How to Cope With OCD

Jun 27, 2023 | OCD, Mental Health

The fabric of life is woven with uncertainty. The machinations of the universe are mysterious and beyond prediction. And it is this uncertainty that sows worries, fears, and doubts in our minds. To be human is to acknowledge the fact that we can only exert so much control over life; and it is natural to worry — about the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones, paying bills and dues on time, or what the future holds for us. Even an intrusive thought — good or bad — is benign and simply an instance of our mind wandering into strange territories.

However, when these worries lay siege to our mind and interfere in the daily functioning at work, school, or in social events, it is often a sign of an underlying issue. Transient obsessions are not a cause for concern, but when these obsessions start eating up hours every day, cause relentless stress, and disrupt routines and daily functioning, they become a characterization of obsessive-compulsive disorder — commonly referred to as ‘OCD’.

The Nature of OCD

Someone with OCD experiences obsessive thoughts, impulses, compulsions, and rituals that are extremely difficult to suppress. These obsessions and compulsions can drain a considerable chunk of energy and can rupture relationships and estrange the mind from any sense of normalcy. With OCD, life can seem bleak and overwhelming. Fortunately, if you suffer from OCD, there are steps you can take to cope with your condition, find some relief from undesirable thoughts and behaviors, and gain more control over your life.

Conquering Your OCD

OCD is unbearably distressing and inflicts an immense amount of pressure on the psyche. It can interfere with almost every aspect of your life — be it work, socializing, relationships, or even your personal ‘me’ time. To manage OCD effectively, it is imperative to deploy cognitive and behavioral strategies that not only help decrease the obsessive and compulsive behavior, but also provide you with the skills that help you gain the upper hand in dealing with this challenging disorder.

1. Relaxation

Stress is one of the main fuels that OCD thrives on. As a result, learning to manage stress is important. It is important that you learn deep breathing techniques, as they can help alleviate the built-up tension within minutes and restore a sense of calmness, helping you gain your composure. Mindfulness exercises and meditation are two other techniques that can work synergistically to keep the stress and worries from overwhelming you. If you practice them daily, you will start reaping their benefits within days, and these skills will aid you throughout your life.

2. Exposure

A challenging but supremely rewarding technique — it involves exposing yourself to situations and activities you fear the most. It will require you to draw from your innermost reservoirs of courage and demand your complete commitment to eradicating your obsessions and compulsions. This strategy requires that you create a hierarchy of all the activities and situations that you dread the most, and then slowly expose yourself to them, starting from the least dreadful activity and gradually moving up at your own pace. The trick is to expose yourself to these activities and situations and try not to engage in compulsive behaviors. The aim is to gradually build comfort around these activities and situations, and use the confidence you gain every step of the way to keep the momentum going.  It is important to remember that exposing yourself to those anxiety-provoking situations needs to be paired with learning to relax.  

3. Visualization

If exposure to your actual fears feels a bit too daunting to start with, you can ease your way into it by employing another great tool you already possess — your imagination. For this, you need to picture yourself in a situation that you fear or avoid and visualize yourself being in complete control as you conquer those difficult situations or activities. For example, if your compulsion is to wash your hands, you would envision yourself touching a doorknob or a handle, and not washing your hands afterward. You will need to feel all the sensations and fears that this situation evokes, and simultaneously imagine your mind and body being completely calm. Visualizing the feared activities in this way will train your mind and help you build the courage to encounter the situation in real life afterward and not give in to your compulsions.

4. Elimination of negative thoughts and beliefs

A complex and dense web of negative thoughts and beliefs underlies your OCD. It is the strong, and often invisible, force that maintains and exacerbates your OCD. To eliminate this constellation of negativity, you first need to introspect and identify the very specific thoughts and beliefs that cloud your mind with anxiety and compel you to perform your rituals. Once you identify these core thoughts, you must replace them with the equivalent positive thoughts. In essence, you need to rehabilitate your self-image by slowly chipping away the negative perceptions of the self and building a strong foundation by replacing them with positive ones.

5. Deliberate avoidance of rituals

Rituals are the bedrock of the struggles that OCD entails. Performing a ritual often leads to a sense of safety, making you feel that you just prevented something bad from happening. The goal is to rupture this false connection between the ritual and the feared consequences. Start with a ritual that is relatively minor, but one that will challenge you if you don’t perform it. When you feel the urge coming up, tell yourself that you will skip the ritual just this once. Then observe if the scenario that you feared so intensely actually materializes. If you feel distressed or scared, practice relaxation techniques. This technique expels from your mind the false notion that not performing a certain ritual will lead to bad outcomes. With enough practice, you will come to realize that the ritual achieves nothing and that you could discard it without bringing about any harm to yourself or others.

Practicing Self Care

In addition to developing the psychological toolset, you must also remember to take care of the more ordinary affairs of life. Here are some tips:

Maintain a healthy diet: Eat healthy food and eat it regularly. Try to avoid anything that contains caffeine, such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks, as they can spike your anxiety levels.

Avoid drugs and alcohol: It might be tempting to ease the discomfort brought on by OCD through drugs or alcohol, but they have the potential to act as triggers. Stimulants, such as nicotine, can amplify your anxiety, and alcohol can disrupt normal sleep and also cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Get enough sleep: If anxiety gets in the way of your sleep, create a bedtime routine that relaxes you and prepares your body to rest. It might involve listening to soothing music before bed or taking a warm bath.

Seek social support: Holding in your emotions will never help. Share your thoughts and emotions with someone you trust. Sometimes thinking out loud can lower anxiety and provide you a different perspective on the situation. Your friends and loved ones can also be a source of emotional comfort during times of distress.

Seek therapy: Therapy can help you develop the tools you need to overcome your OCD.  Get the help that you need rather than suffering in silence.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you are struggling with OCD or other mental health issues, New Dimensions can help.  To learn more about our treatment programs, contact us at 800-685-8796 or visit our website at