Your mind is racing a million miles a minute. All you want the thoughts that are throttling around to slow down and finally give yourself a cognitive break. Those that struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) completely understand this phenomenon. And many are looking for answers to neutralizing OCD thoughts.
OCD is a tricky mental disorder to try and control due to its symptoms. When one is experiencing unorganized thoughts and feels the urge to act upon impulse due to these thoughts, it can be hard to keep yourself grounded.
However that isn’t to say there aren’t techniques to slow down those thoughts and find some peace from the calamity.
Throughout this article we are going to discuss the complexities of OCD and give you some information and resources on how you can finally neutralize these persistent, plaguing ruminations. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What Are Intrusive and Obsessive Thoughts?
OCD is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts, which are called obsessions. This individual will also experience compulsive behaviors that can have consequences in their day-to-day lives. ¹
The disorder is marked by the inability to control these thoughts and behaviors and having the urge to repeat these thoughts and behaviors over and over again, sometimes multiple times a day. The only reason an individual continues this vicious cycle is because these behaviors allow for temporary relief from their obsessive thoughts.
One of the major symptoms of OCD is the inability to control thoughts, many of which are unwanted and disturbing in nature. Most of these thoughts are what psychologist deem as intrusive thoughts, meaning thoughts that interrupt the daily flow of normalize thoughts or ideas. For example, having unwanted sexual or violent ideations or considerations that easily come and go are common for those suffering from OCD and OCD-related disorders.
What is a Thought-Action Fusion
One of the common issues is that disturbing thoughts can lead to unwanted behaviors in day-to-day life. It is common for those suffering from intrusive thoughts to have anxiety as a reaction to their disturbing or interrupting thoughts. In turn, their anxiety can have major consequences in typical responsibilities, such as in an individual’s workplace and relationships.
Thought-action fusion sometimes leads those with OCD to having physiological complications down the line. An example of these issues is acting upon paranoid generalizations.
For example, if a person is ruminating over getting hurt or killed in a motor accident, they may refuse to travel by car or get near automobiles. While such behavior may appear absurd, it gives this individual comfort that they’re not placing themselves at risk of harm.
Neutralizing Common OCD Symptoms & OCD Thoughts
For an outsider, it may seem obvious that someone with OCD simply needs to neutralize their thoughts in order to suppress symptoms. However, going about this is much easier said than done. People with OCD must first learn to identify their thoughts before they can go about neutralizing them.
Differences Between Intrusive Thoughts and Self-Identity
When such disturbing and violent images begin to intrude your thought process, it’s common to start to question your own sanity and even your moral fiber. Out of this question, an individual may concern themselves whenever they have a violent impulse or an unwell realization about a certain situation. It’s more than understandable for a patient with OCD to slip down the rabbit hole of what-if possibilities, all of which could result in more heartache and worry.
This hinges on the sort of phenomenon that we touched upon earlier where certain patients experience thought-action fusion: wherein they can’t help but act upon their disturbing, violent, or impure thoughts. That action could result in devastating consequences. And the fear of losing self control is really at the root of this paranoia.
The important thing for those with OCD to remember is it’s ultimately up to you to define your self-worth. It’s up to you to find peace and to understand what you’re truly capable of. Risk capability assessments, either done by the you or by a trusted physician, can remind you that you have control, that you can rationalize, and that you don’t have to act upon all your impulses.
The strongest way to intervene on such intruding thoughts is to have a mental check – to assess your own abilities. Communication and openness is key to combating this thought-action phenomenon. You and your care team have to be aware of any and all symptoms that might be heightening. It is imperative that this information is relayed to a trusted and caring support team of doctors and loved ones.
Handling OCD Guilt & Shame
Another phenomenon that is common amongst OCD patients is an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. People with OCD might feel guilty about certain unpleasant compulsions and intrusive thoughts that come to them and they may feel general shame about having the disorder in the first place.
This sort of disquieting realization can affect themselves and their loved ones in a dramatic fashion and, in turn, can be actually more destructive than the initial intruding violent thoughts. Guilt and shame can lead to a number of other disorders, including anxiety and depression.
The importance of openness cannot be overstated when we are discussing any mental disorder. Being open and having honest conversations about symptoms, emotions, and fears can help in finding the most specialized treatment plan for you.
Taking Mental Notes
It can be highly beneficial to document your OCD journey either through organized records of symptoms, medication changes, and shifts in compulsions/behaviors or through a personalized journal that is more introspective about the emotions you develop.
Journaling and documenting the difficulties, improvements, and changes that go on with the disorder have actually showed signs in helping patients. There have been medical professionals that have seen changes through documentation such as:
- Neutralizing intrusive thoughts
- Calming and tampering down behavioral tics as well as compulsions
- Creates an atmosphere of being in control over a disorder that leaves so many powerless
Taking mental notes might be just the thing to help a patient come to terms with their OCD and it may go as so far in helping them communicate their struggles with the disorder in a healthy and safe manner.
It is common for those with OCD to feel confused, conflicted, and even combative when trying to verbalize their struggles with the disorder. Having a method of communication that is more reflective in nature and free of judgement can help give you some freedom in understanding and explaining your OCD to others.
Benefits of OCD Treatment
There isn’t one standardized treatment plan that works for all people diagnosed with this OCD. In fact, treatment plans vary from person-to-person depending on their symptoms and ability to overcome the disorder. A mental health professional will review and possibly apply several different treatment methods in order to reach the best overall result.
OCD Medication Treatment: What is It & How Does It Work?
It is common for those suffering from OCD to be placed on medications in order to try and curb the effect of some of the more severe symptoms. These medications are usually prescribed to 70% of patients and typically are helpful in reducing the affects of OCD symptoms around 40 to 60%. ²
These medications are typically Serotonin Repute Inhibitors (SRIs) – more commonly referred to as antidepressants – and have been found to help reduce and control OCD symptoms.
However, medication isn’t the only way to treat OCD and commonly medications aren’t enough to manage OCD symptoms on a daily basis. Not to mention, some medications prescribed for OCD are addictive and can cause further complications if mishandled.
Talk Therapy Options: CBT & ERP
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a kind of psychological talk therapy treatment in which you’ll bring up concerning behaviors or compulsions you’re experiencing. A CBT psychologist will proceed training you to address the behavior and change it in the moment, as it happens.
A particular kind of CBT therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) has been found to be the most successful form of CBT for OCD patients. ERP therapy requires you to expose yourself to the thoughts, images, objects, and situations that make you anxious. ³
Through your reaction to this exposure, a mental health professional can start to find ways in which to address, cope, and eventually change those compulsions.
An ERP-trained therapist will walk you through the process of acknowledging the intrusive thoughts or compulsions and find ways to rewire the reaction to this sort of stimuli. After a while and some practice with a trusted medical professional, an you’ll utilize the coping techniques, ERP behaviors, and thought exercises.
OCD can be a complicated, concerning condition. When your obsessive thoughts are controlling your compulsive behaviors, it can be difficult to get a grip on reality. However, you do have the ability to regain control of your life and help is available.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are resources, options and trusted medical and psychological professionals that are willing and able to assist you in times of need.
Still have questions concerning OCD and neutralizing ruminating and behaviors?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further advice to offer – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Overview
² International OCD Foundation: OCD Treatment via Medication: SRIs
³ International OCD Foundation: OCD Treatment via Talk Therapy Methods: ERP Through CBT