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What is it about OCD that makes you doubt whether your fear is in fact OCD or whether it is something you should genuinely fear? This isn’t a post written in the throes of an obsession seeking certainty as to the reality of events, but more an intrigue into why this happens to us. 

Once I discovered, after years of suffering crippling fear that I was about to be “found out” for all these terrible mistakes/actions/thoughts etc. that it could in fact be OCD, I felt an enormous sense of relief and peace. That I wasn’t actually the terrible person it seemed I had turned into overnight without even knowing it. Remembering who I was pre-ocd helps me to maintain that perspective.

But still, to this day, I find myself becoming irrationally anxious over triggers relating to past events and I am trying to understand the basis of this. Is it purely the uncertainty that the OCD thrives on, or is it that the consequences of it not being OCD and therefore true are so devastating? Or is it a combo - The potential consequences of it being true and not really OCD are nightmare inducing therefore causing anxiety, and the inevitable uncertainty is what allows that anxiety to latch on? One cannot function without the other? 

If so, what do you do about this? I would assume you must start with learning to accept uncertainty as the anxiety is an effect of the uncertainty and not a cause? 

This probably sounds like the ramblings of a mad woman lol but I am determined to unravel the inner workings of this stupid disorder and would love some input from those who know better 🙂 

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Every day we are sorting thousands of them automatically.  Reacting to one activates it.

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Are you sure there are things you should genuinely fear? Is there really a difference?

I've seen lots of people comment about having a difficult time distinguishing between an OCD worry and a real worry. They say it's okay to worry about the real thing. Really? Just what good does worrying do?

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I would say being "determined to unravel the inner workings" is unnecessary. 

I am doing very well thank you with understanding the basics and leaving anything more deep and meaningful to medical science to determine. 

I know, from my own experience, that if we learn the basics and believe what informed people, not the OCD, tell us - if need be taking a leap of faith that it is OCD - that we can learn how to overcome it using CBT. 

An additional aid to counter OCD's demand for certainty is to agree to accept probability that it is OCD instead. 

And yes worry is pointless and damaging to health and happiness. 

Worry nearly destroyed me years ago, but with self-help learning and hard work I was able to overcome it. 

And if I, Mr Average, can achieve this then so can everyone else. 

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PolarBear, yes, I see what you mean. Perhaps the need for the distinction itself is just another way for the OCD to try and suck you into the cycle. 

Taurean, it’s almost as if I feel the need for permission to take the leap of faith. Like, I want to take the leap that it is OCD, but then with my fear of being responsible for making a mistake, I am too afraid to make the choice to take the leap without someone else giving me permission in case it is a mistake. Is that a pretty normal thought pattern for OCD sufferers?

I’ve suffered with the symptoms of OCD for the past 5 years, but only recently found out that that’s what it was so I am trying to learn as much as I can. 

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1 hour ago, HadenoughofOCD said:

Taurean, it’s almost as if I feel the need for permission to take the leap of faith. Like, I want to take the leap that it is OCD, but then with my fear of being responsible for making a mistake, I am too afraid to make the choice to take the leap without someone else giving me permission in case it is a mistake. Is that a pretty normal thought pattern for OCD sufferers?

Yes it is. And it's that thinking pattern that maintains the sufferers problem. And round and round you go..... 

So you have to break that cycle - go against what your brain (influenced by the OCD) is telling you. Break that "rule" that you need permission. Deliberately do so and roll with the punches of the resultant anxiety response and sit with those high arousal feelings. 

Then leave the matter be. Come back and repeat this "exposure and response prevention" exercise and keep periodically repeating it, always reminding yourself that OCD is behind your negative obsessional thinking, and not listening to, not believing, any resultant intrusions to the contrary. 

Eventually the anxiety when you do the exercise will fade, the intrusions lose power and frequency. 

And you will be on that path to recovery. 

Follow this path with any other themes and restrictive rules. 

Remember, if we are repeatedly obsessing about something, and feel the urge to carry out compulsions to fix the resultant disorder, we are suffering from OCD - it matters not what the obsessional theme is - it could be anything. 

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OCD comes from your primitive amygdala.  However, you can use your neocortex or new brain & not get the anxiety response. 

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What a load of mumbo jumbo handy. 

Wherever anyone's OCD comes from (and by the way I see a genetic link within my family) is not relevant to the sufferer. 

They just need to follow CBT to get better :)

 

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Finding the cause  taurean is the best thing ever. The primitive thamulus decides if a thought should be sent to the amygdala,  creating anxiety,  or the neocortex,  the new brain which is calming.    Everyone has an amygdala, it's a primitive organ & its necessary to protect us.  OCD certainly is genetic, we got it from fish as they were one of the first things to get the amygdala. You said  its genetic in your family, but it's genetic in everyone, we do learn what to do with our anxiety from our family, so compulsions are often learned. Most critical voices or OCD thoughts are the results of childhood subconscious programming although one or more voices could be the result of culture, religion or society, the primary voice is likely that of the most dominant or influential parent.

Our limbic system is responsible for controlling various functions in the body & OCD.
Some of these functions include interpreting emotional responses, storing memories, and regulating
hormones.

Primitive Amygdala: the almond-shaped mass of nuclei involved in emotional responses, hormonal
secretions, and memory. The amygdala is responsible for fear conditioning or the associative
learning process by which we learn to fear something.

Hippocampus: a tiny nub that acts as a memory indexer – sending memories out to the appropriate
part of the cerebral hemisphere for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary.

Hypothalamus: about the size of a pearl, this structure directs a multitude of important
functions. It wakes you up in the morning and gets the adrenaline flowing. The hypothalamus is
also an important emotional center, controlling the molecules that make you feel exhilarated,
angry, or unhappy.

Cingulate Gyrus: a fold in the brain involved with sensory input concerning emotions and the
regulation of aggressive behavior.

Fornix: an arching, band of white matter axons (nerve fibers) that connect the hippocampus to the
hypothalamus.

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‘OCD is genetic, we got it from fish as they were one of the first things to get the amygdala.........OCD thoughts are the subject of childhood subconscious programming’ .You appear to be saying that if any species has an amygdala then they have OCD. Then you say OCD anxiety is caused by conditioning or socialisation in the family. In another thread you say that OCD can arise if a person has a serious illness. 

You first paragraph is not connected to the next seven paragraphs in which you list the structure and the function of brain regions.

You have left me totally confused. Are these your own thoughts or are they based on published research?

Edited by Angst

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I must agree that the cause isn’t the most important part of overcoming my ocd, because it doesn’t impact how I will recover. But it does serve a purpose for me in recognising situations that trigger the chain of events that lead to an ocd episode, and can sometimes help me gain some distance and perspective. 

Like Taurean, there’s definitely a genetic component in my case too. But overall I think there are far too many things within a person’s life, including genetics, life events, illness and biology, that can contribute to someone’s ocd for it to be something useful in dealing with the disorder itself. 

I have read something a little similar to what Handy is saying, but again don’t think it can be useful in ocd recovery as it’s about changing the behaviour that feeds the ocd. Whether a side effect of making those conscious choices results in a person overriding their amygdala and activating their “new brain” I don’t know, but again, although interesting, its probably not useful to know when trying to recover. 

23 hours ago, taurean said:

Yes it is. And it's that thinking pattern that maintains the sufferers problem. And round and round you go..... 

So you have to break that cycle - go against what your brain (influenced by the OCD) is telling you. Break that "rule" that you need permission. Deliberately do so and roll with the punches of the resultant anxiety response and sit with those high arousal feelings. 

Then leave the matter be. Come back and repeat this "exposure and response prevention" exercise and keep periodically repeating it, always reminding yourself that OCD is behind your negative obsessional thinking, and not listening to, not believing, any resultant intrusions to the contrary. 

Eventually the anxiety when you do the exercise will fade, the intrusions lose power and frequency. 

And you will be on that path to recovery. 

Follow this path with any other themes and restrictive rules. 

Remember, if we are repeatedly obsessing about something, and feel the urge to carry out compulsions to fix the resultant disorder, we are suffering from OCD - it matters not what the obsessional theme is - it could be anything. 

To be honest, I feel too afraid to tackle my 2 most feared scenarios right now. I kind of dip my toe in here and there to see how I can manage, but it never ends well. I am currently trying to address all the other smaller areas in my life that are contributing to the ocd (checking locks, appliances etc.) and have found that to be really quite successful. I think that that’s because the level of anxiety I feel around those compulsions is now moderate and I can handle them. My 2 most feared obsessions cause such intense anxiety and panic that I am currently just using avoidance until I can get into CBT and attack them with the support of a professional. 

So although I have greater understanding than I used to, and I am in control of the lesser themes and rules, OCD is definitely still in control as it relates to these 2 fears. 

Here’s a good example of what I mean. As I type this, I am currently experiencing an OCD attack due to something I have just viewed on the tv that has triggered an obsession related to one of my 2 core fears. Due to the work I have already done, I am able to recognise that I have been triggered (rather than be swallowed by the rabbit hole), and can take steps to refocus away from the thought so that I don’t engage in the checking / analysing / ruminating compulsions. So that is some progress. 

However, I still couldn’t help but turn off the programme immediately and after a few minutes of channel surfing, turn off the tv as I felt it was too much of a trigger risk, which I also know is an avoidance compulsion. And if I have understood your advice, to really tackle these obsessions with ERP, I would have had to leave the programme on, let the intrusive thoughts keep rising, sit in the anxiety and wait for it to abate without engaging with it - is that right? 

It’s my fault really that I’m in this situation as the topic of the tv programme is a direct obsession that I have struggle with for 5 years, and I knew what was about to be said next would send me head on into the intrusive thought storm. But I was curious (dipping my toe in again) to see what would happen to me, and whether I had made enough progress to face it, so rather than switch it off before i heard the phrase that triggered me, I kept it on deliberately. But it backfired as I was too anxious to ride it out. OCD definitely still has me on the back foot with this one and its so frustrating because I know what I need to do, but the anxiety is overwhelming. 

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2 hours ago, HadenoughofOCD said:

And if I have understood your advice, to really tackle these obsessions with ERP, I would have had to leave the programme on, let the intrusive thoughts keep rising, sit in the anxiety and wait for it to abate without engaging with it - is that right? 

Yes it is. You will never ever beat those two obsessions until you can stare out the behavioural response in this way. 

But I think you have some cognitive work to do first. 

Look at the OCD core belief that is behind those two obsessions. 

Look for why that is actually false, an exaggeration of actual minimal threat, or revulsive. 

Understand that you do not have to believe this now you see what is going on. 

ERP is not too likely to be successful and the anxiety unlikely to decrease as you repeat it until you can understand - and are thus ready to challenge - why the OCD is doing what it is. 

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9 hours ago, taurean said:

Yes it is. You will never ever beat those two obsessions until you can stare out the behavioural response in this way. 

But I think you have some cognitive work to do first. 

Look at the OCD core belief that is behind those two obsessions. 

Look for why that is actually false, an exaggeration of actual minimal threat, or revulsive. 

Understand that you do not have to believe this now you see what is going on. 

ERP is not too likely to be successful and the anxiety unlikely to decrease as you repeat it until you can understand - and are thus ready to challenge - why the OCD is doing what it is. 

Do you have any tips on how to uncover the core belief? The two big obsessions both come from the same core topic, but it’s getting to the bottom of why that topic in particular seems to haunt me. The main theme of all obsessions for me overall is responsibility and making a mistake or poor choice that leads to terrible consequences (but from what I have seen so far, that’s pretty par for the course with ocd generally isn’t it?), and the two big ones are the ones that would harbour the most terrible consequences out of all of them. So they are the biggest “threat”. 

I think the most appropriate distortion for my personal obsessions is an exaggeration of a minimal threat, rather than being false, as the things I fear are not impossibilities (or maybe they are still false and I have distorted facts on each situation? Ugh it’s so hard to know!). I have been a bit reluctant to go into whether my conclusions on the topic are rational or not as it sends me into a checking / rumination cycle, so perhaps it is best to approach it as an exaggeration of a minimal threat rather than trying to prove to myself why it could be false? 

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Hi Hadenough 

Here is the method professionals use - as used with me by one. 

When a core belief isn't obvious clinical psychologists use the "downward arrow"  principle to look to find it. 

You can yourself try the downward arrow principle to find out what the core belief is that is causing you a problem .

On a piece of paper write down a statement as to what you think is your OCD issue. 

 Then underneath it, draw a downward arrow and then write in the answer to this question. If this were true, why would it be so bad?

 After writing in the answer,  put in anotherdownward arrow underneath, and ask the same question again.

 Keep going until no further answer is possible –your last answer should reveal the core belief 

Try this out and see what comes to the surface. 

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3 hours ago, taurean said:

Hi Hadenough 

Here is the method professionals use - as used with me by one. 

When a core belief isn't obvious clinical psychologists use the "downward arrow"  principle to look to find it. 

You can yourself try the downward arrow principle to find out what the core belief is that is causing you a problem .

On a piece of paper write down a statement as to what you think is your OCD issue. 

 Then underneath it, draw a downward arrow and then write in the answer to this question. If this were true, why would it be so bad?

 After writing in the answer,  put in anotherdownward arrow underneath, and ask the same question again.

 Keep going until no further answer is possible –your last answer should reveal the core belief 

Try this out and see what comes to the surface. 

Thanks for the great advice Taurean. I have spent the morning doing what you advised and it seems my core belief is that I don’t deserve the life I have. Let me give a bit of background. So a large proportion of my life was trauma and therefore full of pain, misery and suffering, but since I have been with my husband, I feel like my life is too good to be true and that it’s only a matter of time before I am dragged back to misery and suffering. 

So all of my obsessions, past and current have centred on something happening that will take all these things I value in my life away - and importantly -  that it will be my fault. That’s why I have made a point of saying I don’t deserve the life I have and not just that it will be taken away as there is a huge element of blame and responsibility to my fears (blame & responsibility was a huge message drilled into me previously). And as there is no actual real influence in my life that could do that right now, my mind is now looking for possible threats that could make that happen - no matter how unlikely. 

So now that I have worked that out, what’s my next step? How do I best use this knowledge day to day when the 2 big fears crop up? 

So let’s say fear A crops up. I can remind myself that the reason my ocd has latched onto this fear in particular is because if it were to come true, everything I have would be taken away and it would be my fault. But the only reason I think that is because trauma has given me a false belief that I don’t deserve happiness and that I have cheated my way into this happy life. (Will CBT for OCD help me to change this belief?) 

But how do I use this to further diminish the power of the fear? So I can tell myself where the fear has come from and why, but what then? Is there a way to apply this logic to the fear itself? E.g. can I say that because of this, my estimation of the likelihood of the threat is greatly overestimated? If so, is there a healthy, non-compulsive way to back that statement up? I.e. I have told my family my fears and they have all told me that the fears are irrational based on the truth of the scenarios in question. But I know that going to them wasn’t a healthy thing to do as I was reassurance seeking and it didn’t work anyway as the fears are still here. So is there a healthy way to back that statement up or is that where the leap of faith comes in? 

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Hi had enough. 

I am taking a little time out today, resting my brain by just mindfully watching sport listening to music and reading. 

I will take a look at what you have said later when I have recharged my batteries. And hopefully someone else may also chip in meanwhile. 

Best wishes 

Roy 

Edited by taurean

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I am glad that you have settled on an OCD core belief that you think undermines your problem. 

When my original therapist and I worked through the downward arrow principle to establish the OCD core belief at the heart of my harm OCD it came out as the fear of losing control and causing harm. 

That "fear of losing control" was then challenged with the help of my therapist - and having identified that core belief was terrifically helpful.

I think more people will find it helpful to do so because only when that core belief is challenged and rendered benign are we going to find ourselves on the road to recovery, as the triggers spawned by the OCD will also lose power. 

I need to look over what your thinking is and relate all that, and I have withdrawn to bed now after an afternoon of sport gentle togetherness and watching a recording of The Repair Shop over our dinner. 

It will be best for me to be upstairs in my little office with the laptop and printer to do this, so I will be back on the case tomorrow :)

Roy 

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Took me a while to think this through. 

I had to copy and paste the latter part of the thread onto a word document, then print it make notes on it then be ready to answer. I will shred the printout when all sorted. 

Need to fetch the laptop down and I can use it on battery downstairs to quote some of your questions and answer them. 

Response coming soon - sorry for delay but needed to fit this in with a relaxation programme this weekend after a tough week of medical issues for each of us, two boiler breakdowns and having the garden relandscaped! 

Edited by taurean

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In fact I am back up in the office - it's lovely up here. It's a great place to escape to.

Fault and responsibility are common areas of OCD where it alleges that we have done or may do something which will have a catastrophic effect on others and maybe also ourselves.  But this is all part of the falsehood element. What is the likelihood of this thing that you fear ever occurring? 

CBT is all about  the understanding of how the OCD is working - I think you are up to speed now - and challenging its core belief and consequent triggers which flow from it. 

 

On 13/04/2019 at 14:55, HadenoughofOCD said:

So all of my obsessions, past and current have centred on something happening that will take all these things I value in my life away - and importantly -  that it will be my fault. That’s why I have made a point of saying I don’t deserve the life I have and not just that it will be taken away as there is a huge element of blame and responsibility to my fears (blame & responsibility was a huge message drilled into me previously). And as there is no actual real influence in my life that could do that right now, my mind is now looking for possible threats that could make that happen - no matter how unlikely. 

What would non-sufferers say about this? Well you know because you asked your family. They think it's a load of bunkum. So you need to be looking to take that view, and not giving belief to that OCD core belief and the triggers that follow. If you doubt this, and are still torn by the triggers, this is the time to play the "leap of faith" that it is all OCD card. 

The element of blame responsibility and "I shouldn't be happy as it may be all taken away from me" is pretty common in some form or another in OCD. But it isn't likely is it? The likelihood is beyond  minimal, but OCD will always say otherwise. So yes a minimal threat from an unlikely scenario. 

We can counter such doubts - and OCD will take a .001 % chance and still say it's possible - by the use of probability. Think how improbable what the OCD is saying is, and determine to accept that degree of probability, rather than the doubt OCD is peddling.

I have some current friends who have gone through really  serious traumas mentally or physically, yet have rebuilt their lives from them. They don't have OCD, so don't believe that what they have rebuilt might be taken away from them.

You now need to work on challenging the core belief and the triggers. When you don't think you are up the for the ERP (which should be done in structured sessions) then just refocus away when a trigger comes. You can come back to exposure at a better time.

You don't have to do ERP when the  trigger occurs. You can imagine it, bring it back up, in your mind at a time you can allocate to the exercise. Remind yourself as you do what you have learned about your OCD and there is no real need to fear what  the OCD is saying because of that. At first the emotional response feelings will still be strong - here you sit with them without refocusing, tough it  out, sit with the anxiety. Then after a short while - a few minutes - stop the exercise, and switch off from it. Get busy on other matters. 

Revisit the exposure again another time, and keep repeating the exercise until your brain begins to accept that there is really nothing to fear, and the anxiety begins to tail off.

You need to believe in the CBT, be patient and be persistent. It won't start to work overnight, and expect the OCD to up its game. But it does and should work if you do it in this way. It's how I was taught in therapy and I have worked this process. 

 

All the best

Roy

 

 

Edited by taurean

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Thank you so much for taking so much of your time out of what sounds like a lovely weekend to help me Taurean. It really means a lot. 

Its interesting and gives me hope when you say you have friends who have also experienced trauma and they don’t have these fears because it’s further proof that the past isn’t actually a threat and it’s pure fabrication from ocd just using that particular topic as a trigger. 

I just have to keep reminding myself that nothing is impossible, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. The need for certainty is so tough sometimes, and have found myself checking and analysing so many times in the past to try and figure out the probability of these things happening, how these things could come about and all the potential avenues the situation could take if that happens and what I would say and do in each scenario. It’s such an exhausting waste of energy. 

I am getting quite good at refocusing, but I know that it’s only a sticking plaster until I can get into CBT and challenge the thoughts. If I were to practice ERP at home, do you have any advice about how I would go about sitting with the anxiety without the rumination? I am currently just saying “no” or “stop” whenever I find myself ruminating when a trigger occurs, but I’m not sure if that has the potential to turn into another compulsion. But that seems more like refocusing rather than exposure as I really struggle sitting in the anxiety with the trigger without the rumination starting. 

 

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Hi hadenough,

This extract from a post Dksea made on another thread may help you.

"I once had a major spike while watching an episode of a tv show.  The spike had nothing to do with the content of the show, but for awhile after I would avoid the show, and then just that episode.  But I really liked the show before.  I knew at some point that I had to make a choice, so I made myself start watching again, not just that show, but that episode.  It made me anxious at first, but after a few times it wasn't a problem anymore.  ERP works!  It may not be fun, but its worth it!".

1 hour ago, HadenoughofOCD said:

I just have to keep reminding myself that nothing is impossible, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. The need for certainty is so tough sometimes, and have found myself checking and analysing so many times in the past to try and figure out the probability of these things happening, how these things could come about and all the potential avenues the situation could take if that happens and what I would say and do in each scenario. It’s such an exhausting waste of energy. 

All of that is completely pointless - as compulsions always are. You cannot get certainty (which the OCD is demanding) , so you have  to accept probability instead.

1 hour ago, HadenoughofOCD said:

If I were to practice ERP at home, do you have any advice about how I would go about sitting with the anxiety without the rumination? I am currently just saying “no” or “stop” whenever I find myself ruminating when a trigger occurs, but I’m not sure if that has the potential to turn into another compulsion. But that seems more like refocusing rather than exposure as I really struggle sitting in the anxiety with the trigger without the rumination starting. 

There is nothing wrong with no, stop or whatever just in the very short term. But yes, it would be another compulsion kept on.

t's really difficult at first to stop the ruminating  but you have got to keep working at it. Learning a process of just noting the intrusion, remembering it is only OCD (as advised here) and refocusing is good for the refocus stage.

In ERP refuse to listen to the urge to ruminate. Resistance is not futile :)   Keep practising the start point and the not going into rumination before you go on to really work the exposure.

PolarBear's excellent video on how to stop ruminating may help.you can find it in the OCD in the media forum. Piece from me below.

https://www.ocdforums.org/index.php?/topic/83742-rumination/

Roy 

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Thanks so much for all of this Taurean. Reading Dksea’s extract really hit home and made me quite emotional. It made me see that my career has been my version of Dksea’s “tv episode” and although there’s a long road ahead, there’s hope that I will get there. 

 

Thanks so much for all of your help Taurean, and I will keep you posted with my progress :)

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Patience, persistence and perseverance are the "three graces" that will help you work this system and achieve your goals. 

All the best 

Roy 

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