Many young people and adults struggle with various forms of Obsessive Compulsive and Anxiety disorders. Major symptoms of these disorders are intrusive thoughts and fears; they can often be plaguing, distressing, and senseless. For almost all types of OCD, the unwanted thoughts are combatted by a compulsive ritual: washing hands for fear of contamination, double checking the stove for fear of burning down the house, asking for reassurance that an accident was not caused for fear of harm, or replacing an upsetting mental image with a pleasant one. These compulsive rituals are a short term “band-aid” that early on can bring temporary relief but will lose their effectiveness in the long run. Notice that these response rituals are repeated? It is not lasting change. It is human nature to respond to being pushed one way must be pushed in the opposite to return to normal: such is the logic of compulsive rituals.
A technique that can be implemented during the treatment of OCD is the practice of habituating thoughts. Thought habituation through either exposure or restraint in compulsive ritual reaction or supplying attention to battling the thought may not always be easy; anxiety and stress levels will increase in this practice; however, only temporarily. Let this be repeated, the anxiety and stress levels during exposure or without compulsive response WILL DECREASE. This is the logic behind habituating the unwarranted obsessive thought. Repeated exposure and restraining effort into the thought and letting it be over and over will allow the mind to soon realize these things are no longer a threat. It is showing the mind “hey, see? Nothing bad happened. It will be okay”. With time, the negative reactions and associated negative emotions will return to the same level of any other random thought every person has throughout the day; no extra effort dwelling on not dwelling on it, double then triple checking, asking for reassurance then researching, and no more fear, shame, and guilt. One could say it is learning to live with uncertainty-rather than living and trying to be certain.