How to stop doing compulsions
I'm just going to get right to it! Just stop doing the compulsions. Easiest video ever... peace. Just kidding, don't leave yet. If you don't know by now, stopping those pesky compulsions can be extremely difficult. It's those things that you brain says you have to do to feel better or reduce a "threat" that often isn't ever a threat.
Instead of the all-or-nothing approach of either do the compulsion or don't, I'm going to teach you a way to ease yourself into this uncomfortableness. "but why would I want to feel comfortable." I hear you! It's so you can get your life back. Okay, no more fluff. Here is what I want you to know. Postpone or delay your compulsion. This compulsion could be a ritual of some kind. It could be washing hands, asking for reassurance, researching online, skin picking, or plain old rumination. The attempt to problem solve.
It may not be as simple as postponing the compulsion so here's what you can do. Pull out a piece of paper and write down all of your compulsions. Maybe you rank them from 0-10 --- 0 being easy to resist and 10 being out of this world hard to resist. You may want to start with the easier ones first. Create a goal for yourself. I'll use hand washing as an example. If I feel the need to wash my hands every time I touch my phone, I am going to see if I can delay this. Don't sell yourself short, but be realistic. Can you do it for 10 seconds? I bet you could. Could you do it for 20 seconds, 30, or 40? How about even a few minutes? What about a few hours?
What's going to happen is that it's possible you'll forget to do the compulsion. That's right! That strong urge you were feeling was so overwhelming, but when you've waited long enough, that feeling reduced, allowing you to have a better chance at making a different decision. You can do anything you want to. Clique, I know. But it's so true. You need that mindset of stopping your compulsions and this may be a good place to start.
It can be important for you to set goals for yourself. I am postponing washing my hands today. I am choosing to not engage in figuring out this ruminating thought right now. I'll see how badly I want to figure this out at 10am today. At this time, If I remember, I'll see if maybe I can go until 12pm. You have all the power in the world. It's just knowing what to do with it.
Here is something to remember, you're going to be feeling some distress or anxiety. Remind yourself that it's okay. Anxiety is not the bad guy. I don't blame it, it's job is to warn you that you're in danger and gives you ways to feel better. That's the urge right there that we're not giving into. Be prepared and ready to feel uncomfortable while you're delaying compulsions.
You can choose to respond differently to the discomfort. Some may say, "yah man, love it" "thanks for this feeling." "I'm so excited to get better by not doing the compulsion." Any threat that comes your way can be answered with a "maybe, maybe not." This helps the brain be okay with no answer. No answer is the key. You got this!
To be empowered and gain an upper hand, you need to know what compulsions you do that are sneaky. You may not even know you're doing them. Go watch that right now.
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.