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Feeling exhausted and distracted, you probably want to know, “How can I stop my OCD thoughts?”
Everybody has unwanted thoughts enter their head now and then. It can be upsetting when you have a disturbing thought that makes you feel guilty and ashamed. For most people, these intrusive thoughts only happen on occasion. For someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), though, these thoughts plague them nonstop.
People who struggle with OCD are held hostage by these intrusive thoughts. The stressful nature of the thoughts, and the fear they induce, leads to compulsive acts. This becomes a pattern: fear-invoking thoughts that require a certain behavioral response to help quiet the anxiety.
Someone who is held captive by the OCD thoughts and behaviors will benefit from therapy to help them cope better. To learn more about how to stop OCD thoughts, read on.
What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health disorder that shares many features with anxiety disorder. If severe, OCD can cause serious impairment in daily functioning. As a chronic condition, the treatment goals should focus on improving management of the symptoms.
OCD affects about 1.2% of U.S. adults. Based on statistics provided by the NIMH, women are more than three times as likely to suffer from OCD. The obsessive thoughts cause someone with OCD to engage in rituals. These compulsions can cause further distress, including to those around them. Instead of the compulsions relieving the anxiety, they only reinforce the pattern.
Examples of OCD patterns include:
- Contamination fears with cleaning compulsions. A fear of germs results in repeated hand washing, cleaning actions, or protective gear.
- Harming fears with checking compulsions. This pertains to the fear of danger (burning the house down), or in causing harm to oneself or others. To relieve this fear, the person relies on checking rituals, such as checking that the stove is turned off over and over.
- Symmetry obsessions with ordering compulsions. A need for order and control over their environment leads to arranging compulsions.
- Obsessions that have no visible compulsions. Intrusive thoughts or images about sexual, violent, or religious themes. Others don’t see the compulsive silent mental rituals that follow, such as reciting words, prayer, or counting.
At present, there is little known about the causes of OCD. Genetics are one possible factor, as OCD does tend to run in families. Another related cause could be environmental. This is when a child was exposed to OCD behaviors in the home and modeled them as adults. A history of childhood abuse or trauma is another risk factor for OCD.
What Are OCD Thoughts?
OCD involves both intrusive thoughts and obsessive actions. The OCD thoughts revolve around something that the person fears. They give great weight to these thoughts, as a form of problem solving. Instead of letting the thoughts pass, they ruminate over them. They might think that just having the thought can cause the dreaded incident to happen.
The OCD thoughts take on an urgent fervor. This leads to the behavioral compulsions that are an attempt to prevent the upsetting thought from becoming reality. When the compulsive act relieves their anxiety, it reinforces the OCD pattern because the mind registers it as a success.
The Problem with Intrusive Thoughts
People with OCD are faced with a daily onslaught of these unwanted and distressing thoughts. The thoughts might revolve around violent acts, such as thinking about harming someone they know. The person might be plagued with strange sexual thoughts. Intrusive thoughts that are disturbing can cause feelings of guilt and shame.
While it may seem to make sense to try to push the upsetting thoughts away, that can make things even worse. Trying to suppress the intrusive thoughts can make them that much more intense. The answer is learning how to diminish the power of the thoughts. That is done through evidence-based therapies.
Best Therapies for Managing OCD Thoughts
There are many types of proven therapies to help someone better manage their OCD thoughts. These include:
CBT. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help the person confront their thought distortions and then reframe them. CBT helps the person choose new healthy ways to respond to the triggering thoughts.
ERPT. Exposure and response prevention therapy is a type of CBT that is offered in one-on-one and group formats. ERPT slowly exposes the person to the distressing thought by having them state the thought aloud. As the thought is stated, the person is taught not to respond to it.
Prolonged Exposure. This type of therapy is geared toward trauma that might be caused by the OCD thoughts. The therapist gradually exposes the person to the disturbing thought and little by little the though loses its power over them.
EMDR. Eye movement desensitization reprocessing is a type of adjunct therapy for helping people with OCD. It uses a system where the person follows an item with their eyes, back and forth, while sharing their OCD thoughts. This can diminish the effect of the intrusive thoughts.
Habit Reversal Training. This therapy involves the person practicing the compulsive habit in the mirror. They become aware of the muscle or body sensation that is associated with it, and develops and awareness for how the urge develops. The patient then learns a competing response that blocks and reverses the disordered habit.
In addition to the therapy, someone with OCD may be prescribed meds to help them manage the symptoms.
If you were wondering, “How can I stop my OCD thoughts?” hopefully you have gained some fresh insights about treatments. These therapies can truly improve your quality of life.
The Treatment Specialist Provides Online Guidance for Mental Health Disorders
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. If you or a loved one is plagued by intrusive thoughts, reach out to The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.