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
Nathan Peterson specializes in working with OCD and Anxiety related disorders and has done so for the past 7+ years.