For people with OCD, it becomes very difficult to think clearly about the illness. OCD invades their thoughts with obsessions and beliefs. Although they invest tremendous effort in managing OCD, it often wears them down. Dr. Patrick McGrath, a psychologist who specializes in treatment of OCD, suggested six ways to think more clearly (“Don’ tTry Harder, Try Different” OCD Newsletter, Fall 2008, pages 13-14).
- Stop using the word “SHOULD.” Should is almost always used in a negative context, and it usually leads to negative feelings. Guilt that you did or did not do something. Anger that someone else did or did not do something. Dr. McGrath points out that SHOULD expresses an opinion that other people may not share. You can replace SHOULD with statements such as, “I would like . . .”
- Also stop using the word “CAN’T.” People with OCD usually say they can’t do something that they can do but are afraid to do. For example, “I can’t stop doing my rituals.” Yet, you probably can identify some conditions under which you do or would stop the rituals.
- Remind yourself that “PRACTICE MAKES ROUTINE.” Usually we hear that practice makes perfect. Since OCD demands perfection, one does rituals over and over in an effort to make it perfect. In reality, it is not possible to be perfect. The repetive routines only strengthen OCD’s hold on you.
- Remind yourself that “CONTROL IS AN ILLUSION.” OCD tells you that you can and should have total control if you go along with the rituals. This is a big lie.
- Remember that “YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.” You most likely hold yourself to different standards than the rest of the world. You recognize that other people live just fine without engaging in your rituals, but OCD tells you that you are special and a higher level of responsibility.
- Keep in mind that people have different PERCEPTIONS about NEUTRAL events. What you consider terrifying, other people often view as safe or normal. OCD tends to distort perception.
Dr. McGrath brings together these six points. “People with OCD PERCEIVE NEUTRAL experiences in a SPECIAL way, thinking that they have to CONTROL them to make them PERFECT, otherwise, they CAN’T handle it, and that is just the way their life SHOULD be. And, if this is the way you approach life, there will be a lot of anxiety.”
When OCD tells you lies, remember the truth. You would like to break free from OCD. You can stop your rituals. Perfection is not possible. Control is an illusion. You are a wonderful, unique individual, but you are not held to special standards. People without OCD have a valid perspective about the thing you fear. Instead of trying harder, try to deal with OCD differently.