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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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
How To Stop Compulsions with OCD
How many things do we do in our life because “just in case”. Our brain comes up with an idea of “something bad” happening and we tend to follow it up with….well just in case, I’ll do this behavior. I want to talk about the traps we can fall into when we use “just in case” when it comes to OCD and anxiety.
So if you really think about it, this just in case mentality is the root of a lot of anxiety and OCD. Most people are not doing certain compulsions because they know a hundred percent no doubt in their mind that the thing they're scared of is going to happen. They are doing these behaviors because they want to prevent something that they don’t know could happen.
For instance, those who may struggle with contamination OCD wash their hands just in case there are germs or contaminants.
Those who struggle with sexual orientation OCD might ask for reassurance again just in case the person didn’t understand them correctly.
Someone who struggles with relationship OCD may just end the relationship just in case it was never meant to go anywhere.
Someone with real event or false memory OCD may spend a lot of time ruminating, their thinking through all these different types of scenarios just in case they find some new evidence to what they’re thinking.
These just in case behaviors keep people trapped in their OCD. And what I want is for people to turn this all away around and say just in case my theory is wrong I’m willing to risk it. Risking it means they are using exposure and response prevention. This is something to think about when you are going through your OCD topics or themes. You think about your motivation for why you are doing whatever you are doing. You can follow it up with I’m doing this just in case ….. -- if there is even a just in case there and you know it’s part of your OCD this is a moment to step back and say I am purposely not going to do this behavior or this compulsion.
Because what the brain needs to learn is that you are saying I’m going to fix this before there’s ever a problem. The problem that doesn’t happen in all the brain knows is that you had a lot of control over the outcome. This can be completely false because in reality, you may have not had any control. The brain doesn’t know this, this is your job to teach it. The only way for it to learn is for you to not do the compulsion to respond differently to the thoughts and fears.
Because what happens is that when your brain says This thing five times or a family member will die. You choose not to. You see that the outcome most likely doesn’t happen. When it doesn’t happen it starts correcting the brain and retraining it to say, hey you completely lied to me. You said I had to tap five times, and nothing happened. Maybe it’s time for you to stop lying to me.
Your brain congratulates you for taking care of the just in case moments. Of course, we can never be 100% sure that these bad things will never happen in your life. But that’s not the point, the point is that you may need to risk that the fear in your mind may happen but it’s not because of any compulsion were not doing a compulsion.
So the next time your brain says just in case. Look around you, if you don’t see immediate danger then you may choose to make a different choice, you may learn to sit through the anxiety, not ruminate through it, not do any other compulsion…. And see what the outcome is. You may be surprised.
So here’s my question for you, what just in case things do you do?
Stop What if with ocd
Just In Case with OCD
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
Partner Focused OCD
Maybe your dating, friends with someone, or married. Either way, you have a relationship with them. Do you ever wonder if you’ll be able to handle a flaw or perceived flaw of the other person? Meaning, you may be obsessing about your partners’ faults. Not just having a thought every once in a while. But truly obsessing about specific flaws or faults. Like all day. This brings a lot of anxiety. You’re not sure if you need to get out of the relationship. You’re not sure if you stayed, that you’ll ever stop thinking or feeling anxious about this flaw.
If this sounds like you, you may struggle with what’s called relationship OCD, more specifically, partner-focused OCD.
Partner focused OCD can be very distressing to those who experience it. This only comes to an individual who has OCD. Hence the name. What we know is that OCD attack so people value and care about. This means if you experience this, you must really care about your spouse, the person you’re dating, or even your friend. You value them greatly. So OCD jumps on in their and says , “how can I make this harder for you?” You love the person, you care about them greatly. So why are you all of a sudden having doubts?
This is because OCD also takes normal natural things that everyone thinks about. Whether it is the shape of your partners nose, a mole that seems to be in a strange place. It takes these normal natural observations but then as a lot of value to it. Makes you want to think about it, makes you wonder if you’ll never stop thinking about it. It puts you in his problem-solving mode to see if you’ll build a handle of the rest of your life. To see if there’s anything you can tell them to maybe change this flaw. There needs to be a solution, that’s what OCD says. When in reality there is no solution.
You could have your partner remove that mole but it wouldn’t be good enough. It would find something else to make you obsess about. It is very ego dystonic. Meaning the responses and behaviors are against your actual belief system. Internally, you’re probably not that person that really cares about these things, OCD is wanting you to care and put value upon it.
With partner focused OCD there tends to be a few areas that individuals may focus on the most.
Physical appearance. Obviously this can be anything the person sees on the other partner. It can be a mole, a computer stomach, to be the shape of their nose, to be the way they do their hair, it can be the shape of their toes, really anything the brain puts value upon.
Sociability - Individuals may be looking at others personality. The questioning and obsessing about if their social enough. Sometimes their processing if there two social. They look at their interactions with others. Can I be a somebody who is not meet my qualifications of being social.
Morality - Does this person share the same morals and I had. Like I said earlier, these are normal natural thoughts that anyone would have in a relationship. But without OCD is just a thought, it’s observing, maybe a little problem solving, and then they move forward. With OCD, it’s on your brain all day long. They’re looking at every interaction that person has, the words that are coming out of their mouth they are appropriate or not. It will make sure they meet the same moral standards.
Intelligence - individuals may be looking at simply how intelligent their partners is. They may be listening to every single word they say to see if they have good grammar. They may be asking about what can grades they got when they were younger. There seeing their interactions with others to identify how intelligent are they or even competent. They cannot ignore their partner’s intelligence and competence level.
What a lot of this comes down to is that in individuals are looking for certainty. Didn’t want to be stuck in relationship they can handle one of these areas of concern or perceived flaws. They need to make sure. But often, even when they feel like they are sure we can handle it and it’s not all problem anymore, the brain tends to doubt or try to find something else in the relationship. As I said earlier, once you take something you care about and exploit it.
So what is the treatment? The treatment for this is called exposure and response prevention. What this really means is that you are no longer going to be problem-solving if your relationship is right for you or not. This sounds crazy, but the does not need to be much problem solving. Instead it just needs to be simple thoughts. You may be essentially moving closer to the perceived flaws, noticing them on purpose but learning to respond differently to them. For instance, you may be looking at your partner’s nose for a picture of their nose really acting like you don’t care. You may receive the complete opposite statements of whats going on in your head. Statements like, wow I love the shape of that person’s nose. This can be awesome to look this entire duration of my life. So excited to be all to be with this person who has this type and nose. I may or may not be able to handle it the rest of my life.
The exposure part. You are exposing yourself to the upsetting fears or threats on purpose.
The response part. You are responding differently to these fears. Using a lot of uncertainty statements like maybe maybe not. Allowing yourself to no longer do the compulsions. The compulsions of the things you’re doing to gain certainty about the relationship were about the perceived fears or threats in your head.
A lot of rumination comes along with this, rumination is a compulsion, is essentially you just trying to problem solve. We need to change the dialogue to be more uncertain instead of problem solve that’s correct for you to be in a relationship or not.
Whenever I talk about this, someone always say, but what if I’m staying so uncertain that I miss if I actually need to be out of the relationship or not. My response, that’s the risk. When somebody relieves a relationship, they know, they don’t need to problem solve. But either way were not using that as reassurance to count on you knowing. You job is to say, I may or may not miss it and be stuck in this relationship forever. How wonderful is that going to be!
Do you need a little extra help with your OCD? I’ve created an online course that takes you through understanding your OCD and the treatment. Taking you through the evidenced based treatment strategies that work for OCD. It’s everything I teach individuals in my office. You can start for free. I’ll link it below.
Treatment for partner focused ocd
ROCD partner focused 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.