Self-Directed ERP Therapy

???????????????????????????????????????If you’ve spent any time hanging around this blog, you know that I’m a huge proponent of treating OCD with Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, which is the best treatment available. It’s the first and only* treatment I recommend.

People often balk at it, which I understand: it’s difficult. Very difficult. People want an easier option. But I wouldn’t recommend a bandaid for a cancerous tumor, and I won’t suggest anything else.

But I’m too embarrassed …

But I can’t afford it …

But there are no ERP specialists in my area …

Those are all very valid reasons for seeking another treatment option, but the GOOD NEWS is that you can do ERP on your own, if you are committed to it, and if you’re willing to work hard.

It’s still important to have an expert guiding you, so please track down one of the following books:

Stop Obsessing by Edna Foa
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond
Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jonathan Grayson
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond
The OCD Workbook by Bruce Hyman and Cherlene Pedrick
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well by Fred Penzel
Amazon | B&N | Fishpond

With the help of one of these books, you can be starting your own ERP journey for under $50 (most under $20!).

Read the whole book from cover to cover and do all the exercises. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into pursuing wellness, freedom, and peace. You can have your life back. Believe me. I languished in the hell of OCD for 20 years before just 12 weeks of ERP therapy broke that torturous yoke. This can be your story too.

If you’re not convinced, go to and read my posts about ERP. Then drop me a comment or an email with your questions!

* I think medication can definitely help too– but ERP is a better option than meds, and in my (non-MD) opinion, meds should come alongside ERP, not ever replace it.

62 thoughts on “Self-Directed ERP Therapy

  1. Jackie, I so appreciate how you promote the way to healing through ERP, and the posts that you share regarding your own personal experiences with it. My favorite quote of yours that I have shared with my own clients? “My therapist was a beast!”

    Medication and ERP work together and studies prove that this combination is the best method. Of the two alone, ERP is a better and more long lasting help, and meds alone are the least proven method, because once you stop them, if you haven’t done therapy, symptoms will come back.

    ERP actually rewires your brain. You are training it to respond differently. As a therapist who is also an OCD sufferer, when I work on hierarchies with clients, I usually remind them, “This isn’t going to be fun, but then again, how fun has life been lately anyway?”

    The amount of time it takes is so small compared to the typical length of suffering experienced as you point out. So, kudos to Jackie, she knows of what she speaks, and please, please remember that those of you with this painful disorder do not have to suffer this much.

    In addition to what Jackie has recommended, the other books I would encourage someone to purchase if trying this alone, would be The OCD Workbook by Bruce Hyman and Cherry Pedrick, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well by Fred Penzel, one of the top names in the country on OCD therapy. He’s one of my heroes, and Jackie, so are you.


  2. Hi Jackie, I just -had- to add this: ^_^ To anyone who’s considering self-help, I think it really works, as long as you can handle it. I’ve had therapy for 4-5 months already and our sessions have turned monotonous. I’ve been gauging myself if I can handle doing it on my own and things are going so well I just might not need another therapy session anymore. You can try buying this too: It’s like having a drill sergeant in your ear (sans the smackdown) who keeps you going and fighting and -reminding- you that it’s your “stupid OCD” and not you who’s thinking the nasty thoughts. Also, read Jackie’s blog 🙂 I’ve found so much stuff here that helped me on my recovery. May we all be freed from this disorder!

  3. Love, love, LOVE this post! There is just no way around ERP (in my opinion) if you want to get better from OCD. There just isn’t. So let’s be honest with each other about it and REALLY help people! And that is just what this post is. Honest help. Thanks for this.

  4. Exactly! I was with my therapist for around a year and i felt i was not getting anywhere. The meds had not fixed the problem either. I had told her (having read some stuff on ocd) that i do NOT want to be touching a toilet seat or other weird program. She said ok, and went on with thought records and other CBT techniques, which are VERY helpful in preventing new ocd rituals from occurring. But to conquer the ones i already had I had to do ERP. I designed it, and i did it and my therapist was there only to cheer me on and help me if i got stuck. Once i was good at ERP and thought records i graduated from therapy. 🙂 Another really good OCD workbook is The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD where Hershfield & Corboy put ERP together with mindfulness. Unfortunately i didn\t know about this book while doing ERP myself, but my review is here:
    and this book, It’ll Be OK, How I Kept OCD From Ruining My Life, kept me going as Shy managed to conquer his ocd:

  5. Jackie, I have a very busy life with 4 active children. My fear of doing ERP is that I am going to be in a constant state of panic/anxiety when I leave my sessions and won’t be able to function to take care of my family. My question to you is, once you were done with a session, did you have side effects that prevented you from going on with your daily life until the next session?

    • Maybe a little, but to be honest, ERP tries to gather all the anxiety into short stints: instead of feeling anxiety and dread all day long, you capture it all in the exposures. Does that make sense? So, instead of spreading out the ickiness all day, I was meant to experience it all in 80 minutes.

      • I like that description, Jackie. I’ve compared OCD to having a credit card balance. Without treatment a person makes smaller “payments” forever, whereas ERP is about paying off the balance and not having to deal with it anymore. It can be harder in the short run, and much better in the long run.

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  7. Reblogged this on Jackie Lea Sommers and commented:

    The frontline, evidence-based treatment for OCD is exposure and response prevention therapy. Even if you’re not in a position where you can afford to meet with a specialist, you can still track down a book written by a specialist and do ERP on your own. Either way is going to require great courage, perseverance, and discomfort– but you can do it. Do it to get your freedom and life back.

  8. As I said before, You are one of my heroes. Thanks for all you do to guide our fellow sufferers, our “OCD brothers and sisters” as a former client calls them, into freedom. And how appropriate for Independence Day! Thanks!

  9. Hello Jackie,
    I am sort of embarrassed talking about this and am in disbelief that this has happened to me..I was in full control of my life until one thought changed everything. It made me question everything and brings me to tears cause I just want to live my life the way it was before. I am also about to be in a relationship with a boy whom I KNOW I love but I am fearful these insane doubts are going to come in the way and ruin everything. I am literally crying right now because I never imagined this happening to me. I am super religious and would have never thought about all this before. I purchased one of the self-help books but don’t think I am getting my fear down just right. Being a junior in college I have so much more to worry about than this. I also don’t know how to make my recordings playback on my phone..God bless you for taking your time to help everyone I truly look up to you for that. If there is some way you could help me I would appreciate it 😦

    • Hi dear, deep breaths! You’re on the right track now!

      Take a nap. Give yourself a break. Don’t be embarrassed– OCD is a medical illness, just like a broken arm or the flu. And now you know how to treat it. Whenever you get all worked up that things will never be okay again, remind yourself that that is the line that OCD continually repeats to its victims and then pour your energy into ERP.

      You can do this. One step at a time.

      • Thank you so much Jackie, I appreciate you responding so quickly. I know I can do this, I’ll just have to try harder with ERP. You are the best.

  10. Dear Jackie,
    Thank you for posting this and helping people. You truly are the kindest and the most true person. I would like to know your point of view of my story. I don’t know if I have HOCD or am just in denial. I’m sorry this is so long and sometimes dumb. Sorry also for any grammar mistakes – I’m from Poland.

    For me every day seems worse and worse. I’ve been diagnosed with HOCD, but I just don’t know. I kinda forced my therapist to say so (Lol), because I can’t handle the thought I could be gay/ am gay / may be gay.
    I don’t do many compulsions, it’s everything about the thoughts, they making everything so real. I am a female and 21 years old. I’ve always liked boys since I can remember, never girls. I remember being jealous of some girl friends but it is common among kids (it was like: “why she’s playing with her and not me or i must have always been in the spotlight as a child). I must admit it, I’ve watched porn, straight porn and sometimes gay, but never lesbian. I just couldn’t find it interesting (or could I? I don’t know I’ve never watched any). I wanted to look at men. I’ve imagined loosing my virginity to a guy, who I really love. I am a very romantic person (or I was before HOCD (?) hit me). I’ve had crushes on guys older than me. Guys in my age feel like immature, but I’ve had a crush on my classmate like two years ago (I’m at university now), even though he was immature. I missed him from time to time. What it’s bothering me, I’ve never had sex, not once. It’s because I didn’t feel there was a “right man”. And now my HOCD is questioning everything, like you didn’t have sex with guys because you’re lesbian, duh! But I don’t want to have sex with girls (Or I do? sick) either. Can someone believe that is straight for 21 years and suddenly become gay, because has watched some random video on youtube about a girl coming out. I feel sick. I can’t even think straight. My life is torture now and I don’t know how to deal with it. I used to be a happy person (not always, I had my ups and downs and it begins “by accident” always at the end of August / beginning of September). I feel anxious 24/7. In the evenings I’m super tired of the thoughts I have. After waking up my first thought is: “I’m gay” and it’s just so depressing because I don’t want to be gay. I used to read novels, when man loves some woman and vice versa and I would feel so related to this. I used to sing along with my favourite singer about guys etc, used to watch titanic and cry after Jack. It was so intense. But now I just feel like I’ve lost my life. Like another person is living my life. I don’t do typical “checking”. I used to at first by watching some straight porn and masturbate to it, but because of my anxiety the fear won’t go away and I can’t focus. Everything seems so weird right now. I don’t know what is true anymore and what’s not, like my life is a lie. Wouldn’t I always have known I’m different than others? And now the hardest part: That HOCD (for real?) took from me all my attraction to men. I am so disturbed, because I read actually all the stories about people with HOCD and they know deep inside thy’re not gay and it’s just thoughts. But I don’t know. I know I was attracted to men. Before sleep I have imagined myself in guy’s arms, having sex with them and just all the feelings and I was hoping to have someday man, who would treat me good. I’m in a very bad mood. When I cool down (sometimes it happens, but very rarely – usually just and only before sleep I know like I always have, no doubts, no anxiety but I have to not to think. Like I have to lay and just sleep. When some thought is coming to my mind I push it away – even when it’s a happy thought, it’s because I don’t want anxiety come again to my mind. It’s like constant worrying about whether or not I am gay or it’s just HOCD. But does HOCD feel so real? I have this psychical pain in my chest, like my heart is tied up. I don’t know what to think. I know I don’t want to be with girls, it’s scary and awful and I’ve never even thought about it, that is not my nature. But on the other hand – this feels like I can’t fall in love with some guy and it’s just awful. What I’ve dreamed of, wanted, desired is now questioned and I don”t know if it’s my brain or just… I don’t know what. I would like to mention that I’ve been struggling with some depression 2 years ago when I have moved to another bigger city than mine. I wasn’t questioning my sexuality but the future, which is uncertain. I was scared that my parents will die soon (they in their 40ties so no), I used to come back to home checking if my brother has changed (he is now 14 years old and growing so fast, my little brother), scared my dog will die soon, scared that I will be alone in this world and I will find nobody, because everybody are in relationships and i’m not. I used to think that I am disgusting and awful that no man would love me an I will never be able to fall in love because I’m so depressed. I couldn’t even find myself in a relationship, I don’t even know why, It’s just like a blank space. After a couple of months I used to be okay and my romantic side has won. I would be able again to dream of boys.It came back one year ago (again my university stuff began) but it wasn’t so intense as earlier. I’ve felt anxious but I could handle this… And I did. And here I am this year. Struggling with I don’t know what, being depressed, crying, just reading about HOCD over and over, doing anything for myself, avoiding watching tv, tv shows, reading books, going public in fear of “falling in love with a girl” wihich I know is super irrational. In October I’m going to study in Germany for half of a year and maybe it’s starting now? Or maybe not? I just don’t know what to think and I need help. I look at every girl now differently I used to admire them, but not being attracted to them. I’ve always considered girls beautiful and of course was jealous, because I’m very girly, I love make up and clothes, I want (wanted, now I just sit at home being depressed) to look hot for guys (for girls too because I wanted to show that I am pretty and I loved every gaze at me whether it was woman or man – now i’m scared of everything, because I was always considering “is this girl more attractive than I am?”). My grandma said that I can’t find a guy because I act superior, but it’s not me……

    Is it HOCD? How can I be sure having no sexual encounters in my past? Has every HOCD sufferer that “denial phase” or backdoor spikes? I don’t feel ok with feeling lesbian and it’s making me depressed, how it is different for a real gay person? DO you know that? Shouldn’t a true gay person always feel admiration and attraction for the same sex people? Can I be gay not knowing it my whole life and always crushed on boys? Feels like I’m loosing my mind. Hope you will read this, I’ve asked so many people on different sites about my case, but they told me what I already knew, so it’s very confusing. Writing this I don’t feel gay, I feel straight (do I?) but still anxious but I see this anxiety is more about that I have never had so close to me, like a boyfriend and I just really badly want it. But now HOCD questions it: “Do you really need man?” It’s telling me. And I feel bad. Is it normal?

    And something funny:

    When it started like a weak ago or so one night I had a dream about having sex with a guy and I really orgasmed. I woke up and was still feeling it and liking it (like wtf?)- it was my proof that I’m really straight. But then I really panicked about this lesbianism.
    The other night I had a dream about having sex with guy and I really loved him and we had a baby in this dream and I was so crazy and in love with him. I woke up and liked it. But then again – my anxiety came back. Since then I don’t have dreams and day by day it’s getting worse.

    Thank you. I really appreciate it if you’ve decided to read this. I really do! I will read your book “Truest” after I recover (if I recover, I don’t want to be gay, I don’t want to forfeit 21 years of my life – like it was a lie).

    All the love, C.

    • Hi dear! The very best treatment for HOCD is ERP (exposure and response prevention) therapy, which I’m guessing you’ve read at least a little about, since you commented on an ERP-related post of mine! 🙂 You say you don’t have compulsions, but my guess is that your primary compulsion is seeking reassurance (is this normal? am I gay? is this HOCD?). ERP can help! I wish you ALL the best! Tons more resources about ERP at I suffered for 20 years from OCD, but just 12 weeks of ERP set me free. You can do this. Blessings!!

      • Yes, I’ve read your post about ERP therapy but it looks and seems scary. I’m scared that I will realise I’m gay (I don’t think I am honestly, but who knows). Did you have any problems while starting this? How did you feel at first? Did you do this therapy alone or with therapist? My therapist’s prescribed medications and said that therapy will be later.

      • Yes, I was really scared! Like you, I was worried that it would “reveal” something about me that I didn’t want to be true. But it doesn’t work like that. It IS scary, and it IS hard, but it’s the only appropriate treatment for OCD/HOCD (pairing it with meds is also appropriate). I did my therapy with an ERP specialist!

  11. Thank you Jackie, I really appreciate your answers, I must talk to my therapist about ERP therapy, but I don’t know if she’s a specialist.
    Wish you all the best.

  12. Hi, as a sufferer from both, ocd and hocd, I love your blog!
    I’m from far away, Germany, and here the topic is not known at all. All my information on treatment etc. is from the US. I’d never even have the courage to talk about it in my country. And I also think that seeing a therapist because of it is pointless because they don’t know about it.

    My hocd experience actually started with me dreaming of a woman I knew trying to kiss me while I’m trying to stop her from doing so – which at that time was pretty much a prediction of the future, because that very same woman became a lesbian only weeks after my dream. It is still killing me after one whole year. I couldn’t look her in the eye anymore. Half of the time I am thinking that the dream must be predicting my own future too and how I will have to end up with a woman while all I want is a family with a man.

    I hope I’ll find the courage to try ERP on my own somehow. Thus far it sound a little terrifying. But it’s good to know that help does exist! Thank your for that!

  13. Hello, Jackie

    I want to thank you for posting all the HOCD material that you’ve posted online. Before I found the interview you did with Hannah I never knew HOCD was a legitimate thing. After searching my symptoms online, the interviews were the first things that I read and I’m so relieved that I found those interviews.

    I wanted to share my story and I wanted to see if it is indeed HOCD that I’m battling right now. I’m not going to explain all the details because they are graphic in nature. When I was about 9 years old, a kid the same age as I am (Im 17 now), started taking part in sexual actions with me. I was too young to understand it, but I went through with the actions and this would happen a few times a week. When I was 13 all this stopped and I haven’t seen that kid ever since. When I was 16, I fellove hard for this girl that lived in a different state as me, but I didn’t care at the time because I really thought that she was the one. After a while, she wasn’t the same, she slept more, and she didn’t talked to much and it started to affect. She wouldn’t want to sext me anymore (I apologize in advance if thats T.M.I. lol) and it really started to mess with my self esteem and confidence. After a while I broke up with her because I just couldn’t stand all the pain I was feeling. Ever since then I haven’t truly fallen for a girl, in fact, now I can’t even find girls attractive on a consistent basis any more. Now this is important about to share is the icing on the cake, the things that happened to me as a kid came back one night In August-September time when I was thinking about girls. I was laying down, doing my thinking and then, BAM! I thought about those events. I instantly curled up in my bed and kept telling myself “NO! NO! NO!”. Ever since then I haven’t been able to look at guys at all without these gay thoughts coming about. My attraction for girls gone down a lot too and it scares me to be honest. Is this HOCD? If so, what is the best way to do self directed ERP therapy?

    • Richard, your story sounds consistent and similar to other HOCD stories, but I’m not a therapist and can’t diagnose you or give you a therapy plan, sorry! I recommend purchasing one of the books listed in this post (or checking one out from the library, of course) and letting an expert guide you! Blessings, friend!

  14. Hello, Jackie. I’ve read a lot of your posts, including your interviews with Hannah. I’m so grateful that I found those posts. I believe I’m suffering from HOCD and reading that other people have gone through this comforts me so much. Like I said, I’m not 100% sure if I’m experiencing HOCD, but I wanted to share my story so you can tell me if it is or isn’t, if you don’t mind anyways.

    When I was 9 years old from 13 years old, another boy (who is the same age as me) and I took part in sexual activities. I was too young to understand what this all meant but this happened a few times a week. I’ve always been straight, and always loved and cherished women as if they were goddess’s haha. A few years pass by, I’m now 16. I got with this girl who I absolutely thought I was in love with. Even though she lived far from me, I still loved her above and beyond; she was my best friend without a doubt. Then all of a sudden her depression really started to kick in, she would sleep more, talk to me less, and she would have no sexual appetite at all, which really started to screw with my confidence. All this started to actually make go through depression and anxiety for the first time in my life, I’ve always been a shy, but really positive and loving guy and this really screwed with my head. I eventually broke up with this girl, hearing her begging me not to leave just hurt me so much, but I knew I had to let her go (I broke up with her in February by the way). Ever since then I haven’t been the same at all, it was hard to fall for a girl again. To go from practically going head over heels for girls, to not being able to love them like I used to hurt me and still hurts me to this day. Then, one night in August-September when I was laying down trying to sleep, I was thinking about why I’ve been struggling with girls. Then, all of a sudden, my childhood experience came to my head and I instantly curled up in a ball in my bed and started telling myself “NO! NO! NO!” Since then it has been really hard to look at guys without asking myself if they’re attractive. I can’t watch TV, be in public, or just doing anything in general without these thoughts coming about. I’m afraid to hurt girls not only because of my previous struggles, but also because I don’t want a girl to fall for me while I’m going through this. My attraction to girls has gone down a lot and it actually scares me and it’s hard to scare me as much as I am right now. I need answers; I need reassurance that this is indeed HOCD… I don’t want to live with all this emotional pain. Does this sound like HOCD to you? If so, what is the best way to do self directed ERP therapy? I brought HOCD up with my therapist recently and she told me she thinks it’s “b******t” so if I want to “cure” myself, I’m going to have to do it on my own.

    • If your therapist thinks HOCD is bullshit, she knows NOTHING about OCD because this is a very, very common theme. Time for a new therapist, one who respects you and knows her way around OCD. Unfortunately, many talk therapists don’t. You’ll likely either need a specialized ERP therapist or to get one of these books to walk you through it!

  15. Richard, I’ll chime in here. Jackie is absolutely right. HOCD exists and it is tormenting as you well know. Now if you are seeking reassurance that you are not gay, that is what we call a compulsion and is only prolonging the obsessions. Compulsions are the gasoline thrown on the fire and making it much worse. I would suggest going to the site of the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation and looking for a knowledgeable therapist near you. It will be very different. You will have homework assignments to challenge your thoughts. And remember OCD is a search for certainty, which no one in this life can really have about anything, including whether we will wake up in the morning.

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  20. Hi Jackie! I used to comment on your website all of the time! Anyway, when I was 13 (I am now almost 16), I struggled with initially health anxiety and then eventually HOCD and a bit of harm ocd. HOCD was always the worst. However, I was never diagnosed. I diagnosed myself based on your blog. I really think I have been able to take charge of my OCD and recognize that thoughts are just thoughts. These past 2 years have been AMAZING. However, the other night, I was taking sleeping medicine which reminded me of how I felt when I was suffering. I began to analyze my past HOCD and then I thought… If I never tried anything with a girl, then how do I know I’m not bisexual? This thought has haunted me the past two days. I am terrified of relapsing into HOCD. I just KNOW I like boys and for the past few months I have been head over heels for this one boy that I kissed. Now, my mind is playing tricks. I know that it is the OCD talking saying, how do you know you like boys if you never tried anything with girls? but when I think of girls I get grossed out and feel like puking. I want to do ERP, but I don’t know how and don’t want to spend any money. Please help!!! ❤ I can’t sleep and I’m really scared of relapsing.

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  22. I’m 15 and I have a lot of problems well at least I think. I’m African American and my parents don’t believe in mental illness or therapy. I also grew up in a Christian home (kinda), but I won’t discuss it here because I don’t want to offend anyone but I tried to send in a question but it wouldn’t work so I really hope you see this and help because I really need it. This was the post I was going to send in :
    I’m 15 and its annoying with hocd because normally I thought OCD dealt with cleaning up houses or washing hands. (Sorry I don’t mean to offend anyone) but I don’t want to be gay. I’ve always liked boys since I was young. My first crush was when I was in first grade and I like this nerd he was really smart. But I’m scared now because I lost attraction to the opposite sex. I feel like it has to do with my insecurities because I often look at women or girls and say oh she’s beautiful, I wish I could be like her . I’ve never been attracted sexually to women or girls and imagining makes me gag. (Sorry). I literally overheard a boy say he’d kill himself before dating a ugly girl like me. I’ve been more suicidal. I don’t want to be gay. Its against my religion and doesn’t settle with me. (Sorry if I offended anyone) please help me still though please I’m begging you. I’ve also lost attraction to the opposite sex which scares me. (I’m a girl) . I think it started when a girl called me a dyke for having a deep voice and being lonely.

    • Hi Jazmine, I did get your question through the form as well, but I usually only answer those questions once a month (the last Wednesday of each month)– it’s written on the form, but it can be easy to overlook!

      Suicide is not the answer; I promise you can have your happiness back. If suicide is on your mind, please text CONNECT to 741741 (Crisis Textline) or call 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Hotline … they also have a chat option).

      Everything that you say lines up with HOCD, which means it needs to be treated with exposure therapy. Have you had a chance to read about exposure therapy (ERP) on my blog yet? Go to and read the posts about HOCD and about ERP, okay? They will give you options for moving forward, both with a therapist or without one (for free if you have a local library). ❤ Hugs!!!! Hang in there.

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  27. I do want to do ERP, and have started a little (after 5 years of avoiding it after being diagnosed), but I have a 3 week out of the country vacation coming up with 4 other people. My ocd hates vacation and is already ramping up in dread of this. Do you recommend I keep on with ERP through the vacation, or wait until I get back? Thanks.

      • Ok… thanks I think. Were you able to function at work, socially, etc. during your 12 weeks of ERP? The couple of times I’ve tried it, it just puts me in such a dark place, it’s hard to function in the rest of my life. Which is also why I’m afraid to be doing it on vacation with a house full of people.

      • Yes, I was (mostly), but I had to compartmentalize like crazy. I did my ERP exposures for about 40 minutes twice a day. Outside of that, I tried my hardest not to think about it or ruminate, etc. It’s hard to remember some of it, as I did it in 2009.

      • I always encourage my patients to be extra kind to themselves when they’re doing intensive ERP—not to avoid or do compulsions, which is false self-kindness, but to be sure to find ways to de-stress and practice self-compassion. It’s hard work! All the best to you.

  28. I have Real Event OCD, I actually did do something to someone that I am not particularly fond of…not physical but something that caused embarrassment. They have forgiven me but I cannot forgive myself. How or will this help me? Therapy is so expensive, if I thought I could somehow I could work on this myself, that would be great!

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