apply to them. That if people really knew all the details of everything there experiencing they would change the treatment.
So this is something that is important to note, something to tell your OCD even if you think it is different than everyone else’s to remind yourself that OCD is OCD. That follows the same route as everybody else. It’s making you doubt in question yourself and who you are as a person. It’s making you question the threats in the future and if they can come true or not. It’s giving you an intrusive thought putting a lot of meeting on this thought making you feel anxious that’s wanting you to do something to fix it.
Simple as that. When we see OCD simply becomes simple. If you see OCD is complicated, different, or special, than it has the upper hand. To take control is to see it simply. Do not see yourself as different or special. Like I said you as a person are unique and special. Your OCD does not get to join this party.
So as you’re seeing the videos that I have, your hearing advice given, and you think it doesn’t apply to your theme. Remember that this is a lie. Give yourself more credit. You can even remind your OCD that it’s not special when it’s trying to take the light. Give yourself the opportunity to do treatment. I know what people say, “but if you only heard what I’m going through you’d be shocked. You would say that mine is different.” Don’t even allow your brain to go there. Instead he focus on living life and enjoying.
This tactic the OCDs using is no longer going to be something you fall for. Treatment is available if you’re looking for a specialist.
So here’s my question for you, have you ever felt that your OCD is different than everyone else’s?
OCD feeling alone
OCD is unique
Recovery of OCD
We talk so much about what to do when you’re in your OCD. But what about when you’re not in your OCD? What is life look like after OCD treatment? You finally feel like you’ve overcome a lot of your OCD symptoms. So what now?
Now it’s time for you to live life. To enjoy the things that OCD has robbed you of. While I want anybody going through treatment to focus their efforts on enjoying life. Many may see this as an all or nothing approach. I cannot enjoy life until OCD is gone. Stay away from this kind of thinking. There are moments where higher symptoms may come in moments where symptoms will be gone. You can live life and enjoy regardless.
What I find is that individuals who are at the end of treatment and are not feeling many symptoms describe it as kind of a strange feeling. There almost not sure what to do because the anxiety has been there guiding light for years. This told and what to do, how to think, and how to behave. All of a sudden individuals are now set free and needing to learn to live life without these anxiety prompts.
Life after OCD means learning to live in trust in yourself. Trust that anxiety was a liar this entire time. OCD completely lied and had no value. Often individuals need to learn who they are without their OCD. It feels uncomfortable. It actually takes a lot of effort to understand yourself without OCD. Just like doing and exposure individuals learn to tolerate this feeling without their OCD. It’s almost like losing a buddy that’s been with them for so long. Even though it’s wreaked havoc on their life some may feel lost without it. This is where trusting in your self goes a long way.
Individuals learn to live life again. Do things they never done before. Enjoy life and follow your value system. It is absolutely okay to feel uncomfortable after OCD treatment. This feeling will pass the more you start living and enjoying life. Ultimately you are living your life the way you want to, not the way OCD wants you to. You might start identifying goals that you want to achieve, what you want to get out of your life.
You may need to start working on self compassion. It is not your fault that you have OCD. We don’t focus on the time lost were missed because of your OCD. We focus on what you’re going to gain. Start working on any residual depression that comes your way.
We also know if you have OCD then you have OCD. So life after OCD treatment turns into maintaining the progress that you have made. Meaning, you are willing to do treatment strategies and exposure and response prevention anytime you have an intrusive thought. Anytime you feel like OCD is rearing its ugly head. So life after OCD really means life. Feeling relief, gratitude, excitement. But not forgetting about what treatment looks like and maintaining progress.
If I wanted to get really fit, I started exercising and eating healthier. I get to a point where I’m happy and content. I’m living my life. Do I stop exercising? Do I stop eating healthy? If I do I may end up in the unhappy rut I was in before. Where I might not have to try as hard to stay in this happy zone, I still need to do something to maintain the progress.
This is just like your OCD. Remember where you come and what you’ve done. Enjoy life. Have some self compassion, talk about all the successes that you’ve done and where you’re going. Focus a lot of your time on gratitude. The things that you are grateful for every single day.
Freedom from OCD
Fear Of Staring At Private Areas
Many who have OCD struggle with the fear of staring at someone’s private areas. Some may just feel annoyed and distressed because they actually are doing it. Whether it’s in a TV show or in person. They start avoiding places because they don’t want to have to take the time and effort to avoid staring or looking. It’s not something they want to do, so of course, the brain is going to urge them to do it or throw out threats. Let’s go through what it looks like and how to stop staring.
Compulsive Staring OCD
Treatment For Compulsive Staring OCD
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.