This is so well put! And I agree with Janet: as I sometimes say, “When the hell of OCD is worse than the hell of ERP, you’ll be ready.” The only thing harder than ERP was living daily life with OCD, which made the therapy worth it. Now that I am about eight years out from my life-changing ERP experience, it is harder and harder for me to remember why I ever avoided it. Every single thing in my life improved via exposure therapy; it is one of the single greatest decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
If you are thinking about ERP but too scared to start, it’s okay. It will be there and available for you when you realize the scale has tipped– and that life with OCD is worse than the treatment, which, though difficult, has years of evidence showing it brings freedom.
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I’ve previously written about recovery avoidance in reference to obsessive-compulsive disorder, where those who have OCD refuse to embrace proper treatment and fight their disorder. In general, recovery avoidance is attributed to two things: fear and incentive. All things being equal, a person will not seek recovery unless the incentive to get better is stronger than the fear of getting better. Those who are familiar with exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy know that the thought of engaging in this treatment can be terrifying to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder; they are being asked to face their worst fears and refrain from completing compulsions that they believe, on some level, keep their world “safe.”
For those of us without OCD, this is often difficult to understand. While many of us can relate to experiences where we have had to face our fears, dealing with OCD seems to…
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I’ve commented on your blog in the past but I’d like to bring up a new fear that has been bothering me nonstop recently, On Friday I had some friends over for the weekend to hang out, and they suggested we watch a scary movie. I was a little reluctant about the idea, but I did it anyway. Well I really REALLY wish I hadn’t. Ever since then I’ve been afraid (I know it sounds ridiculous) I’ve been afraid of being possessed and hearing voices. There was no fear around this topic until they mentioned watching the movie, so I’m most likely sure that’s how it started, although this is a fear I’ve had in the past, I don’t recall it being this bad This fear turned into not only the fear of being possessed, but the fear of hearing voices and becoming schizophrenic. It seems like no matter what family tells me I can never seem to believe that everything I’m afraid of are just thoughts. I want to learn how to not doubt that all of my anxiety is really JUST anxiety. It’s been so scary to go to sleep at night, because I’ve been afraid of not waking up in the morning. I’m afraid (not meaning to be graphic) but I’m afraid that I’m going to be possessed and hurt myself in my sleep. I’m almost done with my freshman year of high school, I want to be able to enjoy my life again. My heart is racing just writing this. This morning I started thinking and although I normally have intrusive thoughts, this morning my thoughts didn’t sound like my voice, it was still in my head, but it still terrified me. I’m absolutely terrified, I’m afraid that I’m going to die or develop some kind of psychosis. Please help and respond quickly, I don’t know what I can do. I’m afraid to no end.
Hi dear. Yes, I’ve heard of this theme occurring before in OCD patients. The important thing is to go back to ERP therapy. Have you ever read a book about ERP? It can walk you through how to treat this. All OCD is treated the same way (with ERP, though the individual exercises vary). ERP is your best solution. If you’re scared to meet with an ERP therapist or can’t afford one, then you should read a book about ERP that will walk you through doing it at home.
Do not seek reassurance. That only makes OCD stronger. If you ask people over and over, OCD gains power. Don’t give it power. Steal its power through ERP.
I have a list of books you could check out from the library at https://jackieleasommers.com/2014/10/05/self-directed-erp-therapy. You can do this.
Hi, Jackie! I’m a huge fan of your blog. I hope you could do another one about HOCD. I think I may have it. Thank you 🙂
Hi Elle! Thanks! Have you read all the posts about HOCD? There are more than ten, I think . . . Check out the list at http://www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD!
Hello 🙂 yes, i already read it all. I’ve sent you an email a few hours ago. I hope you could check that out 🙂 Thank you so much and God Bless
Thank you for being such a blessing and transparent regarding OCD. I’m a 26 yr old Christian who loves Jesus. For the last year and a half, I’ve been struggling with HOCD and Scrupulosity kinda sorta. Majority of my obsessions are based around sex. I have mental images of women, naked women, doing sexual things with women, sexual thoughts about God, especially when I pray or listening to a worship music. I get heart palpitations and physical responses when I do these things. I can’t even walk down the street without looking at women/getting aroused. I even get pressure in my head when a women walks past me. It’s been the hardest time of my life. I have been in ERP since Mid March of this year….I’m not seeing that much relief. I think it’s because I don’t do the exposures at home. My exposures involve looking at pictures of women and saying this about them. As a woman of faith…you could imagine how HARD these exposures might be. I feel like I’m sinning towards God every time I walk into a session. I feel terrible and dirty. In the bible it tells us to cast down all vain thoughts, but then my therapist wants me to look at this picture of a naked women and imagine myself doing things with her. I can’t take it AT ALL. Please give me your thoughts on how I should move forward…..
Hello dear one!
I’d start by reading this post and praying this prayer or something like it: https://jackieleasommers.com/2014/08/03/ocd-scrupulosity-is-erp-sinful/
Another thing that might help is taking one small step back from your exposure. For instance, instead of saying, “I’d like to do X with women,” say, “My OCD tells me I’d like to do X with women.” This step made a huge difference for me!
Here’s an interesting question: Have you ever tried doing ERP on a “real” issue? One you want to address at some point (that is, not an illogical thought, but a real matter of the conscience), but one you’ve been overly analytical and obsessive about? I don’t see much information about performing ERP on this type of scrupulosity, so I’m wondering what that would look like. Most of my obsessions fall into that category (gray areas of the conscience), so I’ve been trying ERP on a particular obsession but not sure if I’m doing it “right.” 🙂
If it’s a gray area though, won’t ERP look the same? ERP can be done for any type of OCD. For example, fearing germs is “real” (as you put it), and ERP is done the same way!
Wow, that’s true! Thank you for that reminder! 🙂