Everyone experiences stress, anxiety, and sadness from time to time. For most people, these feelings are short-lived and don’t cause lasting distress. However, for those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these thoughts and emotions can be overwhelming, lead to panic attacks, and make everyday life feel impossible. OCD is a mental health condition that causes someone to experience unending anxiety from various thoughts or beliefs they hold about themselves or the world around them. People with OCD frequently have unwanted ideas or thoughts called obsessions that trigger discomfort. As a result, they perform certain rituals or routines known as compulsions in an attempt to reduce the anxiety triggered by their obsessions.
Recognize the triggers for your OCD behaviors
One of the first steps toward eliminating OCD behaviors is to better understand what triggers your obsessions and compulsions. As we’ve said, people with OCD frequently have unwanted thoughts called obsessions that trigger discomfort. A common obsession is the fear of contracting a deadly illness, such as HIV/AIDS, which causes someone with OCD to obsess over the possibility of having the disease and to engage in compulsive behaviors, such as avoiding public toilets and using bleach to disinfect objects and hands. People with OCD typically engage in certain rituals or routines known as compulsions in an attempt to reduce their discomfort. As a result, OCD behaviors vary widely depending on the person and the nature of their obsessions and compulsions.
Many people with OCD use mindfulness as a way to interrupt their obsessive thoughts and break the pattern of compulsive behaviors. The basic idea behind mindfulness is that you notice your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. When your mind wanders, you gently bring your attention back to what you’re doing in the present moment. For example, imagine you’re washing your hands. You might find your thoughts drifting to your need to wash again because you think you didn’t do it well enough the first time. When you notice this, you simply bring your attention back to the sensation of washing your hands, without criticizing yourself for your original thoughts.
Commit to self-care
Another way to eliminate OCD behaviors is to commit to self-care. Many people with OCD struggle with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and have negative thought patterns that perpetuate their symptoms. Practicing self-care is an important tool in replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones and reducing OCD symptoms. Some examples of self-care include: Establishing daily exercise routines Eating healthy meals Getting sufficient sleep Developing positive thought patterns through meditation and journaling.
Talk to a therapist
A therapist can help you to determine if your OCD symptoms are at a level that requires treatment. If so, a therapist can provide you with the tools you need to reduce your symptoms and lead a more fulfilling life. Evaluation and treatment for OCD typically involve two elements: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that cause their OCD symptoms. The CBT therapist and you can develop a strategy for managing the symptoms of your OCD. A therapist can prescribe medication to help you manage your symptoms until you finish CBT and learn how to manage them on your own.
Engage in exercise
Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to reduce OCD symptoms. While scientists aren’t sure why exactly this is true, they have found that people who engage in healthy exercise regimens experience reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and OCD. Establishing a healthy exercise routine can be challenging, but it can be worth the effort. For best results, choose an activity you enjoy and that you can do consistently. Some common examples include walking, strength training, swimming, yoga, dance classes, and more.
Like exercising, meditation is a practice proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is also one of the best ways to reduce OCD symptoms. A 2017 study found that people who used a mindfulness-based app for eight weeks reduced their OCD symptoms. You can also practice meditation with a meditation app or simply by closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing.
Use affirmation cards
Another way to eliminate OCD behaviors is through affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself in an attempt to change negative thought patterns. One way to use affirmations to eliminate OCD symptoms is to create affirmation cards. Affirmation cards can be as simple as a few index cards with positive statements about yourself written on them. You can carry your cards with you and look at them whenever you notice an obsessive thought or negative thought pattern.
Try silver-lining thinking
Finally, another way to eliminate OCD behaviors is through silver-lining thinking. This is a form of CBT that helps people with OCD identify the positive in their negative thoughts. For example, imagine you have a thought that you’re going to get sick from wearing a certain pair of shoes. Using silver-lining thinking, you would identify the positive as knowing you can wear another pair of shoes that don’t make you sick. You can use this tool with any obsessive worry or negative thought pattern to replace it with a positive thought that helps you feel better.
You can get rid of OCD behaviors by recognizing their triggers, committing to self-care, talking to a therapist, engaging in exercise, meditating, using affirmation cards, trying silver-lining thinking, and more. Although these strategies may seem challenging, they can help reduce your OCD symptoms and improve your quality of life. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone in your struggle against OCD. There are many people and resources out there to help you and support you on your journey to wellness. If your OCD behaviors are seriously impacting your life, it may be time to consider seeking professional help.