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
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.