Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD often experience uncomfortable feelings, such as anxiety, fear, or doubt. These feelings can be so intense that they interfere with daily life or as NOCD put it, OCD tells you that you cannot bear uncomfortable feelings.
While it may seem counterintuitive, tolerating these uncomfortable feelings is an important part of treatment for OCD. Why? Because avoiding them only reinforces the anxiety and allows the compulsions to take over.
In this blog post, we’ll explain why it’s important to tolerate uncomfortable feelings in OCD, and offer some tips on how to do so.
Why is it important to tolerate uncomfortable feelings in OCD?
It is important to tolerate uncomfortable feelings in OCD in order to prevent increased fear and anxiety. Resistance to experiences associated with OCD can lead to a cycle of rumination, catastrophizing, cognitive avoidance, avoiding activities and avoiding situations. Mindfulness-based CBT helps clients learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings, which desensitises them to the fear.
How to manage and tolerate uncomfortable feelings in OCD?
Step 1: Practice self-awareness
The first step in managing and tolerating uncomfortable feelings in OCD is to build self-awareness. This can be accomplished through various techniques such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and yoga which can help increase self-awareness and reduce stress.
Step 2: Take a pause
Taking a pause can be an effective way for someone with OCD to manage and tolerate uncomfortable feelings. Visualizing a relaxing scene, looking for silver linings, or taking a mental break can all help the individual better cope with their discomfort. Doing so can lead to increased resilience and improved well-being overall.
Step 3: Challenge obsessive thoughts
It is important to challenge obsessive thoughts in OCD in order to reduce symptoms and achieve a sense of emotional well-being. Challenging these thoughts helps to reduce anxiety by replacing them with more rational, evidence-based ideas. It can be done by creating worry periods during the day where obsessions can be met head on, or breaking tasks down into smaller steps that become easier to handle. Practicing response prevention techniques such as writing out the thought or recording it on a device can help gain control over an anxious mind. Through challenging obsessive thoughts, OCD sufferers may have an increased ability to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and establish healthier coping mechanisms such as mindfulness.
Step 4: Reach out for support
Support is an important factor in managing and tolerating uncomfortable feelings associated with OCD. Support can come in the form of therapy, medication, or other forms of emotional support. Therapists can help individuals identify their triggers and create a fear ladder to manage their anxiety. This helps them become comfortable with the uncomfortable feelings they experience when faced with situations that evoke their OCD-related worries. Medications may also be prescribed to help reduce symptoms associated with OCD as well as provide emotional support if needed. Lastly, family and friends are important for providing emotional support during times when individuals feel overwhelmed by their OCD struggles.
Step 5: Manage stress
Managing stress is an important factor in helping those with OCD manage their symptoms. Relaxation techniques, visualizing a calming scene, and taking mental breaks can help reduce feelings of anxiety and provide a sense of control. Additionally, exercise and connecting with others can help relieve stress. Through managing stress levels, individuals with OCD are able to avoid triggering thoughts or reduce the severity of their symptoms.
Step 6: Make lifestyle changes to ease OCD
Lifestyle changes can help ease OCD symptoms. It is important for individuals to work their way up the ladder by starting with the easiest steps and gradually increasing the difficulty when resisting a compulsion. Focusing on the feelings of anxiety instead of trying to distract oneself may help in tolerating uncomfortable feelings associated with OCD. With consistent practice, discomfort will eventually fade away as one starts to gain control over OCD symptoms. Self-care techniques such as relaxation, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, exercise and limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption are recommended for easing anxiety disorders. A notable example is that of Howie who speaks openly about his own experience with OCD and how it has impacted his life positively through treatment has been able to manage his condition productively leading a happy life thereafter.
What are the list of strategies for managing uncomfortable feelings in OCD ?
Self-awareness is an important strategy for managing uncomfortable feelings in OCD because it allows the person to recognize their thoughts and behaviors and understand why they have them. People with OCD may struggle to control their thoughts and behaviors, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt, and helplessness. By being self-aware of how their actions have affected their life, people with OCD can better tolerate uncomfortable emotions and learn how to manage them more effectively.
Pausing is a method of thought-stopping that can be used to manage uncomfortable feelings in OCD. When tempting rituals become too strong, pausing and taking a moment to sit with the feeling can help to better understand why someone may be acting a certain way. Additionally, by pushing one’s mind away from the task at hand and engaging in “better” distractions, it allows them to refocus their attention on something unrelated and take a rest from the ritual. Although excessive use of “better” distraction can lead to compulsion, when used sparingly it can provide an effective way of managing uncomfortable feelings associated with OCD.
3. Focusing on the Evidence
Focusing on the evidence has been found to be an effective strategy for managing uncomfortable feelings in OCD. This is because it allows individuals to make rational decisions about whether or not to continue with a ritual, as they can assess the situation based on factual information rather than anxious thoughts. Additionally, by tracking the evidence people can gain greater control over their own thoughts and actions.
4. Not Overthinking It
It is important for people with OCD to not overthink things when managing uncomfortable feelings in order to avoid rumination on the thoughts and emotions that make up OCD, which can lead to distress and anxiety. Additionally, overthinking can intensify the discomfort associated with the thoughts and emotions associated with OCD. Therefore, it is essential for individuals struggling with OCD to practice flexibility when managing their uncomfortable feelings in order to reduce their distress.
5. Making Peace with Things Going Wrong
It is important to be okay with things going wrong when managing OCD as it encourages radical acceptance. Radical acceptance involves accepting things for what they are without feeling regret, anger, or bitterness. When one struggles to accept the reality of their situation, they can become overwhelmed by feelings of regret, anger and bitterness that can make it difficult to move forward and take productive steps towards managing their OCD. Therefore, learning how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings is a crucial part of managing OCD and being able to cope with challenges in life.
6. Reach Out for Support
Support groups can be incredibly beneficial for those managing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). By joining a support group, individuals with OCD can learn from, and connect with, others who are also dealing with the same disorder. Through these connections and shared experiences, members of support groups can provide each other with emotional encouragement and moral support that may help them better tolerate uncomfortable feelings associated with OCD.
7. Manage Stress
The connection between stress and OCD is that, when an individual experiences high levels of distress and low levels of distress tolerance, they may be more likely to become overwhelmed by stressful situations. This can lead to the development or exacerbation of symptoms related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program which has been known to help individuals learn how to better tolerate distress, making it a potentially helpful strategy for people with OCD who are struggling with managing their symptoms due to stress.
8. Learn to Resist OCD Compulsions
It is important for people who suffer from OCD to learn to resist their compulsions in order to maintain their mental health. Learning to resist these compulsions can reduce the intensity of anxiety and fear experienced by sufferers and help them manage their triggers better. By keeping track of their OCD triggers, they can anticipate when they will occur and use mental imagery or reminder statements as strategies to ease any compulsive thoughts or behaviors. With practice, patients can work up the ladder from easy steps all the way up to difficult ones, eventually helping them tolerate uncomfortable feelings associated with OCD.
9. Make Lifestyle Changes to Ease OCD
People living with OCD can benefit from making lifestyle changes to help ease their symptoms. Regular exercise, good nutrition, and limited alcohol and caffeine consumption are all important components of a healthy lifestyle. Engaging in mindful movement for just 10 minutes can be as effective as longer periods of exercise for reducing anxiety and focusing the mind when OCD symptoms arise. Getting enough sleep is also essential in reducing anxiety levels and improving overall OCD symptoms. Lastly, smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol should be avoided since they can both harm mental health, especially exacerbating OCD symptoms.