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What not to do when you have OCD

One of the reasons that OCD can make you suffer a lot is that it can cause you to doubt all aspects of your life. This can make you feel lost and scared. Some typical doubts people with OCD suffer from are the following:

Is it ok for me to defend myself in front of my family? Should I stay in this job even though it frustrates me? Am I a bad parent if I don’t want to go to the football match of my child? Should I dare to make this joke? Is it ok to stand up against my boss?

Since these doubts are very bothersome we want to provide some clarity with this article on what not to do when you have OCD.

  1. Living a routine life.

Living a routine life is funest when you have OCD. However, many people who suffer from OCD have a routine that is somewhat similar to the following:

You’re working a job you don’t enjoy. When you finish the only thing you can think about is to get home as soon as you can. When you get there the first thing you do is to drop dead on the couch to “rest”. After having played a game on your phone for a while, having watched several chapters of a series, or after having done any other activity that allows you not to think, you have dinner while watching the news. In the end your day has finished without you having experienced any kind of true pleasure during the day.   

A routine such as this one, together with weekends that are packed with family commitments, groceries and activities for the children can cause our spirit to become depleted.

Also, a routine like this can cause you to feel exhausted since it doesn’t leave any space to for you to be alone or to connect to yourself.  All this can make you feel anxious. When our lives become filled up with obligations rather than activities that connect with us we can feel further and further away from our center.

In order to break the monotony and to come back to our center there are two fundamental points: first of all, it is very important to create breathing space for yourself. You need time to be alone and decide what you want to do for yourself at that particular moment.

The second important point is that there should be “primitive” or “adventurous moments in your week. Moments in which you can step out of the automatic pilot and experience something that moves you or connect with you. You can think of activities such as dating, dancing, going to nature, boxing, doing a survival course, exploring a new city/town/terrain, joining a last-minute trip etc.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine, but that it’s important to include activities into it that inspire and move you.

  1. Staying in a job because it provides you with security

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This the motto that many people have regarding work. It doesn’t matter if you’re unhappy or if you’re feeling unfulfilled in your job. What matters is that you have a steady salary flowing into your bank account and that you have a certain stability. This causes many people to stay in jobs that cause them to feel down or bored.

Many people with OCD chose their job because their parents suggested it or forced them to, because it would provide them with security or with an easy way to earn money. In the beginning they can still manage this because their job is new and because there may be still be stimulating factors such as colleagues or perks. However, on the long run they end up feeling trapped and it can become more and more difficult to get out.

Many people fear undoing decisions they’ve made a long time ago. They are afraid of leaving a job that provides us with stability. However, if your fear of leaving your job is causing you to suffer, it is important to take the leap and quit. Security doesn’t mean anything if it makes you feel trapped.

Furthermore, anxiety can also cause us to choose a job that we don’t feel passionate about. This is due to the fact that anxiety drives us to choose the safe pick as opposed to choosing what we need. You choose jobs that are more repetitive, stressful or mental instead of challenging, interesting or exciting. In order to overcome OCD, it is very important to integrate passion in your life and to find a job you’re passionate about.

This doesn’t mean you have to like everything you do at work, but as a whole your job should be fulfilling to you. Moreover, it is important to feel connected to your job.

Quitting your job can be scary but the moment you leave you’re creating space. Space to observe how we really want to occupy our time, without thinking about what other people might say about this.

  1. Always listen to the people around you

When you suffer from OCD it is very likely that your environment will resist or block any attempts on your part to do anything new or out of the ordinary. When you are willing to try something new they might warn you by saying “are you sure?”, “that could be dangerous” or “it might go wrong”. Or they might question you by saying “are you sure that fits you? It just doesn’t seem like YOU to me”. All this might appear as good advice but has a lot to do with the fears of the people in your environment.

This is one of the main issues in people with OCD, you are not just battling your own fears but also the fears and personal barriers of the people in your environment. This can make it extra hard to make changes in your life.

However, it is important to know that if you were to continue to do the same activities you always have, it will be difficult to overcome OCD. Otherwise you might have already overcome it. That’s why at some point you will have to face both your own blockages and the ones of the people around you. This might mean that you have to face judgment and that you will have to break the image people had of you.

However, it is very healthy to not live according to the standards of others. Not trying to be normal can actually extend your life. Research has shown eccentric people to live 5 years longer.  

That’s why it is important to do the activities you need or want to do, even if your environment will criticize you for it. It is good to act silly. You should study (again) if you want to, dress the clothing you want. You should travel alone even though everyone says it will be dangerous or that you will be bored. You should make jokes without fearing if it’s the perfect moment or occasion.

All this makes live interesting. When you live your life according to other people’s criteria you get stuck at some point. You live trapped under the mask of other people’s expectations; making it difficult to breath. This is why you can’t and shouldn’t always listen to the people around you.

  1. Put up with manipulation

Many people with OCD put up with heavy manipulation for a long time because they’re afraid of what might happen if they stick up for themselves. You don’t have to endure behavior that hurts you just because the person who does that has authority over or is related to you. You always have the right to defend yourself.

In the same way, it is important to know that you don’t have to limit yourself in telling another person your opinion or needs. You can say absolutely anything as long as you don’t disrespect the other person. And disrespecting someone would be to insult the other one.

By saying that you don’t like something, or that you’re fed up with the other person treating you wrongly or that you don’t want to do something, you’re not disrespecting anybody. On the contrary, you’re gaining respect for yourself.

Moreover, don’t feel afraid of losing somebody when you confront them with behavior you don’t like from them. In your life you should be surrounded by people who make you feel good and who are receptive to your needs. If a specific person doesn’t have this capacity, then maybe they are not a good match to you.

Even if the person is a family member that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will love this person or that they will treat you right. This depends on their personality and behavior. So, feel free to express yourself when somebody doesn’t treat you right. This is a very important step in overcoming OCD.

  1. Being your children’s servant

We often say that our children are the most important part of our life. Many people live completely according to this statement. They dedicate all their free time to their children. They go to all their activities (basketball, football, ballet) whether they like them or not. They don’t let them play alone but feel they need constant monitoring. And not only this, the children also decide what the family does, and they rebel when the parents want to do something they don’t like.

And it doesn’t stop there. The children wake up their parents at the hour they decide. They don’t leave them alone a single moment, and they interrupt and ask for attention constantly.

In short, it becomes an unbearable situation.

This causes many parents to become so tired that finally they end up giving their children the tablet or a mobile phone to play with. At least this way they can relax a little bit.

In order to overcome this situation, it is important to allow children to have their own space and activities (for example by letting them play by themselves, playing outside in the park, or giving them something creative to do). Also, it is ok if you don’t accompany your children on any activity. They can play a competition on their own and have fun with their friends. This doesn’t make you a bad parent, on the contrary.

Moreover, it is also essential to delimit your own activities in which the children can’t disturb you. These activities can be sleeping, reading, tinkering it doesn’t matter. You decide. And yes, children can learn to respect this. Do you remember when our parents would read the newspaper or would watch the news? We wouldn’t disturb them most of the time.

To set limits with regard to every family member’s personal activities can be healthy for everyone. It is important to have time for yourself, both for parents and children alike.

In this way all members of the family will learn that it is positive to have a private personal life, both inside and outside the family, and that this makes you happier and more self-sufficient.

Also, the moments you spend with your children will be better in quality once you’ve had time for yourself.

  1. Thinking that anxiety is caused by obsessions

Many people who suffer from OCD think that their anxiety is caused by their obsessions. This is not true. Obsessions are the consequence of an elevated level of anxiety.

An elevated level of anxiety usually originates in infancy or adolescence- The cause is usually a traumatic event (death of a loved one, accident…) or a prolonged period of stress (bullying, abuse, maltreatment, worries about money, fights between parents etc.).

When the level of anxiety rises and rises, the child can start to inhibit themselves in order not to annoy or attract attention from the parents/bullies/stressors. As they inhibit themselves more and more they can finally lose their instincts. Once this happens, the person can suffer a collapse from the central nervous system.

What happens in this case is that the person’s vital energy gets stuck in their head and that it starts to generate obsessive thoughts as opposed to flowing freely.

Thus, obsessions don’t cause anxiety. On the contrary, they are the consequence of a level of anxiety that is so high that it can’t find any other way to express itself anymore other than mental symptoms.

This is why it is important to treat the causes of the anxiety as opposed to treating the symptoms. If you’d like to read more about this, you can read the article the meaning of OCD.

  1. Continue a therapy in which you feel you’re not making any progress

Many people who suffer from OCD have been in therapy for years and haven’t felt they’ve made any progress. This tends to happen because in many therapies the goal is to manage the symptoms instead of curing what causes them.

Like we said before OCD is caused by an elevated level of internal anxiety. If the causes of this anxiety are not addressed in therapy, it is very difficult to cure the symptoms. This is why it’s so important to be in a therapy that makes you feel that you’re improving on a profound level and not just scratching the surface.

If you are in a therapy in which you don’t feel that you’re making progress, or if you don’t feel a connection with your therapist, it is important to switch your therapist or method. Since OCD causes a lot of suffering, it is not worth it to dedicate time and effort to a treatment that doesn’t make you feel you’re heading somewhere. Don’t feel wrong about making this decision if you do. Therapy is something very personal and it is very important that you feel it is working for you.

If you’d like to know more about what to do and what not to do when you have OCD, feel free to write us at info@ipitia.com or to call us at +34 935 282 353.

Lisette Zeeuw

Psicóloga Clínica


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