I talk about exposure and response prevention quite often as the best, in my opinion, treatment for OCD and anxiety. I mean you are actually facing your fears. Retraining your brain. You are essentially becoming a researcher. You are doing experiments. You are testing theories.
You are willing to take the risk that the fear that you currently have may be a false signal.
I’m going to go through how you can do these experiments better when it comes to your treatment.
So how to do better exposures for experiments. One of the first things is to be aware of what the perceived threats are the come to your mind. Something like, if I don’t check the door one more time someone can break in. If I don’t pray, God will smite me. If I don’t put those knifes away I might react and do something. If I get close to that person, what if I like it or them. If I look at somebody else, maybe I don’t really love my partner. If I touch this item, I will get sick.
This is how you are keeping track of your fears. What does it mean if you don’t follow through with your compulsion? What does it mean because you have a certain intrusive thought?
This shows exactly how we can do experiments. Your brain already came up with the threat if you don’t follow through with the compulsion. Now it’s your time to test the theory out. Each one is going to feel very real. It’s going to feel very important. It’s even going to feel risky.
But just like any experiment, we do not know the outcome until we tested. So what I would do is take one of my fears, and I would test the theory out. My brain says if I don’t check the stove, I will start my house on fire. So guess what I’m going to do, not check the stove. I’m also going to pay attention to all the compulsions that my body wants to do. Maybe it wants to listen for a fire, maybe in researching online the chances of the fire happening.
I cannot do an experiment, and then mess with the data in between. Instead I’m practicing staying uncertain. Choosing to see what the outcome is going to be. I’m living my life, if there is a problem I will solve it. If there’s not there’s nothing to solve.
While I am sitting with this uncertainty, I might be practicing statements tell me through. The house may or may not set on fire. Yep, might be my fault.
Here’s the cool part, after a few hours, maybe the next day. Your brain looks that moment and says, hey, I told you that you were in danger. The house is supposed be on fire, it’s not, maybe throughout all false signal your way.
You did this experiment to see what was going to happen. You tested the theory out. Your brain needs to know that you are testing these fears out, over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. It will finally get it.
The thing is though, we can never be hundred percent certain that our fear won’t come true. But we are willing to take that risk, it might be the only way to retrain the brain and for you to enjoy life more freely.
I know what you might be thinking, yeah I can test the theory out for something like your example. But mine is different. Mine is more dangerous. Might involves my child, mine involves my salvation, mine involves death. That’s one of the biggest pieces to get past, you are not special in that your OCD or anxiety is different. It’s all false signals. The only way for you to retrain the brain is to do these experiments. Do these experiments with meaning. It’s not, I’m going to avoid checking, and that I’m going to rock back and forth staring at a wall for the next five hours. It’s continuing to live life despite of this uncertainty that you’re living in. And anytime a threat comes up, but is a house going to start on fire? Your answer is, yeah man, maybe maybe not. I guess we’ll see after the experiment.
My question to you is this….Has your fear EVER come true? Really think about it, the thing your brain threatens to you day after day.
Thank you so much for watching and I will see you next time.
How to help ocd
How to stop OCD
OCD Treatment Lifestyle
So maybe you have done the treatment for OCD and anxiety. Or you’re currently working on it. The treatment that I love and focus on his exposure and response prevention. This treatment can be tough as nails. I mean were telling you to completely forgo everything you think you know and change it. To face your fears. Responds completely different to them. Stop doing those things that made you feel comfortable and gave you relief. Man, this treatment can be tough but it is so worth it.
As you are going through your treatment journey for anxiety and OCD I wanted to give you some information to help you through gaining more success in these treatment strategies.
So if this is the first time you’re hearing about exposure and response prevention, man you’re in for a treat. And you also found what is in my opinion the best treatment I can help you with your anxiety and OCD symptoms. We broke it down by just the name of the treatment.
Exposure = you are exposing yourself to perceived threats. Meaning, your brain is going to be throwing out a lot of threats. Mixed with a lot of anxiety, and we are choosing to face these fears with uncertainty. Almost like you are doing an experiment to see if the threat that came to your brain is actually going to happen or not…. Sounds scary right. What we find time and time and time and time again is that the threat doesn’t happen. We can never be 100% sure what we are willing to take that risk..
Response prevention = This is the way you were responding to the fear. You cannot face the fear and continue to respond as if it’s a big deal. Is that still has meaning and power. The response to me is one of the most important aspects of this treatment. When we respond with almost the complete opposite of what we normally would do and must imagine your brain exploding. Saying, what the heck are you doing? I’m warning you you’re in danger and you’re completely acting like this is no big deal. If you’re saying this is in the big deal and you can show me that over and over and over again maybe I need to stop telling you this is a big deal. Some people respond was smiling, they respond with words like maybe maybe not. Sometimes they agree with the threat. Yeah I would totally love if that happened. And it doesn’t matter what seem or topic anxiety or OCD is attached to. We can use the same response techniques.
So with this treatment of exposure and response prevention. One idea I would give you is to find times in your day and life to practice uncertainty. Even with things that actually don’t bother you or cause much anxiety. This can be like, what time my going have dinner today? I don’t know, could be 3 o’clock 4 o’clock 5 o’clock 6 o’clock.
I wonder how long it takes me to get to this location, I don’t know. I could hit traffic, could take 10 minutes longer, maybe I’ll get there five minutes sooner.
I wonder if this person likes me or not…. You know they may or may not like me. I may never know for sure.
I wonder if people think this video is boring? They may or may not… I may never know for sure. Except for I can see my stats. And if you’re watching this right now this current moment, thank you for sticking around, I appreciate you.
Essentially, you don’t need to know anything unless it’s super important. We spent our day looking for certainty. When we can take opportunities to practice uncertainties in most aspects of life we actually are more free. We no longer are trying to control everything.
My favorite phrase is maybe, maybe not. I use this every single day in some aspect or another. Of my brain never says what if, the answer is maybe maybe not. If it’s something that’s really not that important but I am catching myself trying to problem solve it, I may just answer with them maybe maybe not allow myself to move forward.
This is something you can practice with yourself, with your family, with your kids. Allow kids to be uncertain. This helps them prepare for this uncertain world that we live in. so when they say when we get to get there, the answer may be five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. One of those three. We leave life ambiguous on purpose.
Allow yourself to face uncertainty in life, daily activities, and especially anxiety moments where you do not see an immediate threat.
So what uncertainties can you face today? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next time.
How to do OCD treatment
Nathan Peterson specializes in working with OCD and Anxiety related disorders and has done so for the past 7+ years.