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.
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?
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,