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.
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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?
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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.
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How To Be Successful With OCD Treatment
If you're working through exposure and response prevention; these 25 tips are GOLDEN. Originally presented by Fred Penzel, Ph.D. of Western Suffolk Psychological Services. Dr. Penzel gave me special permission to present his 25 tips to you.
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It’s pretty natural for individuals with OCD to feel guilt. This guilt can make them believe that the intrusive thoughts and feelings must mean something great. This feeling of guilt can be such a roadblock for many individuals going through treatment. ⠀ ⠀
Let’s go through what to do when guilt hits you during your OCD.
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Nathan Peterson specializes in working with OCD and Anxiety related disorders and has done so for the past 7+ years.