How To Stop Ruminating with OCD
Rumination and OCD
This video is a long time coming. Let’s talk about rumination. Do you know what rumination is? I would say most, If not all individuals who struggle with OCD ruminate. The official definition of rumination is “the action of chewing the cud”……
Wait, that’s not it. How about this. “a deep or considered thought about something.” That’s better. We can all be in deep thought from time to time. It can whisk us away from the present moment. It can distract us from noticing the surroundings around us. Some have said that rumination is often considered to be a silent mental health issue. No one can see what’s going on except the person. They often don’t know the harm they may be causing themselves because of this rumination.
But why would thinking something very deeply be an issue? Well, it only tends to be an issue when it actually starts interfering in a person’s life. When it comes to anxiety, rumination is essentially a way for the individual to gain answers and problem solve whatever they’re feeling anxious about. It’s trying to problem solve the future. Trying to problem solve the “what if’s”.
If you think about yourself, are you ever able to actually come up with a good answer to the things you are ruminating about. I would guess the answer is no. Because we think we have a good answer, we react as if we have a good answer, we do behaviors assuming we have a good answer, and in the end it ends up being different than what you thought.
Rumination is a huge part of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Individuals who struggle with this often are looking for certainty. They want to know for sure what they are experiencing is true or not. If there really that type of person or not. If they would really do that thing or not. If that catastrophe in the future is going to happen or not. Rumination is thinking about all these things. Thinking about your specific topic or fear when it comes to your anxiety and OCD. Often rumination is just trying to figure out if what you are experiencing is OCD related or not. It’s problem-solving through what your brain says is a potential problem.
Here is an example: somebody you may experience contamination OCD may attach to door handle. Their brain has attached meaning to this. Here’s the rumination and what my sound like: “ I can’t believe you just touch the door handle. Do you have any people touch the door handle? What if somebody was sick that touched it? Do if you touched your face or no after you touch the door handle? No is probably okay to touch it. But if it’s not okay then I’ll get sick. I get Sick, then I won’t be able to go to work. If I can’t go to work, then how am I going to support my family. You know even though it’s probably fine, you should probably wash your hands just in case.
The person goes to wash their hands.
I know you washed your hands, did you know if you touched your pants afterwards? I know you trust your phone is a something you probably need to wash? How about you just change her clothes just in case. Well I know now you just kept yourself safe, but did you see that your child just touched the door handle. What things did they touch. Maybe need to go ask them, wash their hands change their clothes washed the door handle.
As you can see, this person is problem-solving they are doing just in case behaviors. There trying to think through it and prevent whatever the fear is from happening. Often I see rumination as very automatic. It will throw out these threats to you as quick as it can. If you go down this road and problem solve or think through the situation. You are doing a compulsion.
The compulsions are the things that are keeping you trapped. All your brain knows is that you may have saved yourself from whatever fear it says was going to come your way. It is a liar. You cannot think your way through your fear.
I say don’t engage with rumination. Do not give it any power whatsoever. This is a very tough task. But here are some tips you can use. Making sure you give your brain the same answer every single time it threatens you. It says you hit someone with your car are you thinking through this whole situation. Your answer is maybe I did maybe I didn’t. Some choose to agree with the threat to take the power away. They may say, sure I totally have someone of my car.
I can only imagine the OCD screaming you just gave it that answer, that you agreed with it. Are you sure you actually love your partner? Maybe I do maybe I don’t. Are you attracted to somebody of your same gender? Maybe I am maybe I’m not. Will I harm my child? Maybe I will maybe I won’t.
There is not a topic or theme you cannot use this phrase with. Everybody thinks their special and that their specific topic or fear does not apply. To help you not ruminate, it’s committing to not engage by giving it the same answer every single time. Even if it feels real, even if you feel like this one’s different.
Some choose have different catchphrases. That’s not my thing. Sure man totally. Thank you for your opinion.
These statements need to be followed up with not engaging in the compulsions. The individuals that do the compulsions are not really committed to the maybe maybe not’s that they are saying. Because you cannot say maybe maybe not, and then go wash your hands because you’re just not sure. Or avoid the knife because you’re just not sure. Or go back and check to make sure you did hit a pedestrian because you’re just not sure. Ask for reassurance again because you’re not sure. That is the whole point. You need to be unsure. Being unsure on purpose as a way to stop the rumination.
One of the first parts is recognizing that you’re even ruminating in the first place. You might think about what is my reasoning for thinking through this right now. Am I just genuinely curious, or do I feel this urge for this need to figure out this answer right now. If it’s the urge, you’re not gonna do it, you choose not do it. Is actually your choice. The thoughts will start coming in that’s the automatic part, but you engaging with them is completely your choice. Give yourself that power.
Did you know that I created a very specific course for OCD. It takes you through understanding yourself, the treatment and a way to maintain your progress. We talk about rumination, hierarchies, exposures, writing scripts so much more. There are over 41 videos in this thing. I’ll link it in the description. You can preview you it for free.
Do you ruminate? What do you ruminate about?
Overthinking and OCD
Real Event OCD Anxiety Treatment
You may have had an experience of something that happened years ago. It’s possible that you forgot about it for quite a while and all of a sudden BAM, it hits you. Now you can’t stop thinking about it, you can’t stop thinking about what you’ve done. Even if it is something so small and meaningless. Your brain has all the sudden put a lot of meaning to this. You’re spending a lot of time convincing yourself you didn’t do anything wrong. This isn’t enough. Your brain replace it over and over and over again, the guilt sets in. It almost verifies that what you are experiencing must matter. The thing in the past must be rectified. You must fix this in some way, even if it is absolutely impossible to fix. Extreme anxiety and fear join the party. This past experience now consumes your life.
This is what we call real event OCD.
If you want to know more about real event OCD. I will link my video down in the description and you’ll be able to click on it here.
You may already know you struggle with real event OCD. I want to be able to help you learn how to retrain your brain and use the evidence-based treatment of exposure and response prevention. With permission from “turning point psychology” and the clinical director Anna Prudovski; I will be providing 10 tips that can help you right now with your real event OCD.
#1 - OCD is known for attacking what matters the most to us, so this is your chance to use your obsessions as a guide to understanding yourself.
Which values lie underneath your regret? What is your pain trying to tell you? What matters most to you in your life? What kind of person would you like to be? How would you like to treat yourself, others, and the world around you?
As opposed to to being consumed by your intrusive thoughts, memories, and emotions, use them to uncover your core values and start taking active steps toward them in the present instead of being consumed by the past.
This exercise is not to ruminate in the past. It’s not to problem solve whatever it is that you did. Instead this is focusing on you right now. What your values are, who you are as a person, and allowing your brain to move forward instead of going backwards.
#2 - Start making a list of what gets neglected while you continue being entangled in the battle with your mind.
Is being consumed by the past preventing you from having a present? Do you find that being hooked by your thoughts prevents you from taking effective action toward your goals? Are you spending so much time in your head that you don’t feel present or engaged in the moment with people you care about and in doing what you love? What would you be doing differently if you could put your memories aside and reengage with what matters to you in your life?
Make a list, put it somewhere visible, and use it for motivation in the moments where your OCD tries to hijack your attention by making you compulse.
3. Every time you have an urge to check, ruminate, neutralize, reassure, or do any other compulsion – ask yourself, “If I let these thoughts and emotions determine what I do in the next few minutes or an hour, will it get me closer to the person I want to be or will it move me even further away?”
Think about how powerful this is. Your living life right now. The compulsions were only to keep you trapped. It seems important, I get it. What do you know what is more important. Living life right now, feeling joy, looking towards the future.
4. Put a visible reminder somewhere that OCD is the issue, not your past event.
We tend to put so much power and value to past experiences and events when really all filters down to the same thing. OCD and uncertainty. The past event, no matter what it is can be seen as OCD. The OCD thinks it’s protecting you when really it’s your job to retrain your brain to show that you don’t need that protection. You’ll find that it wasn’t protecting you from anything.
5. Practice self-compassion.
This is not the same as forgiveness (which, in your case, most likely will just constitute another compulsion).
Self-compassion is acknowledging that you are suffering. You can remind yourself that suffering is a common human experience and is a part of life. Give yourself a moment of kindness without reassuring yourself.
(Yes, yes, I know: your OCD will probably tell you that you don’t deserve kindness. Or that the kindness is another way to trick yourself into thinking you didn’t do anything wrong. Please treat this thought just like every other obsession – let it be… and continue practicing self-compassion)
6. Do not try to get rid of your thoughts and emotions. They will come and go at their own time. Let them be and redirect your attention toward taking a step toward something that is important to you (not to your OCD). Don’t wait for the difficult emotions to subside to move forward in life. You can have them and still live your life the way you choose to in the present.
7. Ban rumination. Rumination is a compulsion. It deserves none of your attention. It’s wanting you to problem solve and you don’t problem with anxiety anymore. You don’t “problem solve the past.” Don’t give it any attention or power. As thoughts come, you can answer them with, “totally” or “maybe, maybe not.”
Even trying to figure out whether it is really OCD is an example of rumination.
8. This is a tough one. The only way to recover from OCD is to be willing to live with the fact that your scary thoughts may be right.
WAIT, WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?
That’s right, your scary thoughts may be right. It doesn’t mean that you accept that they ARE right. It just means that you accept to NOT know. To not problem solve to know.
As long as you continue living with the hope that you will have certainty about the past, the future, and the kind of person you are, OCD will continue to have a grip on you. Yes, the thoughts about what you did and what kind of an immoral human being you may be are horrific. But these are thoughts. Not facts. (don’t use this as a compulsion). Hold them lightly. All our thoughts may or may not be true. As long as we don’t take them too seriously, we have the freedom to live our life. Allow the uncertainty to be there and continue with your day.
9. Seek treatment. Your OCD will, of course, tell you that treatment will not help, that you will be judged, that going to therapy is just an excuse to avoid repenting, that nobody can possibly understand what you are going through, that the shame will be unbearable, that your OCD is very different from other OCDs and that, of course, it may not even be a real OCD.
Just like with the other thoughts, hold these thoughts lightly and don’t allow them to sway you from getting your life back.
10. Make sure that your therapist specializes in OCD and practices ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy).
This is crucial. Seeing somebody whose method of treatment is CBT but who doesn’t mention ERP as their treatment approach on their website or in your phone conversation is not enough. Not all CBT is applicable for OCD and the therapist needs to know a very special way of using CBT for the treatment of OCD.
Don’t see a coach. They tend to charge less and use words like, “cure” “overcome forever” or “fully recover” making it sound very enticing. I mean, I’d want to go to them. Don’t fall for it. See a true specialist.
Treat My Real Event OCD
Anxiety From Past Mistakes
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.