Friday, February 16, 2007

OCD: The Pop-Up Book

While seeing my psychologist about my OCD, she made a statement that stuck with me and I thought I'd post on it, her statement was something along the lines of:

"OCD is just so sneaky and has the habit of when one aspect of it goes down another one pops up...."

That got me thinking to what OCD was like for me and that was exactly right and so I think a good analogy for OCD is that of a pop-up book! Unfortunately its not a nice pop-up book like the ones available in the shops full of nice pictures and stories or perhaps even the pop-up cards that are becoming popular in shops also. This is a pop-up book of negatives.

Perhaps the analogy could be taken a little further, perhaps its similar to giving a pop-up horror book to a child, or a pop-up book filled with a particular phobia that a person has. Probably the last of these is the closest match.

Unfortunately with a book one can simply close it, throw it out, give it away, shred it or even burn it if one was in an extreme mood! With OCD, the book is in your head and you don't choose when to open or close the book or even when the page will be turned. Further you spend an awfully long time on each page and infact the page will only turn when one has overcome that particular page. In other words, one can only stop obsessing about a certain thing when that obsession is no longer a threat.

It is clear that there are two possible ways in which one MAY be able to go about this.

1) Show that the worry or fear is irrational and hence not a problem, this is an excellent way of overcoming a phobia but has little to no effect on OCD thoughts. People with OCD are often fully aware that the fear is irrational.

2) Learn to live with the fear. How is the question that one must then ask, the only known way is to let the anxiety caused by the obsessive thought to build and build and build and to then to learn that in time the anxiety will begin to decrease. This is exactly the aim and process of Exposure and Response Prevention.

A word of encouragment:

For those struggling with OCD thoughts and beginning ERP, please take heart in the fact that the Pop-Up effect you may be experiencing is totally normal and to be expected. Yes your thoughts will change topic but the techniques you learnt in dealing with that very first thought are effective for each and every form of OCD you encounter, if you've beaten one, you can beat them all.

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