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gingerbreadgirl

Triggers and dealing with them - some thoughts

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If you're anything like me you may relate to this: 

I go through periods where I do all the right things re OCD, I don't ruminate too much and I keep the compulsions to a minimum. Very quickly I feel better. 

And then - BAM. Along comes a trigger. Somebody says something, a news story come up, or even just a memory pops into my head. And my brain is suddenly all "OMG OMG OMG THIS IS NOT A DRILL, I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!!" 

My stomach goes weird, I get that sense of utter catastrophic doom, and I need, I mean I NEED to figure it out there and then, it is the most important thing in the history of the world and how did I not see that before??!!! 

And then before I know it in sucked in. 

So how do we deal with those moments?

I've come to realise that triggers - as horrible as they are - are an amazing opportunity. It's all well and good not doing compulsions when everything's fine. But when those triggers hit, that's when you really show ocd what you're made of. 

If you can ride out those first few seconds of anxiety and not give in, then they do fade relatively quickly. The opportunity is in those first few seconds. You must think: do I want to make ocd worse or better? And then the key is to resist with all your might, dig really deep and summon up all your strength and just refuse to get pulled in, no matter how wrong it feels. It really does fade in time. 

And once you've done that, you'll be that little bit stronger for next time. You may even deliberately bring on a trigger (exposure) to show ocd who's boss. 

I'm just sharing this because for me, it is my single biggest point of failure, those few seconds after a trigger when your brain is screaming at you. 

Resist it, no matter how wrong it feels, no matter what a terrible person you think you are. The clarity and peace will come later but for those few seconds the important thing is to just ride it out. 

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This happens because if we react quickly, by 25ms, our Thamulus routes the thought to our primitive amygdala or anxiety center. But if we wait for a little   longer, it routes to our neocortex or new brain where we are calm. It's quite interesting. 

Also, early am our serotonin is low & cortisol is high so we obsess on stress. 

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I love your description of that initial shock. This is not a drill! Yeah.

I think awareness is key, both of how OCD works and how rhat pertains to your situation. You've got to reslize early on that this time IS just like the last 100 times. Make a commitment to not deal with it for a few hours and refocus on something else.

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This proves of course that it's all about changing our behavioural response to the trigger. 

The "drill" is good and also a bit of fun - I find talking down to OCD in such a way wrests away some of its power. 

In one self-help book I read, the writer invited us to consider there is a sentry inside our head. 

When a possible alert comes in, the sentry compares it with previous things it considered to be an alert. If there is a match, he sounds the alarm. So if GBG gets an OCD intrusion on her theme, the sentry compares the trigger to previous alerts, finds a match, bong goes his hand onto the alarm button. 

GBG gets anxious, a "Vicious flower" cycle of anxiety starts up, very quickly leading to catastrophic thinking - agghh I am relapsing I can't stop this episode etc. 

Understanding that this is what happens is the start. 

Our learned friend snowbear helped me deal with this. When we sense a trigger, we need to stop right there. Recognise the OCD is right behind it so not connect into it. 

Rather, gently but firmly ease our concentration, our focus, right away. 

One way I did this with a news story in the paper was to turn the page and immediately focus on another issue, maybe a detailed political or business one. 

This stopped the connection, and also prevented a vicious flower process kicking in. 

I will add an explanation of the vicious flower diagram shortly. 

Edited by taurean

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yes good description of the process gingerbreadgirl. I can relate well.

 

14 hours ago, gingerbreadgirl said:

Resist it, no matter how wrong it feels, no matter what a terrible person you think you are. The clarity and peace will come later but for those few seconds the important thing is to just ride it out.

Yes it's really important to note the clarity and peace that comes later after resisting our compulsions--it really shows us that we don't need to do those compulsions we think are necessary to calm down.

 

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15 hours ago, gingerbreadgirl said:

And then - BAM. Along comes a trigger. Somebody says something, a news story come up, or even just a memory pops into my head. And my brain is suddenly all "OMG OMG OMG THIS IS NOT A DRILL, I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!!" 

My stomach goes weird, I get that sense of utter catastrophic doom, and I need, I mean I NEED to figure it out there and then, it is the most important thing in the history of the world and how did I not see that before??!!! 

This is also where the desensitization from exposure can make a big difference.  Triggers retain their power because they are often something we avoid, which gives them extra power.  We all have a finite amount of energy and time so it may not be possible to confront every kind of trigger, and some triggers are very complicated to try and do exposure too on an on demand basis.  But even exposure to similar triggers can make a difference.  
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!

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On 14/04/2019 at 07:00, gingerbreadgirl said:

 

If you can ride out those first few seconds of anxiety and not give in, then they do fade relatively quickly. The opportunity is in those first few seconds. You must think: do I want to make ocd worse or better? And then the key is to resist with all your might, dig really deep and summon up all your strength and just refuse to get pulled in, no matter how wrong it feels. It really does fade in time. 

And how satisfying that feeling is - when you do the right thing, or don't do the wrong thing and reach for a ritual ... when you feel the anxiety go right through you. So much better than all the compulsions in the world. And cash in the bank too!  

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10 hours ago, paradoxer said:

And how satisfying that feeling is - when you do the right thing, or don't do the wrong thing and reach for a ritual ... when you feel the anxiety go right through you. So much better than all the compulsions in the world. And cash in the bank too!  

It is so satisfying you're right! (But sooo hard!) 

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On 15/04/2019 at 06:52, dksea said:

This is also where the desensitization from exposure can make a big difference.  Triggers retain their power because they are often something we avoid, which gives them extra power.  We all have a finite amount of energy and time so it may not be possible to confront every kind of trigger, and some triggers are very complicated to try and do exposure too on an on demand basis.  But even exposure to similar triggers can make a difference.  
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!

Great post dksea and illustrates really well how erp can work. I get triggered by TV a lot as well. 

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