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Use Your Anxiety Map To Navigate OCD

Many things can trigger an OCD spike. One trigger can be certain areas in which you live. These spikes can happen because the amount of people can create uncertainty, you might get a ‘not quite right feeling’ or maybe you have bad memories of a certain area, street or place, maybe a bad break up or a time you got embarrassed. You may find that you avoid these areas as to not spark your OCD. For example, I live in London and will avoid shopping centres like the plague. They spike my anxiety, badly, and will often set me on a downward spiral.

If I took a map of London I could probably put dark blobs or patches over various parts of London that trigger my anxiety (for whatever reason that may be). Just thinking about these places has bumped anxiety in me, as the brain struggles to differentiate between being there and just imagining it. If you have ever played Role Player Games (RPGs) such as age of empires. You will know that the map is dark and as you explore the lands the map becomes clearer. There will be dark patches on the map until you walk to those areas, then the darkness disappears.

PC Gamer Command And Conquer Map

Example of a RPG map. Image: PCGamer.co.uk

I kind of see this with my concept of the anxiety map. If you get triggered from certain areas, shops or buildings these become dark spots on your map, on your life. It’s up to you to remove those dark patches on your map. After all, a place is just a place. It only causes us issues because of the meaning we assign it.

How do I remove these patches from my anxiety map?

  • ERP
  • ACT

Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP - learn more here) will involve you exposing yourself to the environment. This could be simply going there, it could be eating there, seeing a friend etc. At first you may feel the same anxiety as before, however after a few exposures/trips to this place, while applying ACT you should see a difference in your perception of said place. As a result anxiety will subside.

Applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) when you are in said location will involve you as it says on the tin, accepting the thoughts and worries that pop up. Don’t question them, justify them or ponder on them. Simply acknowledge them either by watching them without judgement or saying something like “thanks brain”. After applying acceptance, take action towards something. This could be listening harder to your friend, going to buy something or merely bringing yourself back to the present moment. You can also apply ACT to emotions. If your anxiety is high try accepting it. If we fight emotion it will only get stronger, however, if you accept that it is there and be fine with that it, it will soon dissipate.

Should I create an actual map?

That is up to you. I haven’t written it down. I just know the areas and places in my head that trigger me. If it helps you to draw a visual map awesome, it may even make it more of a game. You can then remove the dark patches as you conquer the areas. The goal of course it to have a map free of dark areas and open to a world of possibilities and adventure!

It may take time to clear your map of anxiety. However, facing the places that give you the frights is a great way of beating OCD.

Let me know how it goes,

Stu

Break Free From OCD Book Review And Learnings

Book review time. As part of my OCD recovery blogging I wanted to write about the OCD related books that are helping my recovery. With the aim of empowering you to read more around the subject, and further your own healing process.

Today’s book is called Break Free From OCD by Dr. Fiona Challacombe, Dr. Victoria Bream Oldfield and Paul M Salkovskis.

I found the book useful, and I’ve read a lot around OCD. If you are new to reading about this anxiety disorder then this book is also written in an easy to understand way. The premise of the book is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), with hints of ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Three therapies I have tried, all with varying results – positive, varying results. If you want to understand far more on ERP and ACT try other books, as this one is largely focused on CBT. Retraining the brain to see situations differently, and is mainly a talking therapy.

Break Free From OCD Book Cover

Break Free From OCD does a good job of explaining what OCD is, and does a good job at breaking it out into it’s subcomponents: Religious OCD (ROCD), Harm OCD (HOCD), Contamination OCD (COCD) and ‘Pure O’ etc. It would have been great to see a section on Relationship OCD – however this is one area still in need of much research and discussion. The book explains each of the subcomponents i.e. symptoms, behaviours, and more importantly how to tackle them. The authors go into great detail in dealing with each subcomponent which is good to see and will be of use to the sufferer.

The book largely focuses on getting the reader to A/B test. To see their thoughts from two perspectives. One being that they are their thoughts (which is why OCD is painful) and the other that they are worried about their thoughts. For example you may have Harm OCD (HOCD) and you may currently be in an anxiety cycle with thoughts that you are evil because of something your brain said you did. You are constantly checking in your head to see if you in fact did the thing, but you can’t be sure. So you keep checking and the anxiety increases – and so on. You could see these thoughts as ‘The problem is, I think I may have harmed that person’ or ‘The problem is, I worry I harmed that person’. The first thought process keeps you in the anxiety cycle, where as in the second you are seeing the worry as the problem not the thought. This separates you from the OCD which is the first step to knowing YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS.

"If you really accept that the problem you have is one of worry and fear, and live accordingly by acting against your fears, we predict that the anxiety will, over time, decrease and you will be able to abandon your obsessional ways" – From the book.

Other things to note would be that if you are a more visual learner there are plenty of diagrams, and examples. There is a section on finding a therapist and getting the most out of therapy.

Overall, I really liked this book. It helped me understand OCD more and I believe it will be an asset to you also.

To your success,

Stu

You have given them the ability to walk behind the mind’s elaborate set decoration, and to see that there is a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that’s going to eat you. That may sound like no big deal, but many never learn that distinction and spend a great deal of their lives living in fight or flight response.” – Jim Carrey

You can get the book here: Break Free From OCD

OCD and Spotify: Trust The Shuffle Button

I have a theory. Brace yourselves as there may be a smidgen of truth here. It also could be a load of bollocks but here goes.

Software like Spotify and iTunes library's with copius amount of music is making our OCD worse. I said it. It's out there.

Before you hate on me, here's my thinking.

Spotify Logo

With software like Spotify we have a nearly endless stream of music at our beck and call. If we don't like a song we can skip, shuffle or search for one that fits our mood. Nice right. Yes but for those with OCD it isn't beneficial. The reason being is that if you're like me, some songs will 'not feel right' or be 'depressing' or 'seem off'. This 'not quite right' feeling is common among OCD. When in reality there is nothing wrong with a song. Yes it may be shit (in our opinion) but under no circumstances should it weird us out or cause anxiety. If it does than this isn't the song offending our musical pallete but instead sparking our OCD. In such scenarios I will skip or find a song that makes me feel good. It's in these times that I need to listen to the song and learn to live with it. Only then when it no longer bothers me is it smart to find one I love.

If you feel the same. The next time a song comes on your shuffle that 'doesn't feel right' bear with it, embrace it until it no longer bothers you. This is exposure and response therapy in action. This is a powerful step to seeing through this not quite right feeling.

Sometimes as an OCD'er you need to trust the shuffle button!

To your success,
Stu

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