What is OCD? How to reduce intrusive thoughts?

Ocd is a mental disorder associated with repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and actions (compulsions). It may include compulsions like washing hands very frequently due to the fear of germs and contamination or checking the lock on the door once every hour. Generally, we also wash our hands often after coming back home or feeding our dog, but if we spend most of our working hours on repetitive actions, we should be doing something about it. 

What is the reason for your OCD behavior?

If you forgot to turn off your stove, the fear of burning down your whole building is pessimistic. The fear of something negative happening to your spouse when you aren’t together will create negative thoughts and negative emotions in you. These obsessions, which cannot be relieved with logic or reasoning, can lead to anxiety, and your compulsions will give you the urge to call them right away to relieve stress. 

Over time, you’ll fall in the vicious cycle of intrusive thoughts to anxiety to action and temporary relief.

By the time you realize that there is something wrong, you’ve already fallen into the cycle and are a victim. 

What are the causes of OCD?

However, other theories suggest that excessive serotonin in the brain’s deeper parts is also a reason. The specific medications work to reduce or inhibit the serotonin receptors— evident that serotonin plays a role. A decrease in the hyperactive region after the remedy suggested excessive reuptake of serotonin in the brain’s frontal regions. 

However, some patients claimed worsening symptoms following streptococcal infections. The antibodies produced may cross-react and attack the basal ganglia, worsening the condition. It is also associated with genetic inheritance– may be an autosomal dominant transmission.

Stress and other lifestyle changes may also influence the condition. The onset of symptoms is generally at 19, but it may be a side-effect of ADHD or PTSD in kids.

Other common obsessive thoughts include:

  • Repeated sexually implicit or violent thoughts
  • Excess attention towards religion and morals
  • Fear of losing something you need.
  • Order and symmetry

Common compulsive behaviors include:

  • Double-checking things or on loved ones.
  • Counting or tapping a certain number of times
  • Accumulating junk
  • Spending a lot of time washing, cleaning, and arranging things

What to do to control intrusive thoughts in OCD?

1. Identify your triggers

The first step to tackle a mental disorder is identifying the triggers. Leaving the door lock open, leaving the stove on, or doubting your actions during a meet will give you negative thoughts and fear. These are the triggers for your compulsive urges to do the tasks again. Instead of doing the activity all over again, make sure you do it with attention the first time.

Create a mental image of locking the door, and the next time you doubt whether the door is closed, you will have the visual to back you up. If you still doubt it, then you can argue that it’s just an obsessive thought.

2. Never avoid

Obsessions of fear or self-harm or harming others are the common thoughts of OCD. These intrusive thoughts make the OCD sufferers stay home to avoid triggers. Well, if avoiding triggers is a temporary solution, then, in the long run, it causes permanent damage. When you avoid your thoughts or obsession with something, it will come back in force unexpectedly, causing damage. Instead, face your fear and anxiety.

After you touch the railing in a shopping mall, do not wash hands for a while. Control yourself when something is not orderly placed. Try to tackle your anxiety without acting up– it will go away soon. If you can’t hold on, then you’ll have to waste more and more of your time in a day doing repetitive tasks. However, start small after prioritizing your urgency and need to act. 

If you fear the elevator, then use it to go up one level and gradually progress to the last storey, rather than fighting your fear while moving the top level.

If you hold on to your biggest fears without any headstarts, you may fall into the cycle of mental health decline or succumb to panic attacks– not healthy signs. So prioritize carefully!

3.Challenge your obsessions

Instead of repeatedly obsessing over your thoughts and actions, which could ruin your day, give your mind a couple of minutes to peacefully throw all the tantrums. In this “worry time” challenge your thoughts. If you doubt your actions in a meeting and are obsessing over the comments of delegates, try to think about what went wrong or what could leave a bad opinion of you. 

Question your mind: What is the evidence that it is true? Why should you believe it? What is the probability of this outcome? Is the thought actually helpful? What would I say to a friend who had this thought? If you think through the situation looking at it in the most realistic way possible, you will soon realize that all you had were obsessive thoughts. Control your thoughts and actions before they start controlling you.

4.Relax and manage stress

Managing your stress would be your primary goal. Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and exercise regularly. It releases endorphins, which counteract the effect of cortisol (stress hormone). Drink a cup of warm tea or coffee while you’re trying to fight your fear. Also, listening to music in stressful conditions is effective.

To deal with someone suffering from OCD: Avoid criticism. Don’t scold your friend for abiding by their beliefs and don’t play along with their rituals. Keep the conversation positive and hopeful. Bring in humor only when they are not offended.

Don’t hesitate to reach for support.

If self-control doesn’t work out for you, then don’t worry, you can always reach for support. Talking your fears out to someone who can understand will lessen your burden. Though the problem is not solved spontaneously, you’ll feel more alive and less threatened.

OCD can put you in a stage of social isolation. Never let that happen because mental illnesses are at their strongest when you are at your weakest.

Always stay connected with family and friends. You are not alone! Join an OCD therapy session where you can share your experiences and learn from others’. Besides, therapy and medication can get you through this stage.

Related: How to control negative thoughts in overthinking?

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