Responding to OCD Lies: From the Voice of Recovery
Below are helpful responses to use when faced with common OCD lies. These healthy responses come straight from the voice of recovery, and are great reminders to practice incorporating throughout the week.
Feel free to personalize the responses below to fit your individual
needs and symptoms.
If you would like to read a more in-depth review of OCD lies, click here.
1.) LIE: Pay attention to that intrusive thought. It means something about you.
RESPONSE: Yes, I am experiencing an intrusive thought. While they happen to everyone, they affect me more because I try to interpret them. Who knows what these thoughts mean? Will anyone know? I am going to choose to acknowledge, and accept, whatever thoughts cross my mind, observing and noticing them, without judgment.
2.) LIE: You must control your thoughts.
RESPONSE: It is impossible for anyone to control their thoughts. The job of our mind is to think - sometimes positive, feel-good thoughts will come to mind, while other times, upsetting and frightening thoughts will surface. I know fighting my thoughts has not gotten me anywhere, and in my quest to keep controlling them, my thoughts are now controlling me! So, in my attempt to overcome my OCD, I am going to allow, and observe, all thoughts that come my way. I will let them enter, and let them leave, all on their own terms. If a certain thought makes me anxious, I will notice that anxiety, observe it, and watch it pass.
3.) LIE: If you don’t do this ritual, something bad will happen to you or your family.
RESPONSE: You've been telling me this for years already, and I still don't feel comfort that my family is ever 100% safe, no matter how many rituals I do. In my effort to gain freedom, I am going to have to accept the uncertainty that something unfortunate could happen to me or my family. I'm so nervous about having the time with my family cut short, that I'm not even enjoying my time with them now. So, I am going to choose to accept this uncertainty, as difficult as it might be, and not perform my rituals. Instead, I am going to work on reminding myself of all I have to gain by beating you (OCD), and all the good memories I want to create with my family.
4.) LIE: Make sure you do that ritual correctly.
RESPONSE: I have spend countless hours trying to perform rituals correctly - and it has cost me; I've been late to work, late picking up my children from school, and have encountered many embarrassing moments. Doing my rituals has never brought me relief - my fears are still there. In my quest to conquer you (OCD), I am going to show you who is boss. I am going to deliberately perform my rituals incorrectly, and then work my way to not performing them at all. I am going to accept whatever (if any) consequence comes my way. At least I know I will be there for my kids when they get out of school, and I will not have to keep riskng losing my job by continuously being late.
5.) LIE: You have a great responsibility to keep everyone safe.
RESPONSE: While I would feel awful if my actions caused harm, that is the risk I will have to take in order to overcome you (OCD). You want me to take full responsibility for everything and anything, and I am not going to do that. It is too exhausting. Replaying situations to look for harm does nothing but bring me more anxiety, not less. If I am wrong about a situation, so be it. I will accept and cope with whatever consequence ensues. At least I can say I am living my life.
6.) LIE: Do one more ritual so your anxiety will go away.
RESPONSE: Rituals never keep my anxiety away for long, and the amount of effort it takes just to keep it away short-term has become unbearable. I know that it's never just one ritual, and it's rarely just five minutes. I've been told that riding out my anxiety in the face of an obsessive thought is the token to long-term relief. In my effort to find that relief, I might as well give it a try. I also don't have much practice riding out my anxiety, so how can I be so sure it will never go away? In fact, how about I try engaging in every day tasks, even with anxiety? Sure, I might not be 100% engaged, but even 20% is better than my current level of functioning, where I'm avoiding nearly everything. I need to remember: anxiety itself cannot harm me, it is just uncomfortable.
7.) LIE: Rituals will help give you the comfort of certainty.
RESPONSE: With every ritual I do, I desperately look for certainty; and have I found it? No. No matter how many times I carry out a ritual, no matter how many hours I spend, the world is an uncertain place. As scary as that may sound, I know that I must embrace uncertainty if I ever want to fully live my life, feel happy, and experience freedom from you (OCD). Should something unexpected happen, I will handle it when it happens.
8.) LIE: Having a frightening thought means it is likely you will act on it.
RESPONSE: A frightening thought is a frightening thought. While you (OCD) want me to believe I'll act on it, all that has done is caused my world to become smaller and smaller. I've been avoiding people and places left and right, feeling like an awful human being. What I am going to do is sit with these frightening thoughts. Will I act on them? I don't know. I suppose I'll handle whatever consequences arise when (and if) that happens. Until then, I am going to work on enjoying my life, cuddling my children, and giving my family the hugs they deserve.
9.) LIE: You’ll Feel Better with Reassurance
RESPONSE: I've been asking for reassurance for years. Where has it gotten me? Am I feeling calm, confident, and relaxed? No. If anything, my OCD has only intensified, and I'm feeling worse. Reassurance has affected not only me, but my family, friends, and everyone around me. They are tired of reassuring me, and receiving all of my anger when they try and refrain. If I want to overcome you (OCD), I am going to have to sit with the uncertainty that I'm experiencing, observe the anxiety and the urge to ritualize, and refrain from engaging. I know this is challenging, but so is living with OCD.
10.) LIE: You'll Never Beat Me (OCD), So Don't Waste Your Time Trying
RESPONSE: Sure you're strong, but that does not mean you're unbeatable. I will put my trust into my therapist and supports, and follow my program with just as much effort as I've put into feeding you (OCD), and see what happens. I have nothing to lose, and so much to gain. With every exposure I engage in, I am taking one step closer towards enjoying my time with family, not having to make excuses so I can avoid certain situations, and experiencing a sense of freedom I have not had in years. So come at me, OCD. You may be strong, but I am stronger!
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