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
Thought stopping doesn't work
One of the most common questions I get asked is….How do I STOP thinking about my fear? How do I stop obsessing? How do I STOP the anxiety.
If you’re like most, you’re searching videos to learn how to STOP your symptoms. There in lies the TRAP. We don’t learn to STOP thoughts or fears…we learn to respond differently to them….which in turn allows symptoms to decrease.
If you start off you search or mindset with….how can I stop……Don’t do it! It’s a trap!
Seriously. You’re just training your body to continually check To see if you are still having thoughts or not. Which actually produces more thoughts. It is actually natural for the brain to automatically start pushing thought we don’t want. Which is why it takes practice to lave them back.
Let me take you through what to do instead of pushing thoughts away or ignoring them.
So how to avoid suppression? To get out of the thinking that you need to STOP thinking about your fears. Well, you can start by learning to notice when these thoughts occur. Allow thoughts to be thoughts. Not put any meaning to a single thought. A thought is bad or a thought is good. When a thought brings anxiety or distress, we tend to label it as bad. When our brain hears bad, it goes to this automatic process of pushing. Practice having a thought than simply saying, “oh cool, there is the thought again. You’re welcome to stay as long as you want”
As your learning to accept a thought is a thought you’re also practicing not doing a compulsion. A compulsion is anything you are actively choosing to do to remove the thought, or to reduce your anxiety symptoms. For instance, if you have a distressing thought you quickly shake your head to get it to go away. Maybe you tap something a few times. It’s possible you go to the Internet to research different ideas about your thought. You might have to say a phrase for the thought to go away. These are all the things you have to be aware of and stop doing.
Because we cannot accept a thought, take value away from it, and also do a compulsion of the same time. It’s like we’re not fully accepting the reality of the thought. It’s a halfway effort.
Once you learn to accept our thoughts, even if you think it is the worst thing in the world to think. OCD can bring some pretty gnarly thoughts. It’s easy for somebody to say, yeah I can accept a thought about something small but this doesn’t apply to my big scary thoughts. Going back to what was said earlier, thoughts are thoughts. There is not one thought that has more value or power than another.
Some choose to use act therapy. Acceptance and commitment therapy. This builds flexibility in your thinking and allows you to accept the thought. Without changing it whatsoever. At the same time some choose to expose themselves to the triggers or obsessions. This is so you can continually learn. Learn to not respond the way you normally would want to with a thought.
For instance, I might pay attention and write down all the triggers I noticed that bring these thoughts. I might purposely expose myself to them. Not all at once, but starting off with something small. Maybe it’s looking at a picture of something, maybe it’s a video, maybe it’s hanging out with my kid, maybe is driving, maybe it’s cooking dinner, maybe it’s saying a certain word, maybe it’s touching something. Regardless of what it is, you are practicing engaging with this thing, not doing the compulsions, and pretty much acting like you don’t care. Allow the thoughts to come, allow them to leave.
You don’t care how long they stay. They have no value unless you give it value. This takes practice, practice, practice. It is easy for anxiety or OCD to say, this one is important. This one is different. The tools that were just presented to me, do not apply to me.
Let me tell you, your OCD or anxiety is no different than someone else. The next time you think, “I need to get rid of these thoughts. I need to get them to stop.” Remember that we are actually doing the opposite. You can even say, “oh boy, I love these thoughts.” “yes, thanks for coming my way.” “these are amazing!” “I wish you would stay forever.”
These types of responses, help the brain know that you simply don’t care.
Let me know in the comments, what response can you give your OCD and anxiety today when you have distressing thoughts?
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you next time.
Thought suppression and OCD
OCD thoughts won't stop
Backdoor Spikes with OCD
Backdoor spikes are a response to your recovery and success. Those who are recovered with anxiety all of a sudden feel a SPIKE of anxiety that came out NO WHERE. It almost sneaks through the back door and says, “hello, is anywhere there….remember me.” “Let me make you doubt yourself, your diagnosis, and all your feelings.” “make you fearful that you’re going to get stuck with all these OCD and anxiety symptoms all over again.”
Introduction: Hi, my name is Nathan Peterson and in this video I want to share with you what a backdoor spike is and what to do with these nasty things. Just when you think you have it all figured out…..uhhhhhh
The “backdoor spike” is a term that is used to describe the overwhelming feelings that individuals with OCD get when they have thoughts that may make them worry that symptoms may come back.
A backdoor spike often comes about when an individual has been doing well with their treatment plan for a few weeks or months, leading them to believe that they no longer need treatment. This could be related to the person having had some success and believing they are doing well on their own, or it could happen simply because the anxiety-provoking events of their life are naturally subsiding. But then suddenly out of nowhere comes this thought:
“Even though I haven't had any obsessions or compulsive behaviors in weeks, I still may not be able to control them if anything happens to mess up my treatment plan. What would happen if my Dad got sick? Or if my family gets into another car accident? Then these thoughts wouldn't go away and I'd never get better.” (The word “I’ll never get rid of OCD!” is often present here.) This thought can also take the form of an intuition:
Because I have the thought it must be true. It must mean something great and amazing. It must be my intuition trying to warn me of something.
The individual struggling with a backdoor spike can spend days or even weeks trying to regain control over their thoughts and feelings as they cycle through obsessive questioning of their own sanity.
Even after many months or years of recovery, some people with OCD may still find themselves struggling with backdoor spikes. For example, a person might not be able to "really" believe that they are not going back into full-blown OCD because of feeling so depressed without their obsessions and compulsions. Or they may feel so much shame about having had OCD in the first place that any thoughts about getting better make them feel like an impostor who doesn't deserve such good fortune.
When symptoms start to decline. Individuals are feeling really good. I guess what, those darn intrusive thoughts don’t want to stop. So individuals can start questioning. Wait! I’m still having all these thoughts and I’m not feeling anxious about them. This must mean something. That must mean that I was really a bad person this whole time. Must mean the things I was thinking about is actually going to happen.
So with these backdoor spikes what we do about it? The answer may surprise you. Are you ready? You do everything you’ve already doing. That’s right! The treatment that you did which is most likely exposure and response prevention is the treatment that we continually use for backdoor spikes. Because the body and brain all of a sudden come up with a threat, tries to convince you that you’re in danger all over again and most of the time your job is to respond completely different to these threats. If you’re looking around you don’t see immediate danger we choose to leave these threats uncertain.
Responses like yeah totally I’m going right back into that OCD what a fun ride this is going to be. I sure hope these experiences come back that would be so amazing. It will not feeling anxiety about it probably does mean I like it. Some may choose to just stick with the uncertainty route which is those maybe maybe not statements.
Essentially, we are not problem-solving anymore. Not trying to figure out if you’ll have symptoms again or not. Not figure out why you’re not feeling anxiety. We’re not putting any value to this anymore!
Intuition isn’t a part of this. The brain is really tricky and make someone believe their thoughts are so powerful. Don’t fall for it.
One thing to know about backdoor spikes is that it may make you believe that this new topic or fear that throws your way is different. It can make you believe that this is so absolutely important. Because all it wants is for you to come back in to the OCD cycle. To reattach. They think about it, individuals may go weeks or months without anxiety, then all of a sudden comes back. We naturally are going up a lot of meaning to this.
In here is how we can see the difference between something you need to put value to something you don’t. When anxiety hits, you might look around you, if you don’t see anything happening. The ceiling is falling down, there isn’t a lion running at you, your child’s not about to fall off the counter, It has to be see something you can physically see. Not something you “THINK” is going to happen.
If there is nothing you can see where you would be in danger, you may choose to treat it as a false alarm and give it NOTHING. Answer a lot of fears with, Yep, maybe maybe not. Or Totally man.
To reduce the likely hood of a backdoor spike, people do treatment, even when they’re doing well. They do treatment. They continue to face the fears they did in the past. Just to remind them that they are still the boss.
If you are wanting to learn treatment for yourself, check out my online self-directed course for OCD. There are 42 videos this thing. Takes you through everything you need to know about your OCD and how to do treatment. I’ll leave a link down in the description below. You can even check It out for free.
So here’s my question for you, have you experienced these backdoor spikes? What did it look like for you?
Backdoor spike with anxiety
OCD coming back
Exposure Therapy 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 essxentially 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.
Inhibitory Learning For OCD
Habituation For OCD
My OCD Feels Unique
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?
How To Stop Ruminating
mination is essentially trying to problem solve the perceived threat or fear. It’s not as easy to just say, “stop ruminating”, so here are some tips for you when you feel like you’re stuck in the OCD rumination.
Mental Hoarding OCD
Memory Hoarding can be so difficult for the person experiencing it. Imagine feeling the need to remember EVERYTHING. Seriously. If you can’t keep the memory, you’re not sure what will happen. Something bad? Maybe you’ll regret not having it when you need it. You're feeling anxious because there is a fear that you may need the memory later. Let us go through what mental hoarding looks like and how to do evidence-based treatments for it.
Afraid to lose a memory
Life AFTER OCD | What does it look like
We often talk about what to do when you're having OCD symptoms. But, what does it look AFTER you go through treatment? Do you stop treatment? Are you cured? Let's go through this so you can have a good perspective of what "recovery" looks like.
Existential OCD involves intrusive, repetitive thinking about questions that cannot possibly be answered. Individuals will think about really any question. Most don’t have answers, but they feel the need or urge to find the answer right then and there. Often feeling anxious until they do. Let’s go through the treatment for existential OCD and what it looks like to those experiencing it.
Nathan Peterson specializes in working with OCD and Anxiety related disorders and has done so for the past 7+ years.