Helpful ways to manage OCD Relapse

Kimberly Morrow

When a client is nearing the end of therapy for OCD, I often ask them to write something that would be helpful to themselves or others when they relapse. Here is what one of my clients wanted to share with others:

How many times have you heard someone say in jest that they are “so OCD” as if it’s some funny thing to have?  I wonder if the person saying that knows that it’s not about being ultra-neat or particular in dress or decorating, or how the shoes are lined up.  I wonder if they personally knew the beast and nuances of OCD that can make it such a destructive force in a person’s life, if they would still joke so much about it.  There truly is nothing funny about OCD, unless YOU are the sufferer and you made it through a relapse and are laughing at how OCD tried to trick you and you overcame the ruse.

For me, this has been an evolving adventure.  It has stripped me of years of my life, like pages, or chapters of a book ripped out.  Many of my obsessions and compulsions take place in my head.  Repetitive thoughts or scenarios that I worry about that I counter or try to prove wrong by thoughts or conversations in my head.  OCD has a morphing ability to be “grabby” and transfer the content from one thing to the next, like going through a rolodex of scenarios.

Through my years of practicing to overcome relapses, I learn from every one and try to get better at getting “out” quicker.  Because, it is truly needless suffering if you use the techniques correctly, every time.  There is epiphany after epiphany. There are levels of understanding how OCD works.  And, as soon as you forget you have OCD and start living, it can come out of the blue and hit you again.  And, you might need reminded again what to do.  The remedy is simple on paper.  But it can be so very hard to do.  It can make your head hurt and exhaust you to resist OCD and do these things.  But, when you are on the other side…. every time you get to the other side, you reinforce that doing these things WORKS!

Do you know what it feels like when you are getting triggered by OCD?  You have that, “Oh no!” feeling of like a rush of fear suddenly comes over you and it’s coupled with an “I’m not sure” feeling with some doubt.  You feel like you must do something RIGHT AWAY.  For me, I get nauseated and literally have dry heaves as the awful thoughts flood my head first thing in the morning.  That’s my clue that I am amidst a significant relapseHere is the first step.  Identify if it “feels” like OCD.  If it remotely feels like OCD you TREAT IT AS SUCH.

Then, stop.  Do not connect to the content.  Do not entertain the fear with thoughts or actions. Do nothing in response.  Do not go back, do not search, do not talk about details and try to convince others it might have greater stock than it does, do not humor it.  When you are triggered, you must live your life with an “Oh well” attitude.

Continue doing whatever is in your normal routine.  Do the dishes.  Get ready for work.  Go do good things in the world.  Surround yourself in love and give love.  Continue resisting OCD’s urge to suck you in to the fear or doubt.  If you succumb, it will get bigger and suck you in more.  If you do succumb-Don’t be hard on yourself.  Just start at step one again.  Remind yourself that if you don’t do these things, it not only affects your present life, but the lives of those you love that depend on you being healthy.

When you’re on the other side, take pride in your effort!  You can laugh at OCD and go enjoy your life!  You have in the back of your mind that you have OCD and it could appear again and you know you have the tools to deal with it, so you go on enjoying your life anyway.
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