Are my thoughts really true? OCD
Do you own your thoughts, or do your thoughts own you? Every thought you have has validity of who you are and what you wanted to think of...right?
There is a point where you have to look at the behaviors you're doing because of the thoughts and see who has ownership. Here is what I mean! The thoughts that cross you remind predict your actions. We either are going to push a thought away or do an action or a behavior because of the thought.
Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that we don't really want but we have them anyway. They come and go as they please. The thoughts we give attention to are the ones that want to stick around.
But we don't always react to our thoughts. If we did, wouldn't we really be our thoughts? For example...I'm sitting at a restaurant and am looking at someone's food. I'm hungry, my food hasn't gotten here yet. I have the thought, I should go over there and take a piece of bacon. I wonder what would happen. I have feelings, I have thoughts....you know what I don't have....the action.
This tells us that we ACTUALLY have a choice. I can see that thought as random noise. meaningless. Because a thought is a thought.
Here is a literal definition of a thought. It is merely an idea or opinion created by your mind. It is sudden and spontaneous and has no particular origin. Wow. think of that. This thought has no home. It's a random collection of thoughts that can cause real emotions which make us doubt and question something.
So who is owning your thoughts? Well in one way, you do. In another way. No-one does. It has no where to go until we do an action to put it in it's place or just let it fly on by. When it comes to these intrusive thoughts, they can be about anything and cause extreme doubt, which make you believe they are valid. These random thoughts can be toward relationships, getting sick, possible harm, memories, and even responsibilities.
When these thoughts don't match your value system we need to treat them as fluff. Nothing. Garbage. A random signal. Meaningless. Once we attach to it and attempt to figure it out, it's going to happen more and more and more. That is when these thoughts own you. You're doing behaviors to remove the thought or perceived threat.
Let me tell you why it's important to recognize that you aren't your thoughts. If I take every random thought and run with it. I'm going to be convincing myself that I'm a monster pretty darn quick. If I pass by a girl and my brain says, "wow, she's cute" my brain tries to make sense of this. It's going to say, "well, you must not love your spouse" or you "just cheated" OR I could say, "hey, thanks for the thought today brain."
Ultimately, we need to stop taking our brain so seriously. It's screaming out thoughts just to get your attention and says they all mean something, but you're not going to fall for it anymore.
Let's actually own these thoughts by giving these types of responses:
"sup thought" "coolio, thanks for that." "yep, I guess that could happen" "maybe, maybe not." "you're welcome to stay thought" You're also practicing now pushing them away or making since of them.
You're not giving them a good home to burrow into. Once you say, this thought has meaning. It just snuggles right into bed with you. Taking the opposite and not giving it a great answer and just letting it pass on by...it moves over to the neighbors.....no neighbor. It may stick it's head over the fence to try a few more times. But that response of "I do not care" is important so it knows, "man, you can keep trying, and I'm willing to listen to you, but I'm giving you nothing."
But Nate! How will I know when it's a thought I actually need to pay attention to? Well, here's my indication. Anxiety mixed with an urge to know. It's a trap! Anxiety always tell the brain the thought is dangerous, BUT here's the kicker. If you don't actually see the danger right in front of you, and I mean it. RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. It's not super obvious. Then, we're treating a thought as a thought and allowing it to pass.
If you treat a thought as a thought, but try to push it away, you're saying it has value. We don't want to do this. Give yourself more grace for having a thought. No really. Enjoy your life. Enjoy your brain and all the processes it does. the positive thoughts and even the negative ones.
Our brain isn't trying to hurt us. Instead, it's actually attempting to help. It's just not doing a great job at it at times. Our job is to retrain it by the responses we give. That response is the most important thing in all of this. Think about this with the next thought you have that causes some distress. My action right now is going to determine if this is important or not. Choose wisely.
The next time you have intense intrusive thoughts and you're trying to figure out what you're going to do with them....remember that you don't have to do anything. You have a choice if your thoughts are going to own you or if you're going to own your thoughts.
Did you know there are at least 3 types of intrusive thoughts? I made a video about these and how to actually get them to slow down. You're going to need to enhance these skills so you can become even more of a boss!
How to own your own thoughts
Intrusive Thoughts wont' stop
Don't click on the ad!
Have you ever just been scrolling the internet or social media and you see those ads pop up. they can be flashy, they can have some great one liner hooks I just capture your attention. But whatever you do, do not click on the ad. these ads are like your random thoughts. Those random intrusive thoughts that you don't really want but they just keep coming back anyway. What's worse is that they start joining your everyday life and activities. These ads can be intrusive.
If you allow those ads to be there. Actually will slow down and sometimes be non-existent. You just told your computer or your thoughts that these ads have no value in your life and you're simply not interested. When one topic disappears, another may take its place. This new flashy ad seems important. It's new, you're not used to it and it seems highly important for you to pay attention to it.
Do not click on the ad!
When you're scrolling through social media and moving from page to page, you notice this ad following you. The ads say, you don't really love your partner to you? What if you pushed somebody harmful? What if you're going to get sick now? have you ever thought about this past experience how awful it was? today's the day you need to figure out you were identity? how do you even know there is a God? Your monster and I'll show you why.
How tempting would it be to just click on this and once and take a peek. They don't know me! seriously, I'm not that kind of person. I'm starting my faith. I would never harm anyone. I love my partner. Let me just click on this ad so I can see what the fuss is all about. It is so intriguing that this thought goes completely against who I am and I want to figure out why. this is completely natural. I would want to know why my thoughts seem to be against me. I mean I'm just scrolling through social media, I'm just doing my homework, just watching a TV show. These ads are relentless and follow the person anywhere.
Do not click on the ad!
You have clicked on the ad. here is what is going to happen. This ad that makes you question your partner is now going to show up everywhere. You just taught your brain that this thought or ad has value. It gave it permission to say, "here I am" "here I am" "remember me" "I'm still here" -- thanks for giving me some attention. I'm here to tell you that it has meaning.
In the digital world, when someone clicks on an ad, it teaches it that you care and thus they spend more to put that ad more in front of your face. They often call it retargeting. This intrusive thought is retargeting you. The cool thing about these retargets is that if you stop clicking on the ad, they eventually go away. Depending on the budget, it may last a few days. It may last a few weeks. But the thing to always count on is that they will slow down. Who wants to spend "money" or "energy" on someone who simply isn't showing any interest?
So if you're not getting what I'm saying. Do not click on the ad and here are some tips to give you better chance.
Notice the ads, allow them to be there. Don't use an adblocker. We don't push the thoughts away. We don't try to control them. We let them be. When you're scrolling, you may notice the thought or ad, but your job is to continue scrolling. If you must give the thought a response they can look like this.
"hey thought" "welcome" "great to see you" "sure" "maybe" "maybe not" "thanks for the thought today." "You're welcome to stay as long as you want."
When we give these responses and you may have to do them a lot. It shows the brain that you've recognized the thought, but aren't giving them much value. It's the "I don't care" attitude.
This attitude is the antidote to intrusive thoughts. Allow them to be there, respond differently than you normally would and move forward. Continue living life and do exactly what you want to do. These thoughts may infiltrate various aspects of your day and life but don't stop living. You not stop moving forward. Just like these ads, it got nothing to retarget when you simply give them no value. And as these flashy ads keep switching we treat each one the same way. Not one thought is more important then another. Thoughts are thoughts. Let them be thoughts.
We can't ignore the anxiety and distress that come from these thoughts. Just know that these feels tend to be false. it's that extra push for you to click on those ads. Instead, we treat these feelings the same. To me, it's a false signal. Anxiety without immediate danger is false anxiety. It's based on a guess and on a meaning that you've put upon this thought.
We can treat this anxiety the same. "hey anxiety" "welcome" "you're welcome to stay" "I love love love these feelings" When our response to anxiety changes. You're putting your arm around it. It learns that as it's freaking out, you're cool as a cucumber. Teaching it to no longer freak out about an intrusive thought. It often doesn't know until you teach it.
These ads have nothing on you. You're too powerful. Tell yourself this! Don't click on the ad the next time your intrusive thought demands attention. Act as if you don't care. Welcome it. Acknowledge and move forward.
Speaking of intrusive thoughts. You need to enhance your skills even more. I've come up with even more responses to these pesky thoughts. Go watch that video here. It's worth your time!
How to stop being perfect
This is Nathan Peterson, licensed clinician and OCD specialist.
Did you know that not all protectionism is bad? I'm going to get right into what healthy perfectionism an unhealthy perfectionism look like.
Healthy is goal oriented behavior. Great organizational skills. Persistence and a high standard for yourself.
Unhealthy perfectionism May consist doubts whether you're doing something correctly or not. Creating unrealistic expectations for yourself. Maybe having a preoccupation with past mistakes. A high level I thought when it comes to making decisions and the fear that you might make a new mistake. Correcting or fixing something over and over and over again until it's just right.
Let's go over what perfectionism OCD looks like and what we're going to do with this pesky need to be perfect.
This is one of the key phrases to remember. Just right. Individuals may feel this intense emotion (often anxiety) if something is wrong, even if it's not. They may spend hours trying to correct something or do a behavior until this feeling feels okay or until it's just right. This could be reading something over and over and over again because the brain says all right and if you don't do it again you probably won't get a hundred percent on that assignment. The trick is it doesn't seem to be a point or the brain says, that's it! You are perfect and you got it.
Do your best. That is something we've been taught our entire life. Our whole society is based off of succeeding and competing with each other. What is this advice actually starts controlling your life. You don't feel like anything is good enough. You even gotten 100% on an assignment but you know there's an extra credit point I could have given you a 101% --- a lot of this has to do with self-worth and really anxiety. When your self-worth is defined by your achievements yet you are not happy with any of them thus creating the need to correct and perfect all over again.
Somebody has an unrealistic a goal of themself that really is unattainable, they try endlessly to to succeed and they will continue to ruminate on this goal that is simply not ever going to be met. and when this goal is not met, it only drives them to continue working on it in feeling anxious and worthless by the same time.
Some may say, who cares if somebody has a high goal of themself. Well, the difference between someone setting goals vs. Perfectionism is that with perfectionism they're feeling a lot of anxiety, they're doing a lot of repetitive behaviors that are often unnecessary and doesn't take them closer to a goal.
In short, perfectionist make no room for mistakes. They may be preoccupied with past mistakes in fear future failures. They may see others around them and have a high expectation and standard for them as well.
In short, we're going to mess this it all up. We are going to use what is called exposure and response prevention. actually we'll practice making mistakes on purpose. We will do something wrong. We're not going to do anything that breaks your morals or values. Instead we are going to find the thing it matters to you the most and mess it up. Maybe I send a text message to my friend with a lot of misspelling. I might actually not read a page in my textbook. I'm going to do the things that make me feel nervous and anxious and respond completely different to them. I'm going to risk that people might judge me. My response is important. If I send a text with a lot of misspelling I don't sit there and say, I hope they're not judging me. instead, I might be saying I sure hope they judge me today. Man I love making mistakes. They may or may not be judging me. I'm possibly never getting into that College. I sure hope I miss a question on my assignment. Because I feel the need to re-read this phrase I'm actually going to read it backwards. I'm going to purposely not know this thing right now.
What happens is that my brain learns actually I'm okay. That when there is an actual problem we will solve it. If someone judges me someday, I say, bummer. That's too bad. eventually we are living a life we want to live. We can have those moments of satisfaction but know that it doesn't mean everything. We grow with this feeling of not being satisfied and not feeling like we did well enough. We don't always have to take action just because we had that feeling.
So with the treatment name, exposure and response prevention, you are exposing the fear that you were making a mistake can you are responding as if you simply don't care. You're choosing to feel anxiety on purpose. These feelings can't last forever which is why we keep practicing it over and over and over again.
What mistakes are you going to make today? How can you be imperfect? can you know what's related a lot this perfectionism, this feeling of being just right which is talked about in this video right here on the screen. Go to it right now if you experience this as well.
What is checking OCD and how to stop
This is Nathan Peterson, licensed clinician and OCD specialist.
Is the door locked? Is the stove off? Did I shut off the water? Did I turn off the lights? Did I send an inappropriate email? Did I forget something important? Did I unplug the toaster?
How about I check one more time....just in case? Checking OCD or rather these compulsions are tough because was is the harm checking one more time? I mean, it doesn't take very long to do and you ensure that you've kept yourself safe or others. At least that's what your brain wants you to think.
We will be going through what checking OCD looks like what we're gonna do about it.
Ultimately individuals who have this type of OCD will often think that somehow they will cause harm or something bad to happen to either themselves or others. Intentionally or not. What wins every single time is that it's not worth the risk to not go check. Individuals often think if they don't go back and check, they will have this thought on their brain all day.
This checking can fit in many areas of someone's life. They can be driving a car go back and check if they hit somebody because they went over a bump. Back multiple times, just to make sure. They may be checking the news to see if there any reports of somebody getting hit. Someone may check their browser history to make sure they didn't look at anything inappropriately. They could check body symptoms for any health concerns. Check for moles, lumps, heart, and really anything that indicates a problem. They could check for any mistakes they've made in their life. Replaying moments in their mind to check if that's really how it went down.
Here is why we know this repetitive behavior is OCD. Because often times an individual gets stuck checking time and time and time again. Somebody can touch the burner verify to them that it is off. And just as they turn their back, the brain says, but are you sure? It's this need for certainty and relief of anxiety and this urge.
Because who wants to risk a fire? Risk their health? Risk hurting someone? Individuals often think that they couldn't live with themselves if it was their fault. You've got to know that these individuals care. And that is why this OCD is attached to this so much. They care so greatly and is one of their big values in life. It is worth it for them to spend minutes, hours, days checking and rechecking just to make sure you are safe.
So this is what works for this type of OCD. We are going to be using exposure and response prevention. This means that you are exposing yourself to the uncertainty of whatever it is you want to check. When you were sitting in bed and your brain tells you to stand back up and go check the door one more time, we are choosing not to. We're not just gonna twiddle our thumbs and panic. Instead we are going to respond completely different. Some responses are, the door may not be unlocked. Sure I guess the door will stay unlocked tonight. Yep someone might breaking to my house. Cool would it be wonderful if someone broke in tonight. I am willing to risk that the door is unlocked tonight. The only way I'll know is when I wake up tomorrow.
I am using statements as if I do not care. I am tolerating some uncertainty. Also I'm willing to risk whatever it is. And people always say, but what if this is the time I didn't check and something happened. That is the risk. Risk that you actually did not lock the door and find that majority of the time it doesn't matter anyway. The difference between normal checking and obsessional checking is the urge and anxiety to do so. The urge is so absolutely strong mixed with this anxiety, we might risk it this time.
A lot of people think they are different, OK I could risk the door, but I can't risk but the stove stays on. I can't risk that I didn't actually hit someone with my car. I can't risk that hurt somebody's feelings. I can't risk that I might've done something inappropriately. Don't get cut up into thinking that your obsession is different than someone else's and more valuable. OCD is OCD.
What ends up happening is that somebody's willing to risk these things they wanna check and respond completely different to them that their brain will learn over time that they are actually OK. They don't have to convince themselves, they've learned through experience. And you know what, if there is a problem we will solve it. We do make mistakes and we need to learn to handle those.
This past year I left the gas burner on all night after cooking dinner. I woke up in the morning and saw the flame a rumbling and I guess what I did. I turned it off. There was a problem and I fixed it.
We can spend hours preventing a problem that may never ever be a problem or risk and only fix problems when they're actual problems.
Did you know that we didn't react based on how you feel in our mood? Do you understand OCD mood swings to help you more with this checking, make sure you check out....get it..."check out" my video on OCD mood swings what you're going to about them.
Stop checking body symptoms
Disgust Contamination OCD
This is Nathan Peterson, licensed clinician and OCD specialist.
Did you know that the fear of contamination or being germy doesn't always lead to the fear I'm getting sick? What about having certain thoughts and now I am mentally contaminated. My brain is unclean. This feeling is wrong. In fact many feel this overwhelming feeling of general disgust.
In this video we will be going over what mental contamination OCD looks like and explain this feeling of disgust, also we're going to go over how you're going to handle this feeling and thoughts.
Imagine this for yourself. You touch door handles, shake people's hands, touch that shopping cart and make it home. Most of the time we just wash our hands and move on. With mental contamination, these individuals may do a physical action to try to fix something that's happening mentally. Washing my hands means I'm washing a feeling. I'm washing a thought. I'm going to continue doing this physical action until I feel better.
It actually doesn't have to be washing either. It could be tapping something a certain amount of times, avoid certain items, words, or images. When we think of contamination we think of I'm going to get some germs on my hand and get sick. These individuals are experiencing is, I'm going to get germs on my hand and I'm going to feel disgust, gross, and this feeling is not going to go away until I can fix it.
Or this, I had an intrusive thought that doesn't match my value system and I felt disgust, this feeling will not go away until I do something to fix it. I may have to repeat a certain word in my head over and over and over again as to cleanse this feeling. I may have to physically wash something. Maybe it's do some type of ritual until I feel better.
Here's what we're going to do about this mental contamination. Mess it up. That's right. We are going to purposely touch the contaminants. Purposely engage with the things they make us feel emotionally contaminated. You get to set the rules. Our goal isn't to figure out how you cannot feel this disgust feeling. instead it's to live life with this feeling as long as you're doing exactly what you want to do. But this feeling can't last forever.
You can even respond differently to the disgust feeling. Celebrate it. Have a party! When you feel disgust imagine blowing a kazoo. Yahoooo! Love this feeling. I hope it lasts all day. As long as I'm not responding to it with any value it's teaching the brain that you're not falling for it anymore. To me, it's a false signal, trying to get you to react, so why not poke the bear and do the opposite. Touching that door handle made me feel internally contaminated, I'm going to go touch it again. I'm going to watch that video clip again. I'm going to mess up the compulsion so bad that my brain doesn't even come up with this idea.
Yes the anxiety and distress will be there. But it can't last forever.
You've go to stop these compulsions and that's why I created this video to help you do so. It's a simple trick that works for most. You'll need to know it to power yourself up. Click on it here.
Thanks so much for watching and I'll see you next time.
Counting Compulsions OCD
Counting as a compulsion is very common in the OCD world. Often individuals may count to gain a feeling of "just right" or "yep now I can stop" - That's the feeling I was looking for. Often this counting is done is avoid anxiety and the fear of the feeling that something is "wrong".
We're going to talk about why counting happens and what you're going to do about it.
You may be wondering, what do you mean by counting Nate. Well, let me tell you. Counting can be literal counting. It can be tapping something while counting. It can be doing an action over and over again while counting. Some may count to a certain number until it feels right or until their brain says, "Whooo, you prevented that bad thing from happening." They may count in odd numbers, even numbers, they can count in 4's -- it literally is whatever their brain said is the way they should do it.
Here is an example. My spouse calls me and say, "Hey, I'm headed home from work. Be there in 20 minutes." At that moment, I turn off my phone and my brain says...."well crap...I just turned my phone off the wrong way, if I don't redue it 8 times, my spouse is in real risk of crashing and it'll be my fault." So I grab my phone and turn it off and on 8 times. Well crap...that actually didn't feel right, I better do it again. Maybe I need to put in the password and THEN turn off the phone 8 times. Okay okay...that was it. Now I feel like I've reduced this risk and my anxiety went away.
When I see my spouse walk in the house it verifies to me that the only reason she is safe is because I took action. OCD tricked me into believing something that actually is untrue.
I see this counting done so randomly, unplanned and out of the blue. The brain says 37 times I need to push the J button on my keyboard...sometimes there is no known risk or responsibility. I just know it HAS to be done or I won't stop thinking about it AND I'm going to feel anxious or distressed until I do it.
Sometimes when someone is counting is actually is pretty automatic. It's just something they do and have done for a while. For instance, someone may count floor or ceiling tiles, words in a sentence, the amount of steps they are taking, how many times they dribbled the basketball, how many passes they made, really anything you can think of, they may count it.
There is no rime or reason to it other than not wanting to feel uncomfortable or feel responsible. Someone can get triggered because they saw a certain number or color that makes them go through their counting routine.
You know what we're going to do about all this counting? Completely mess it up..and I'll show you how.
To treat counting OCD compulsions, we use exposure and response prevention. Essentially what we want to do is break OCD's rules. You will be exposing yourself to the discomfort and anxiety and RISK the the responsibility threat that comes your way. So using my example of my spouse, Instead of me turning on and off my phone. I'm actually going to either leave it and not engage with the phone anymore or I'm going to make it very unsatisfying by maying turning it on and off 3 times instead of my normal 8.
The brain is likely to freak out and say, "WAIT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" It's going to be your fault, they will crash because of you AND your anxiety will never go away. So the response part is this......yeah man, I messed it up and they may or may not crash or I just agree with it and say, "totally, crashing here we come." The response part is crucial. I'm essentially acting like I don't care and am willing to do this until my distress reduces.
What will happen is that my spouse is likely to walk in and then you just caught your OCD red handed. That little liar. "Uhhh okay, well I know I told you that you were in danger, but I was wrong.....NEXT time though." Once the brain learns that you actually weren't in danger and that you could tolerate not counting those urges to count start slowing down.
Wow what a trip! Have you had these counting compulsions before? To enhance your OCD knowledge and recovery journey, make sure you go watch my video on sneaky compulsions because these are done a lot!
How to stop counting
This is Nathan Peterson, licensed clinician and OCD specialist. This one compulsion is so very common and most don't even know they're doing it. I often talk about sneaky compulsions. These compulsions come in so many different forms. If you don't know what a compulsion is, it is the thought, behavior, or action that someone might take in order to attempt to gain certainty with their fear and/or reduce anxiety.
Here's the compulsion. Telling your OCD story. No don't get me wrong, there are times in your life where you need to tell your experiences. Go through the thoughts and feelings. But many tell their story daily. Whether it be on forums, groups, or to their loved ones. It seems so innocent to do so but let me share with you the dangers of taking this path. What ends up happening is that the individual that suffers with OCD shares the story time and time and time again. And when I mean story I mean they are sharing an experience they had in the day. They are sharing an intrusive thought that came their way. They are sharing a feeling that they have. Essentially, they are confessing their thoughts.
They are not necessarily looking for reassurance. Instead they are just simply sharing what they're going through. Here's the tricky part, for most, not all... They are receiving reassurance. Maybe they don't even though they are doing so. They are receiving reassurance because they just shared their experience to someone and that person did not freak out. That person may have given them reassurance. They may have looked at their facial expression to see if they think I'm crazy or do they not. Do you think I'm OK or do they not. The sense of being a roundabout way of receiving reassurance. I mean heck, we're taught our whole life to share experiences. But when it comes to intrusive thoughts and obsessions, we were verification and certainty. We want support.
See what happens if you don't. If you feel that overwhelming need to share, maybe you feel like you won't get better until you do, it may be a compulsion. Maybe delay it. You're not waiting for your spouse to get home to tell them what you've gone through. You wait two or three hours after they've already been home. See if you can wait. If your loved one or support person has asked you to share what you've gone through. You may still have to evaluate and ask yourself, why am I sharing this intrusive thought today. Is it to gain support what is the gain Comfort and reassurance.
There are obviously instances where sharing your experiences and story are important. To someone like a therapist. Some may set up checkpoints. Meaning they have set a certain time every other day or every week whatever is reasonable to share and experience at a certain time. But again it's looking at if this is going to help or hurt your OCD. I would love it if people changed talking about their OCD experience that day to here is how I used treatment with my OCD experience.
I had this intrusive thought today while I was driving. Guess what I did, I kept driving, I didn't look in my rear view mirror, I didn't go back and check. I kept driving. What does does is promote treatment more than give the story more power and value.
Think about this the next time you want to share about your intrusive thoughts or OCD story. If you've been watching my other videos, we've learned that OCD is OCD and we give the thoughts no value or power. So, to help with this process, not going through it and "figuring it out" shows that it's all fluff. It doesn't mean that you don't matter, it may just mean that those thoughts are error messages that don't need to pay attention to.
To help you build a stronger muscle to stop these compulsions, go watch this video, where I talk about simple tricks to stop compulsions all together.
Thanks so much for watching and I'll see you next time.
Treatment for OCD compulsions
Why OCD feels so real
I'm Nathan Peterson, a licensed clinician and OCD specialist. Have you ever wondered why your OCD feels so incredibly real? For many, they know that the thought isn't real, but it feels real. So when something feels real, we react as if it's real....right?
Think about it this way. When we watch a movie we can become immersed and get absorbed. We get hyper focused, get lost and even confused. We can lose touch of reality for a bit. For some they may watch the same movie and not be connected or immersed at all.
So what's the difference? One person is allowing and inviting themself to get lost in the story and the other person see it for what it is and keeps it at the surface. Both have control over this decision.
So when it comes to OCD and an intrusive thought, one main point to bring it even more value is the anxiety or distress attached. This anxiety says.....HEY, this is important. Keep thinking about this one. As you get engrossed into the narrative or story, we tend to feel more emotions and feelings. Making it feel...well...real.
When something feels real, we spend time trying to "figure it all out" and prevent a possible catastrophe. Thus adding even more value to it.
So when I hear someone tell me that their OCD thoughts feel so real, it typically isn't the first time they've had that thought. They've had this thought many times and in each moment taken the time to try to understand it. Thus making it feel more real overtime.
We also know that OCD attacks what people care about. We have many doubts and questions in our mind everyday. But most of the time they won't feel real because we don't care about it. For instance, I may be watching tv and hear about how easy it is to get fungus under our toenails. Why do I not care about this....because it's not my thing. It's a threat like any other. My brain only cares about whatever I made a connection with and put value to. Maybe it's my relationship, maybe it's a certain disease, maybe I'm focusing on my breathing. Either way and either topic. It's all the same.
One only feels real because we make it feel real. To stop this progression of realness, we can see or hear a threat and choose to not put value to it. Choose to see information as information. Choose to keep things uncertain. Choose to stop ruminating. Choose not engage in a compulsion. The urge may be there, but you always have the choice.
When you take this proactive choice to not engage, it no longer feels real. Why? Because you are telling your brain that you simply don't care. You're letting life be what it is. And don't fall for the, "but I'm different" - That's just another trick that feel's real.
You're a special person, but your topic or content of the obsession is not. So ultimately, let it feel real. Just choose to not engage. Not figure out. It's got to be pretty obvious that there is a problem. 1000% hit you in the face obvious. If that is not there, we may treat this "real feeling" as a false signal.
Have you ever had a memory of the past, maybe a story that you've told over and over and over again throughout your life. Sometimes there is a point where you're actually not sure if it happened the way you've been telling it. Maybe it started out as an embellishment, but overtime it actually feels real with some confusion. I think of this the same way, we've told the story so many times, just like the OCD brain tells the content of the story and all of a sudden, we're confused on what is accurate and what is not.
In simple terms: Stop telling the story! Stop creating a narrative. Stop with the "what ifs" - You don't need the story. Yourself without OCD doesn't need the story. Let it go. Sit with the discomfort and the "realness" feelings. Let it pass. The more you do this, the less scary and real it may feel.
The way we think is the way we feel. If I felt someone is judging me, I'll feel anxious, scared, and sad. Even if this is untrue. I made up a story and fell for its tricks. Don't fall for it.
Since OCD affects our mood, see how you can control these mood swings with this video here!
Thanks so much for watching and I'll see you next time.
OCD feels real
OCD seems real
How do I know if it's OCD?
I asked you to tell me the most common thought you have regarding your OCD and here is the resounding answer. "How do I know if my thoughts or feelings are OCD or if they are really me.?" If it really is me, it means I'm a scary, dangerous, dirty, and bad person. But if it's my OCD, then I get a pass. So why can't you tell if it's really your OCD or if it's really you? In this video you're going to learn why it's so difficult to see the difference, if it even matters, and you how to respond the next time you question it. No time to waste! Let's get to it! I'm going to give you the quick answer, but that doesn't mean you'll leave the video right...right...right! I need you to stay to the end.
Here's the sitch, You cannot tell if it is you or your OCD because of the emotion and attention you are bringing it. Because you have OCD, the connections in your brain are attaching a big emotion such as anxiety to an intrusive thought. An intrusive thought that is likely to be had by most people. It's okay for our brain to throughout intrusive thoughts. Doesn't matter what it's related to. This anxiety felt make everything feel dangerous and important. It activates this fight or flight response.
When we're in this mode, the brain and body go into problem solving. You have to know if what you're experiencing is true or not. You have to know if you're really in danger. Protect, protect, protect! So in simple terms, the reason you question if it's really you or your OCD is because you don't want it to be you. Because it goes against your value system and who you are as a person if these thoughts WERE you. But, that's the nature of OCD, going toward your values, making something feel extremely real, putting lots of power to it and then it stands back to see how you're going to respond to it. Before we give that response to the OCD,
We're going to keep it waiting, because it hates it. Hey bro! You're not sure if this thought is you or OCD, so on the safe side, do the compulsion. Does this sound familiar? Most will feel guilt or shame because they feel like they need to....just in case that thought wasn't really OCD. So we know it's tough to decipher and let me give you the golden answer of how you can know if it's OCD or not..... "Shifty eyes" ...... That's not your job. Ahhh, I see you ready to click off the video. Seriously, hear this.
The more you attempt to discover if it's OCD or not the more you stay stuck. And I hear you on the other side of that screen. "BUT, I NEED TO KNOW IF I'M A BAD PERSON OR NOT OR IF I WOULD REALLY DO THAT THING OR NOT." FALSE! You don't, your OCD would like to know that answer only to make you doubt again.
So here is a response instead.... Ew..."did you just have that thought about that person? I can't believe you did that?" My answer... Thanks for the thought, bro. Yea, but that's really you and not your OCD, this is important. "Okay, thanks for the feedback, riveting stuff." You need to feel guilt. Shame on you. "I'm loving all those feelings." We don't reason with it. We don't use logic. We don't figure it out. We live our lives!
Your job isn't to figure this all out. It's to NOT do any compulsion because what we learn is that the obsessions don't matter. They really don't. It's all white noise. The way you are responding to this question, "is this me or my OCD?" will determine the trajectory of your triggers, anxiety, shame, doubts and guilt. Some make commitments, "I choose to not figure out what is real and what is my OCD?"
That's not my job. My job is to live life right now in this moment. I will not do any compulsion. This does not mean that for the rest of your life you're suffering. It actually means, you're brining more rays of hope that bring you closer to recovery. These compulsions are tough to break, so please go watch this video where I give some simple tricks to help you stop these compulsions. Thanks so much for watching and I'll see you next time!
OCD or me
Nathan Peterson specializes in working with OCD and Anxiety related disorders and has done so for the past 7+ years.