The Air Mattress Effect Of OCD

About 4 weeks ago in one of my Skype ERP sessions with Mark Freeman I was describing that my rOCD (relationship OCD) has quietened down and all was well. However, I told Mark I had noticed I was still very anxious but in a different area. Involving hOCD (Harm OCD). I was relieved and thankful that the OCD wasn't playing hacky sack with my relationship any more. But not happy that I was now worried about past issues - again. Mark described this as the 'air mattress effect'. He went on to say that as you stomp on one part of the air mattress the air just fills up other parts. My anxiety was still there, it had simply moved to something else, as I had done the correct actions to stop is attacking my relationship. When you no longer play along with your brain in one area you are telling it not to worry, so it will switch to some other area, as the 'problem'. When in reality the problem isn't the problem, the problem is the worry, nothing else.

Over the last few weeks I have been observing this 'air mattress effect' in my life. It's happened a couple times now. It always switches between my rOCD and hOCD. My relationship could seem disastrous and overwhelming one week, to sheer bliss the next. The 'air mattress effect' is symbolic that both my concerns in hOCD and rOCD are in fact the OCD and nothing else. It's this mindful view that allows me to get more clarity. Although, it's still no easy. At least I know.

Do you notice the 'air mattress effect' in your own OCD?

The key is to acknowledge that this is happening (if it is) then be mindful of it. The aim is to remove the OCD in general. The OCD just wants to live somewhere. It's as Mark put it "up to you to pull the plug on the air mattress". Stop answering your OCD and playing it's games, when you do this the OCD deflate.

To your success,


8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The Air Mattress Effect Of OCD”

  1. Katie Derry August 19, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Hey Stuart. Great article. So true for me too, I get rid of one obsession then my ocd goes back to an old one or something new entirely. Likes to keep us on our toes.

    • Stuart July 13, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Absolutely. It’s a tricky bugger.

  2. Donald Grothoff October 24, 2016 at 11:57 am

    This is great information. I did notice with my daughter’s OCD that whenever we made a big accomplishment with her “homework” with ERP that it seemed like OCD saw the accomplishment and came back with something new or something stronger trying to fight back.

    Once my daughter really understood that it made those accomplishments even stronger and the after affects even less.

    • Stuart July 13, 2017 at 11:47 am

      Hi Donald,

      Sorry for my delayed response.

      This is great to hear.

      All the best Stu

  3. Eric Bjork April 7, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Wonderful analogy! I have experienced the “air mattress effect” many times (sometimes just in one day).

    Thanks for the post!

    • Stuart July 13, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks Eric

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