X

Archive for OCD

My 365 Day Meditation Challenge

January 1st 2017 marks the start of my 365 days of meditation challenge. If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while you will know in 2014 I released a short book on Kindle called “Challenge yourself, I dare you”. Challenges, usually 30 days long have helped me learn and quit various things over the years. It’s a framework that works for me. I want to take these 30 day challenges a step further now.

The challenge:

  • 365 consecutive days of meditation
  • Each session 10 minutes long
  • Start date 1st January 2017
  • End date 31st December 2017

At the end of the challenge I will screenshot the Headspace app I will be using to track my meditation time and streak. I will add the screenshot here for proof. If this isn’t updated at the end of 2017 feel free to nudge me. Being held accountable I have found is a great way to get things done. Call it peer pressure. If you remember ask me about it throughout the year.

I will be sharing my progress on The OCD Stories podcast over 2017.

Why am I doing this?

I like to challenge myself. Why? I do not know. I just do. Meditation however is something that has helped me in recovery from OCD. The present moment is an OCD assassin. OCD lives in the future and past, it can’t stand the present moment. Meditation is a great way to teach yourself the skill of living more in the present. Beyond OCD I want to live more and more in the present moment so I can be fully engaged in the here and now, and experience life for what it is, in all its beauty.

Why not try a challenge yourself? It doesn’t have to be 1 year, it can even be 7 days. The goal is merely to experience life beyond what you would normally do and build a new habit (or break one).

To your success,

Stu

Check out my free course on mindfulness >>

Virtual Reality (VR) as treatment for OCD

Virtual reality as a support in treatment of anxiety and phobias is still relatively early days, and has little adoption by therapists.  However from an academic stand point it is not new. The first research was done in 1995 by psychologist Barbara Rothbaum and computer scientist Larry Hodges. I haven’t found any research specifically targeting OCD with virtual reality (VR), but it is already being applied to exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) the gold standard of OCD treatment.

How does VR work for ERP? The department of psychiatry at Duke university explain it well:

…participants are placed in a computer-generated three-dimensional virtual world and guided through the selected environment. Computer graphics and various display and input technologies are integrated to give the user a sense of presence or immersion in the virtual environment. The therapist then guides the participant through the environment and can interact with them through the entire event.

To put this in context, you have fears of contamination around blood. You fear it may be infected with HIV. Before the simulation you decide with your therapist that a dubious looking red splodge on the kitchen counter is a trigger for your contamination fears. You then put on the VR googles and it’s playing this trigger situation. Your therapist guides you to the kitchen counter, and it may get you to look at it, then get closer etc etc building up until you touch it, and then reframe from washing your hands in the virtual world, or throw off the goggles in a rush of anxiety. The benefits of virtual reality is that the exposure can be done over and over again, arguably allowing you to get to habituation much quicker, which is the goal of ERP. It will allow the therapist to track your progress digitally. It may be less invasive then actually touching a red splodge in the real world, and act as a first step to achieving this – for those that find ERP very difficult at first.

The biggest downside is the massive cost of investment for the therapist to buy all the equipment and software. This will of course reduce a lot in future years, as does all technology. Also the creation of virtual worlds that can encapsulate people’s wide and varied triggers will be tricky.

I’d love to see more academic studies done focusing on OCD specifically. But needless to say I can see this technology helping OCD sufferers recover much quicker, and empower the therapists to achieve this goal.

Do you think virtual reality would help you with tackling your compulsions?

Sources:

http://psychiatry.duke.edu/divisions/general-psychiatry/virtual-reality-therapy-phobias

http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/cure.aspx

 

 

Spotify exposure for the OCD sufferer

I have a habit of shuffling and skipping tracks on Spotify. I'm particularly looking for a song that my heart, mind, ears want in that moment. However sometimes I will skip a song because it triggers memories that I don't want to experience in that moment, especially if it is linked as an OCD trigger.

And I have a feeling I'm not the only one who does this?!

Now whether you skip tracks because you know a song is an OCD trigger or when you skip on to a song and your mind doesn't feel good about the song and starts to bring up memories or stories of the future, be alert.

Because it can all lead to poor mental health. By skipping the track because "it doesn't feel right" is only telling your brain that all your thoughts are real and important. When in fact thoughts are meaningless, unless we give them meaning. And thoughts pop up all the time without any rhyme or reason.

Spotify and iTunes offers us an opportunity to improve our mental health. To show our brain that our random thoughts don't dictate our actions.

Next time you are skipping around and your brain worry's or doesn't feel right pause for a second. Then listen to the song anyway.

You could even say to your mind "Thanks brain for that information, but I'm gong to listen to this song any way".

Spotify and other music providers are a great testing ground for Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Accept your mind vomit and live your life how you want, not how OCD wants!

To your success,
Stu

When we let anxiety beat us. We will beat anxiety!

It's comes as no surprise that I am a big believer in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as a treatment for OCD. When I first learned ACT, I mainly applied it to thoughts. Which was great. However I wasn't dealing with the anxiety. So no matter how much I accepted the thoughts and took action towards my values, my anxiety was roaring inside me. Eventually feeling so bad, it become extremely difficult to apply ACT. So when I started to accept anxiety and I stopped fighting it, it started to go away.

Anxiety is a fight or flight response built inside us to keep us from getting harmed or killed. It is very useful. However, thank God most of us are never at risk of harm or death. But our brains are still going into overdrive with anxiety. Our brains are constantly telling us we are at risk of death. OCD and anxiety disorders are nothing more than chemical imbalances in the brain. There is no why for the anxiety other than this chemical imbalance. There may be some things you need to address, but nothing that is worthy of this fight or flight response.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/nx75fCJWc70[/youtube]

Anxiety is an awful feeling. Struggling with OCD can result in many days of anxiety. Relationship OCD was highly anxiety provoking for me. Days on end where I couldn't eat properly. Had trouble sleeping. Yet it was being in this sea of anxiety that I finally stopped trying to rid myself of anxiety, and just accepted it.

When we fight anxiety or try to stop feeling it, we make it worse. When we do this we are telling our brains that this is awful, which our brain receives that message as "somethings wrong, he/she is in danger, better give them more anxiety to protect them". Weird as it sounds the only way to get anxiety to leave is by accepting it. When you do this what you are telling your brain non-verbally is that "there is nothing to worry about". Your brain will realise you are not in any danger and over time the anxiety will diminish. Your brain is only trying to keep you safe so show it that you are ok.

All good in theory but how do you put this into practice when you are anxious as fuck and see little hope of it leaving.

  1. Feel the emotion
  2. Accept the emotion
  3. Let anxiety "burn" you - it's just a feeling nothing more
  4. Don't judge or label the feeling. Merely see it as a feeling
  5. Repeat steps

Some phrases that you can say to yourself to accept the emotion are:

"This is just how I feel in this moment, it just is"

"I am anxious because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, that's it"

"I am anxious, and that is ok"

Give that a go. It's not a quick fix, as it can take a while for anxiety to loosen its grip. But over time you will reeducate your mind.

"When we let anxiety beat us. We will beat anxiety!"

Stop fighting anxiety, you can't beat it. But when you let it beat you, you will beat it; by showing your brain it has nothing to fear!

Let me know below how you get on.

To your success,

Stu

P.S. Here is another good video on accepting emotions:

[youtube]https://youtu.be/_-q2a8U9QeI[/youtube]
P.P.S. You can get a great book on ACT free if you sign up to the OCD Stories community (free of charge): http://theocdstories.com/join-the-community/

Simply ACT for OCD

When I think of Martin Luther King  I think of a courageous guy who knew his outcome. I see a guy who accepted the battering and abuse he received. Not because he was weak, but because he was strong.

I can't think of a better example of what it is to apply acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Accepting your scary, nasty thoughts is terrifying. And no doubt facing thousands of white oppressors would have been horrific. But MLK knew. He knew that retaliating would only have made it worse. It's the same with your obsessive intrusive thoughts. If you fight, you will lose. If you accept, you will win.

ACT really is that simple. But it's hard. It's hard to remind yourself to not answer your thoughts, to not question them or justify them. It's bloody hard to accept them. It's hard to accept that you might be gay, that you may be a peadophille, that you just ran over someone, that your relationship isn't right. It's hard to accept the lies your brain throws at you. None of us want to accept these thoughts. Who would?! But that's why OCD is so scary because it's ego-dystonic. It shows us the opposite of what we want and who we are.

As we learned from MLK, rebellion is not the answer. As OCD sufferers (for now) we must swallow the lies. We must let them burn our very soul. We must accept them and the anxiety that comes with them. It's our duty to our recovery.

OCD thought "What if you just ran over that person"

ACT answer "oh well. Thanks for letting me know brain"

OCD thought "She isn't intelligent enough. You're trapped in a loveless relationship"

ACT answer "Thanks for that useless piece of information."

OCD thought "What if someone touched that glass before you and it is infected"

ACT answer "WOOOOOOWWWWW. Thanks for telling me. NOT."

ACT in its simplest form is accepting the thoughts in your head, and then acting in accordance to your values. The result? You show your brain that your thoughts aren't important and that your action is.

THE STEPS OF ACCEPTANCE (By Mark Freeman):

Step 1: Recognize that the Stuff in Your Head is not you.

Step 2: Accept that you’re experiencing whatever it is that you’re experiencing.

Step 3: Act according to your values.

Over time we retrain our brains to not pay any credence to our OCD thoughts and to focus on what truly matters.

Little by little we step past OCD.

To your success,

Stu

P.S. You can get a great book on ACT free if you sign up to the OCD Stories community (free of charge): http://theocdstories.com/join-the-community/

The Acceptance Field guide

Recovery advocate

I love the OCD community so much. Such loving and caring people. OCD seems a blessing after knowing you all. But. Big but. It pains me to see so many people campaigning to stop stigma and support OCD. When so few are campaigning for recovery...

If I have 10 hours in a day dedicated to OCD awareness i'm spending 1 hour on breaking stigma and 9 hours on helping spread recovery.

You may say that campaigning for better mental health understanding will lead to more recovering through schools helping people spot symptoms earlier and less stigma allows people to come out more freely. And you are right. However you would also be right if you said recovery focused campaigning would achieve the same. The volume of tweets etc would be the same. However by talking about recovery we are showing that OCD is nothing to be ashamed of, we are breaking stigma quicker than saying it's wrong to chatice mental health sufferers. And while we are breaking stigma we are also eductaing people towards a healthier life.

I don't want to put people off of campaigning against stigma and for better education in schools and the work place. As this is very important and I'm grateful for those that do.

What I am saying is that please put at least 10% of your efforts into spreading the message of recovery.

I'll end on this. It was someone banging the drum of mental health recovery that saved me. He never even touched stigma.

Love,
Stu

Care About Beating OCD, Not The Opinion Of Others

Are we motivated more by what others think of us? Or by our own pain?

I saw that my friend started taking multivitamins and I asked her why was she taking them. She said she saw a post on Facebook that said taking multivitamins would slow and even stop the growth of grey hair. This sparked my interest because I have told her many times that multivitamins can help with depression. Check out the book The ultramind solution for more info. In fact I had banged on about it, to the point of annoying myself. I quite like myself so that is a challenge.

I was intrigued to find out why she was so motivated to take them now when she was so uninterested before. Here is how the dialogue went (roughly):

Me "I'm curious to find out why this Facebook post motivated you to take multivitamins. What does not having grey hairs mean to you?"

Friend "I don't know. Looking youthful I guess"

Me "And why is looking youthful important?"

Friend "So I can fit in"

This was both interesting and shocking. Interesting because I like to know what makes people tick. And shocking because we can often be more concerned about the image we project than the truth.

If this is you stop it. What's truly making you unhappy needs to be addressed. Not the surface level bullshit. What people think of you is none of your business. Put more emphasis on your mental health recovery. Put it above all other non-important matters.

Fear your illness not what someone else thinks of you. Then use that fear to kick it to the curb!

Consider yourself told 🙂

Stu

Will This Even Matter In 10 Years? The Thought Process Every Person with OCD Needs To Have

OCD has a habit of forcing us to ruminate over the past and obsess over the future, in fact, you could switch those words around and it would still be true. Distracting us from truly living. Your OCD may threaten you with fears of contamination, worries of harm, obsessive concerns of paedophilia or anxieties around religion, to name only a handful. You have had this your whole life (insert your own timeframe). Ask yourself this. How many times has the OCD bully been right? I would put money on less than 1% and in a lot of cases, NEVER. In hindsight I can’t remember one obsession I had that ever came true. But yet I still wasted so much time trying to calm OCD down by answering it, checking and doing compulsions, to stop the seemingly inevitable catastrophes.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is that whenever I get very anxious or worried, I just think "in 5 years I'll look back at this moment and laugh at myself. I'll wonder why I was ever worried" because 99.99999% of our fears never come true, and if they do, we deal with them. How do I know this? Because you are still in the game. You’ve survived this long, there is a great chance you will continue to do so.

Try it. Next time you find yourself obsessing over something or you are fearing an end of the world situation. Pause for a second, and realise that in 1, 5 or 10 years from now this fear won’t matter. Because you know from experience they rarely or never come true. Try to channel your future calm self into the present moment.

This has worked exceptionally well for me in the past and continues to work well to this day. There was this one time I was having an anxiety provoking conversation with my girlfriend. I knew we were going to have a conversation that would usually spark obsessions around me not being good enough, the relationship not being right etc. So I braced myself. This was in fact the first time I applied this idea. As we were having the conversation, I felt anxious. I reminded myself that in 10 years none of this will matter. That everything I am fearing in this moment will have figured itself out, and I will probably find this moment funny. The Buddha *said ““When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” That quote rang so true in that moment. I felt this wash of relief come over. The kind of calm that comes from realising that all my pain was a projection of the future, an illusion. I have never felt more connected to the present than in that moment. I started laughing, much to the dismay of my girlfriend. I was so happy in what should have been a vulnerable, anxious time.

This tactic has never produced the same powerful results as that day, but it does help curb my anxiety, which in turn curbs OCD.

Next time you start ruminating over the future remind yourself to relax and enjoy the now, and know whatever happens you will survive, because guess what – you’re still here!

To your success,

Stu

*It may be a fake Buddha quote apparently. Either way I like it!

‘Savouring’ As A Tool For OCD Recovery

Positive psychology uses the concept of ‘Savouring’ to experience more joy. The act of noticing and appreciating all the positive aspects of life. The use of this concept as a technique draws your attention to the present. I see a lot of use for this concept with OCD recovery.

Savouring is very similar to being mindful. However the slight difference, is that when you are mindful and you notice something pleasing to you, stay in that place and savour the moment. Immerse yourself in it.

What activity could you do this week that would truly help you savour it? Give it a go and see if OCD takes a back seat.

Here is a report I wrote for my positive psychology course that may give some background into a recent savouring experience I had.

Savouring Report

On Friday I went to get my tattoo finished. I knew it was a 5 hour job. This session would complete a two year project to get my arm covered. The sixth session in total. So although I will likely get more in the future I wanted to savour this session, as it closes off this ‘project’.

I was getting the inside of my arm done, which is very painful. Before I went into the shop I prepped myself for the pain and accepted that it was going to be hard. This removed the fear.

My Tattoo Sleeve

Throughout the process, there were times it was agony, however I kept reminding myself of the importance of savouring. This brought my attention back to the smells of the ink, vasoline etc, the sound of the needle gun, and the sights of the art on the walls. I get on with my tattoo artist so I made sure to give him my full attention when speaking to him. Savouring the back and forth.

Bringing myself back to my senses allowed me to forget the pain (at times) and truly connect/remember the experience.

Thanks

Stu

My partner isn’t…(insert perceived weakness/flaw) enough!

I touched on my experience with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) before. So when I was reading an academic journal on rOCD it was interesting to see that BDD or simply anyone who puts hyper-attention on themselves is likely to do the same to their partner.

"Hyper-attention to one's own perceived flaws in appearance and catastrophic misinterpretation of such flaws may reflect a general predisposition to detect perceived deficits and overestimate their consequences, not only in the self, but also in the relationship partners." (*Guy Doron et al, 2012, pg 241)

The study drew several conclusions one of which was that if a suffer is overly critical of themselves, they are likely to be critical of their partner. If you struggle with type two relationship OCD (rOCD) which is the preoccupation with your partners perceived flaws, then the above quote may apply to you.

Guy Doron and co point out that in type two rOCD. character flaws come in 6 domains – physical appearance, sociability, morality, emotional stability, intelligence and competence.

Since the age of 17 I have been overly critical of myself, and constantly putting myself under the microscope to be the best I can. So it makes sense that in relationships I put my partner under the same scrutiny, making it easy for OCD to latch on to my partner’s perceived flaws. Do you notice a similar pattern in your relationship?

If so, my advice is to start loving yourself. Learn to appreciate you for the miracle you are. Learn to love that what makes you different can often make you special. When you start to love yourself, without being so critical and overly self-aware, this will then role onto your partner and you will stop picking holes in them. This will weaken OCD’s grip on their perceived flaws.

Let me know if that helps,

Stu

*Flaws and all: Exploring partner-focused obsessive-comulsive symptoms by Guy Doron et al, 2012, pg 241.

Beat ROCD video course (51% off) - includes 33 videos: Visit the course >

ROCD udemy course Banner

1 2 3 4

Contact Me

Using the contact form to send me an email

Keep in touch or say hi

Please note: I only answer emails once a week, please be patient, I will respond in time.