My scientific experiment against OCD

My background is scientific – I like facts and figures, I love biology and human chemistry, I’m logical and practical; a great lateral thinker. That’s one of the things I find most annoying about myself and my OCD. I know logically that most of the things I worry about are scientifically ill-founded, and I know the scientific realities. However, my OCD mind has been the one in control over the past several years and its voice drowns out my scientific one.

In earlier posts I’ve already declared that I’m upping the fight against my OCD this year, but what I haven’t specified is how I’m going to tackle it. I’m going to record how I plan on doing it and what success I have with it in the hopes that if it works, it will be useful to others. As I find ‘exposure’ terrifying, I am instead, going to treat this battle as a scientific experiment.

As a scientist I know that when conducting an experiment, it’s not a good idea to change more than one variable at a time and to do it gradually so effects can be recorded. If you change more than one thing at a time you won’t know which variable was the one that actually made a difference. If you shift something too much, you might miss the fact you didn’t need to go so far – or you might end up in a much worse position than you were. This is the method I’m going to use on my OCD.

My OCD has many layers including my safety, family safety, security and contamination. I am going to pick one of these things to tackle at a time and I’m going to start small. For example, I have a certain bedtime ritual, which can take almost 45min-1hour to complete and can put me off wanting to go to bed. My first ‘experiment’ is to take this ritual and reduce it, bit by bit. I’ve set myself marker points of the 1st of each month. ie on 1st February I will start the reduction in the ritual and see how I cope and adjust – scientifically I expect to prove to myself that whether I do a certain ritual or not, will have no effect on me or my family – except I might get to bed earlier! With this proof and knowledge, come 1st March I will be able to take the next step and reduce another part. I plan to be clear of this bedtime ritual, which must be about 5 years old, by June.

It doesn’t sound much, but this is the first time I’ve felt strong enough to actually consider getting rid of this particular routine. Then, when that one is out of the way and with much more ‘evidence’ I will pick another issue (perhaps changing all my clothes every time I go in and out of the house, even just to pick up a pint of milk) and do the same month by month reduction.

It does mean that getting over all of my OCD will take a long time (I have numerous worries, fears, compulsions & obsessions), and there maybe elements that won’t ever go. What  I hope to achieve is freedom from quite so many obsessions and compulsions. If I can get to this point, I think I will be less stressed (as I will have less things to look out for and worry about) and I’ll be less tired (less things to fight in my head, as well as getting to bed earlier and easier) and maybe then I will feel in a position to tackle the really, really big 2-3 things.

Until then, watch this space!

Stealthy OCD

Sometimes my OCD is stealthy. By this I mean when I focus on one aspect of my OCD and start getting some control of it, it begins to subside lulling me into a false sense of security. But before I’ve noticed, another side of it has flared up out of my control. It seems it’s out to get me one way or another.

Now I know this isn’t true. I know it’s just my subconscious mind finding another outlet for anxiety. It seems it likes being in a constant state of anxiety (I guess it’s used to it after 10 years) and if I prevent one path it finds another. It’s much like a stream of water would create another route if the usual path was dammed.

What I have to learn is to keep that other channel under control somehow at the same time so it doesn’t sneak up on me unexpected. Guess it’s like driving – you have to have your main focus on the road in front whilst also being aware of what is behind you and coming in on the side roads. At the same time you have to keep an eye on your speed and gears. It’s all about maintaining several streams of awareness going at the same time. It’s not easy, but if I learnt to drive surely I can learn this to?

Does your OCD sometimes seem to have a mind of its own & if so how do you tackle it?

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

If, like me, you suffer from OCD it’s more than likely you’ll have more than one type of obsession / bad thought.

Those of you who have read my other posts will know mine fall into 2 broad categories – contamination & security. That doesn’t mean I face 2 thoughts. Each category has several things I worry about, although some will be stronger at different times. Let me give you a few examples:

Contamination
1) stains
2) food
3) drink
4) door handles
5) public toilets

Every day any of these could come into play. Some of the time they’ll sit there in the background and I’ll deal with them. Some days I’ll deal better with one than another.

One of the therapies for OCD is exposure & prevention of response. It works for a lot of people. I’m not ready for that yet – my illogical thoughts are still too logical for me.

Instead I try to do it by myself. OCD can be awfully overwhelming at times especially when more than one type of thought hits. There’s no point trying to eliminate them all at once. It’s like giving up all food except lettuce in order to lose weight. It’s only going to lead to failure and a sense of guilt. It takes a lot of strength and energy to battle against your inner voice which is telling you bad things so you’ll get tired and then less able to take on the fight. If you feel guilty you’ll likely give up.

Instead take it one obsession at a time. Pick one, an easy one, to start with and gradually make yourself face up to whatever the issue is. At the moment I’m having issues with drinks so I’m challenging myself to take a proper look at my drinks to see what is actually there not what I imagined is.

Over time you’ll get stronger and more importantly you’ll get out of the habit of your compulsion. You will break the cycle. In a few weeks you’ll be doing them less, maybe you’ll even have stopped doing it completely. With this will come satisfaction and evidence that you can overcome the thoughts. The less compulsions you have to do, the less tired you’ll be and the stronger you will become to win the war.

Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon (notice I said “when” not “if” – I’m afraid it will happen). Remind yourself it’s okay. It takes a lot less time to make a habit than it is to break one and some of our compulsions have been with us, in some format or other, for a while.

Take a breath and say you’ll try again. Don’t let the OCD win!

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.” – Doug Firebaugh