I suffered from mild OCD for 4 years. It started in 2010 and lasted till 2014. My OCD was mainly the ‘checking’ type (i.e door knobs, gas stove knobs, checking mails again and again before sending to see if I am really conveying what I wanted to etc)
I’m happy to say that I’m almost completely recovered now. Sure, there are episodes when i get pulled back to old ‘checking and rechecking’ habits but it is usually very short-lived and I am able to jump back to normalcy very quickly.
I want to briefly share with you what helped me. If your OCD is of different type than my own give it a try. Anyway I believe that foundation for all kinds of OCD is ‘doubt’ and in that way all types of OCD are similar and it is likely that what has helped treating my type of OCD can help treat your type also. Please don’t lose heart; OCD is very treatable with various kind of therapies like CBT, ET etc…and medicines……it is just a matter of time before you narrow down (with the help of a therapist/psychiatrist) on what works best for you.
Experts believe the OCD is a disease mostly of the doubt, i.e it originates because of the doubts your mind comes up with. (Example: I know I switched off the gas knob but somewhere there is a doubt in my mind that I didn’t do it etc.). In fact, earlier OCD used to be called ‘doubting disease’.
OCD gets going when you start taking this ‘doubt’ seriously. You think ‘oh..somewhere in the corner of my mind there is a doubt whether i really switched off the gas…maybe that doubt is legitimate?’ Giving credence to this doubt is what gives the OCD its foothold. So if you have doubts like this then below are some points to help you disregard/ignore these doubts:
1) Say to yourself : I know this doubt is there in my mind whether I switched off the gas or not. But it is just a doubt..I KNOW in a corner of my mind that I switched off the gas. So whatever this ‘doubt’ I am having is illegitimate…it’s just a trick that my mind is playing…so I will not take the doubt seriously. And by the way, is this ‘doubt’ telling me that it is 100% sure that I have NOT switched off the gas ? No it is not doing that…the stupid thing is just teasing me that’s all…I won’t take it serously. And also, there are two thoughts in my mind…one is saying that it is ~70% sure that I switched off the gas and the other is saying that it is ~30% sure that I didn’t switch off the gas…so I will give credence to ~70% thought and not to the ~30% thought(doubt).I will give credence to the doubt only when there is NO part of mind saying that it thinks that I actually I did turn off the gas.
So whenever you have these kind of negative doubts just say to yourself “it just FEELS that way but i know deep down what the fact is”
2) The Pink Elephant theory and the ‘No 100% assurance from the mind’ theory:If you don’t want to think about the pink elephant then rest assured thatthat is what your mind is going to think of. That is the nature of the mind. Looking at this in another way, if you insist on your mind giving you 100% assurance thatyou have switched off the gas then most definitely that is what your mind is NOT going to give you (this is the same mechanism that brings pink elephant to your mind when that is exactly what you don’t want). It WILL plant some doubt in your mind that you might not have switched off the gas. Mind will not give you 100% assurance…that is simply not in its nature. But it WILL give you enough assurance so that deep inside you you would KNOW which is fact and which is ‘illegitimate doubt’. Just grab this ‘sufficient assurance’ that your mind is giving you and move forward (in other words, disregard the ‘doubt’ element and move forward).
( A note on the 100% certainty thingy. You should think that you ARE 100% sure that you HAVE turned the switch off even though your mind is not giving you 100% assurance of that fact. You can take the ‘sufficient assurance’ given by the mind and treat it as 100%. Actually this is what you would be doing when you disregard the ‘doubt’.
(Also, the goal is NOT to GET RID of the doubt. Getting rid of the doubt is not possible because your mind won’t allow it. It is again the Pink Elephant scenario. The goal is to IGNORE/DISREGARD the doubt.)
3) Just think of what would ‘normal non-ocd’ people do when they get this kind of doubt. I’m sure they just disregard it saying ‘it just FEELS that way but I KNOW that it is not true’ and move on. Otherwise almost everybody would end up with OCD because almost everybody has these kinds of doubts. Should we allow just some silly doubts to bring us down to our knees ? No sir! Ignore the doubts and move forward.
4) What if you start getting ‘doubts’ in ALL parts of your life; what will you do then ?
– I know that gas looks off but is it really off? Can I really trust my eyes , my nose, my senses ???- I know I hear him saying ‘yes’ but is my mind giving me 100% assurance that he said ‘yes’ and not ‘no’?
Yikes!! It can go on and on…
There is really no other way. You have to STOP taking these doubts seriously by saying that ‘it just FEELs that way…but I know deep down what the reality is’. (Actually, OCD sufferers do do this…in non-OCD parts of their life. For example: My OCD type is ‘checking’. But if you point out to me that my hands might contain lot of harmful germs even after I’ve washed my hands properly with soap(which is the doubt corresponding to ‘washing’ type of OCD) I would say ‘it just FEELS that way…I am sufficiently sure that almost all harmful germs have gone after I washed my hands with soap…and even if some germs are still present I’m sufficiently sure they are harmless because other people also have those many germs and they are all doing fine. etc. etc. )
5) Even when you are suffering from OCD and performing all the rituals of checking and rechecking the gas knob, you do still disregard the doubt in the end.How, do you ask ? Well, is the doubt 100% gone after all the checking and rechecking ? It has not, correct ? Remember the pink elephant ? What happens is you get exhausted after all this checking and rechecking umpteen times and just get fed up and say ‘I can’t do it any more…I’m tired. Even though the doubt is not gone, I am sufficiently sure that I have really switched off the knob. That much is enough for me.’
So, why wait till you are exhausted and wasted lot of time before saying ‘Even though the doubt is not gone, I am sufficiently sure that I have really switched off the knob. That much is enough for me’ ? Why not do it right after you have switched off the knob (and checked only once to make sure), and escape from all the suffering and wasting of time?
6) Don’t believe the world is total chaos without any order. There is order…life has evolved, why humans have evolved. Without order it would all have been dust with no life evolving whatsoever. If your mind is giving you ‘sufficient assurance’ of something then that is all you need. You don’t need absolute assurance or 100% assurance from the mind.
7) I read a book which talks about how the key to tackling OCD is ignoring/disregarding the ‘doubt’ element, which is essentially the same thing that I have explained above. I have forgotten the name of the book but google ‘IBT’ (Inference Based Therapy, I think it means). I think it is called ‘Clinicians handbook of IBT’ or something like that. Read it if you can find it. It is meant for professional therapists but I think even patients can benefit from it.
Some of the above mentioned points are from some of the OCD books I have read and some I have come up with on my own.
If you think all this has helped you please share it with other people who you think will benefit from it. Also, please contact a professional therapist/psychatrist to get additional treatment.