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Dr. Lynne Namka
Licensed Psychologist


OCD Thoughts Be Gone!

Lynne Namka, Ed. D. © 2004

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Many people have very busy minds and experience fears and thoughts which cycle around like a frenzied hamster on an exercise wheel. It's normal to have more anxious thoughts when we are stressed. If you have more worrisome thoughts and behaviors than others, remember it is a brain and mind thing. The good news is that you can creatively work with your mind and brain to create a happier life!

Obsessive Compulsive traits happen in brains that have an imbalance in serotonin which manufactures excessive anxieties. The person then does compulsive behaviors in an attempt to make the anxiety go away. The mind of the person who has an obsessive type mind starts to play tricks and develops irrational fears. Doing the compulsive behavior only brings a temporary anxiety relief but this creates even more fear cementing in the problem even further. When the OCD traits happen too frequently and start to cripple a life, then it becomes an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The Sequence of OCD Beliefs and Compulsive Behaviors

  • Having an irrational belief and experiencing fear and anxiety: Fear of having fear!

  • Increased anxiety when having to face the feared object. The mind says "UH-OH! DANGER!"

  • Body reaction-having a funny feeling, a nervous stomach or feeling uncomfortable. The body gets tense and the mind mistakenly says "DANGER! DANGER!" even when there is no real danger.

  • Obsessive behavior (I have to do this….) OR avoiding a normal behavior (I can't do this….)

  • Anxiety is drained off and neutralized after performing the behavior or avoiding the situation

  • When anxiety is neutralized instead of faced directly, the irrational thoughts become more frequent and entrenched. Fear not faced and challenged creates more fear!

  • OCD beliefs and behaviors grow bigger and become a problem taking up more and more time.

The obsession is a suppositious reaction that reasons, "If I do this behavior (or avoid doing this behavior) I'll be safe." Anxiety does decrease when the behavior is done, so the person feels better temporarily. But the fear gets bigger because it is not challenged. As the philosopher Seneca said, "Where fear is, happiness is not."

Stress weighs down one end of the teeter totter and the other end which holds the OCD thoughts and behaviors goes up. Stress tips the teeter totter sending the fears sky high! When you have more stress in your life and the out-of-control thoughts and behaviors start to hijack your life, get off the see-saw! Do stress management techniques to calm yourself down several times a day. Fight the irrational thoughts. Don't give in to irrational beliefs. What's needed is balance-balance between being cautious and taking carefully-planned risks. .

Face your fear of germs and touch that dreaded doorknob! Challenge the paralyzing doubt. Refuse to continue checking and rechecking. If you are a perfectionist, find a new thing to do each day in a sloppy manner. Sort out what are realistic fears and what is OCD crazy-making thinking. Find your balance. The cure for OCD intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors is to face your fear and prove it to be shallow.

The problem is always fear of fear!

You have everything you need in the circle of your very own mind and choices to combat your fear!

A Necessary Solution to OCD Thoughts and Behavior- Find Your Courage!

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life and in change there is power". - Alan Cohen

"Courage is a special kind of knowledge: the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought no to be feared." - David Ben-Gurion

"Courage, her mother had once told her, was not simply the fact that you weren't scared of anything… it was being scared and doing whatever it was anyway. Courage was dealing with your fears and not letting them rule you." - Missy Good

"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." - Eddie Rickenbacker

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." - Ambrose Redmoon

A Necessary Solution to OCD Thoughts and Behavior - Challenge the Fear!

"Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable." - Harry Emerson Fosdick

"I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let fear control me. I have accepted fear as a part of life-specifically the fear of change, the fear of the unknown and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in my heart that says: turn back, turn back, you'll die if you venture too far." Erica Jong

"Kill the snake of doubt in your soul, crush the worms of fear in your heart and mountains will move out of your way." Kate Seredy

"Do what you fear and fear disappears." - David Joseph Schwartz

"What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it." - Krishnamurti

A Necessary Solution to OCD Thoughts and Behavior - Taking Appropriate Risks

"Attempts to eliminate risk ultimately fail. To the extent that we do eliminate risk from life, we may also succeed in sucking the air out of it." Forrest Church

"Risk! …. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth." - Katherine Mansfield

"So I'll touch the doorknob. It's just a doorknob, not a life threatening deal. I'll check the stove twice then, if I still doubt, I'll challenge my doubt. I refuse to let my OCD thoughts rule my life!" Anonymous

"Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it. Let me not cave in anxious fear to be saved, but hope for the patience to win my freedom." Rabindranath Tagore

Strategies for Coping with Intrusive Thoughts

Ideas from the book, Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals: The Hidden Epidemic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Ian Osborn, M. D.

Obsessional Compulsive beliefs and behavior comes from a common, chemical disorder that occurs in people. The cause is a neurochemical disorder of the basal ganglia, frontal cortex and ventricular system of the brain. It is a lifelong condition that requires active strategies to combat the static of the secret thoughts and rituals.

Ignore Unwanted Obsessions. View them as random, intrusive, unwanted thoughts that go running through your brain to which you have attached meaning. Treat them as a rude, unwelcome acquaintance that comes to call without an invitation that you have no obligation to give them time of day. Tell yourself, "That is just a silly thought; I won't give this nasty thought free rent in my brain. I won't allow myself to entertain such thoughts." Remember, thoughts may come in, but you don't have to give them permission to stick around and run your life!

Argue Them Away. Confront them. Disagree with them. Say to yourself, "This just isn't logical. This is just another irrational thought and the reason it is illogical is ______." Be your most stubborn here-don't give in!

That's Not Me, It's OCD. Stand up to your obsessions and separate them from yourself. Distinguish between who you are and the intrusive thoughts that come in. Realize that harmful thoughts gain in power only if you give them mental time. Remind yourself that you wouldn't do such things. Thoughts are thoughts. You are you!

Decide to Win the War--Don't Give in to Rituals. Make the decision to be in charge of your life, not giving the battle over to intrusive thoughts. Recognize the urgent "feel of an obsession." Know that you will have more thoughts when you are stressed. They will sneak up on you when you stop using the strategies to combat them. Rituals increase when you go ahead and act on them. They decrease when you fight them and stop the compulsive responses!

Deal with Fears of Illness Thoughts. Consider the odds of you catching a rare disease. Tell yourself you have choices--you can spend time worrying about it, or you can spend your precious hours enjoying life. Bad things do happen to people. The best defense is getting yourself strong so that you can handle anything that comes your way. Use the Serenity Prayer to bolster your courage.

Turn it Over to God. Put your trust in something higher than yourself. Violent and blasphemous obsessions can be handled by putting your trust in God. Recognize how senseless bad thoughts are and dismiss them as merely mental interruptions that you pay no attention to. The 14th century Saint Therese in her book, The Imitation of Christ offers this classic prayer for asking for help with bad thoughts.

"My Lord and God, do not abandon me; remember my need, for many evil thoughts and horrid fears trouble my mind and terrify my soul. How shall I pass through them unhurt? How shall I break their power over me? You have said, 'I will go before you. I will open the gates of prison.' Do, O Lord, as you have said, and let Your coming put to flight all wicked thoughts."

Challenge Compulsive Behavior. Interrupt your thoughts that say you are guilty unless you perform certain actions. Challenge those beliefs that other people will be hurt as a result of your behavior. Break into your beliefs that you are personally responsible for consequences that are truly irrational. Stop yourself from playing 'God' who can prevent things from happening to others by your rituals. When you stop the ritual and others are not harmed, you will understand that your actions are not the cause of impending doom. Fear thoughts are only fear thoughts! You do not have to act on them with ritualized behavior!

Face Your Fears and See How Empty They Become. The only way to deal with fear is to go through it. Face your fears and they will go away. Give in to them and they remain! You are in charge, not your fear thoughts. Replace them with active strategies! Use this mantra from Frank Hubert in his famous sci-fi book, Dune.

"Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me, I will turn to see fear's path. When the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain."



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