I have a theory….
I want to share with you my own thoughts to questions about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). These thoughts are based on my own personal experience overcoming the emotional suffering of Pure “O” OCD.
I understand that there are many types of OCD and that everyone experiences OCD differently; however, gaining insight into other perspectives can sometimes be beneficial to overcoming one’s own personal mental health challenges regardless how different those challenges may be.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
From my personal perspective, OCD is a mental health disorder where overwhelming, intrusive, bothersome thoughts and feelings become stuck on repeat like a broken record in the brain (obsessive part), in which causes extreme emotional distress that can lead to the need to perform a behavior to help ease or even stop the emotional distress (compulsive part) caused by obsessive thoughts and feelings.
What is Pure “O” Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (also known as Primarily OCD)?
Pure “O” OCD (Primarily OCD) is OCD without “observable” compulsions.
From my personal experience with Pure “O” OCD, I do experience mental compulsions, such as “answer seeking” and “what-if” pondering. I do experience physical compulsions too, such as avoidance, researching, and reassurance; however, these compulsive responses can be too subtle for others to recognize as a compulsive behavior of OCD. Basically, my friends and family would not know I have OCD, unless I told them.
Also, having experienced OCD episodes with and without compulsive behaviors, I believe Pure “O” OCD episodes with mental compulsions tend to last longer than “observable” physical compulsions, probably because mental compulsions takes a little longer to process to obtain a satisfying level of comfortable reassurance.
How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) an anxiety disorder?
The OCD brain doesn’t know how to appropriately respond to normal anxiety.
This may be up to debate, but I used to believe that OCD causes anxiety; however, from my personal perspective, I now strongly believe it is normal anxiety that causes OCD. Simply, OCD is the brains inappropriate reaction to anxiety; therefore, in my opinion makes it an anxiety disorder.
What does the Fight or Flight Response System have to do with OCD?
It is my understanding that the Fight or Flight Response System controls anxiety. Anxiety is a primitive defense mechanism in which tells our body to be alert to keep us safe. I believe there is some kind of miscommunication between the Fight or Flight Response System and the brain that results in OCD thoughts and behavior.
In my opinion, I believe the Fight or Flight Response System triggers normal anxiety (for rational reasons); however, the brain misinterprets the anxiety and therefore, triggers OCD behavior. OCD behaviors (obsessive thoughts and feelings) then intensifies the anxiety, leading some to mistakenly believe OCD is the initial cause of anxiety.
Can OCD be cured?
Unfortunately, no. However, studies (with brain scans) have shown with intensive cognitive practice, the brain is capable of being re-wired back to normal; however, it has not lead to a permanent cure yet.
Is overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD the same as curing OCD?
Unfortunately, overcoming the emotional suffering (emotional distress) of OCD is not the same as curing OCD altogether.
OCD episodes still occur; but from my experience, I now experience little to no emotional distress that would generally intensify my OCD anxiety. Overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD allows me to easily and comfortably dismiss OCD compulsive behavior and allowing the obsessive thoughts to just flow.
How does one overcome the emotional suffering of OCD?
Lots and lots of cognitive practice.
- Practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques (CBT)
- Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)
- Practice Mindfulness and Acceptance
- Recognize Triggers
- Gain self-acceptance and self-confidence
- Practice Anxiety Management Techniques
When ready, try to recognize the real rational source of anxiety when an OCD episode occurs.
Instead of analyzing the obsessive thoughts and feelings, ask yourself, “why are you really anxious?” The obsessive thoughts and feelings are intensifying anxiety; however, that is not the root cause of anxiety.
From my personal experience with OCD, the anxiety in which we think is caused by OCD (the obsessive thoughts and feelings) sometimes have little in common with the real reason as to why the body is anxious in the first place.
For example: My ridiculous OCD fear of contamination about Whale Poo at Sea World, had nothing to do with poo at all. My OCD brain was not responding appropriately to the real root cause of my anxiety: my kids. Not only was I anxious about taking them to a crowded amusement park by myself, but also worried if the Splash Zone would be a bit too much for two small kids. That is normal anxiety in which my OCD brain didn’t know how to process and appropriately respond to.
I am 100% convinced that behind every irrational OCD fear lies a rational reasonable source of anxiety.
I am not sure if this is how OCD works in general; I have yet to find any resources to support my little theory; however, for me, recognizing the true source of my anxiety (paying little to no attention to my obsessive thoughts) has helped me overcome the emotional suffering of my OCD.
Overcoming the emotional suffering of OCD is no easy task. Rewiring the brain is like building Rome, it doesn’t happen in a day. It requires dedication to consistent cognitive practice, exposure therapy, ,changing thinking habits, having faith, accepting the unknown, and recognizing and analyzing the right data (the true source of anxiety), and more importantly, working on anxiety management techniques.
So much information, where to start?
Everyone is different, therefore, everyone will have a different starting point; however, I do recommend starting with a therapist. Some people need to start slow, whereas others can hit the ground running. Also, I strongly believe the key to managing OCD is not only to learn everything about OCD, but also learn more about yourself.
You got this!
Disclosure: Information provided below are personal opinions based on personal research and experiences. Opinions, even if they are based on reliable resources, are still not fact(s) and thus, I advise all readers to do their own research and consult with medical professionals, to provide a better understanding of their own mental health disorder.