ERP for OCD: Taking Back Control with Exposure Practice

(Here is a link to the podcast if you would rather listen)

Let’s talk OCD. It’s not the cute quirk of “being a little OCD” that TV shows portray. It’s relentless thoughts that burrow into your brain, demanding specific actions (compulsions) to quiet the anxiety they stir up.

For years, those compulsions were my lifeline. I would have an obsessive thought. Then, I would try to think a better thought, say a prayer/chant and repeat my action to get rid of it. But here’s the kicker: those rituals never truly made the anxiety go away. In fact, they became a debilitating rabbit hole, sucking up my time and energy.

That’s when I discovered ERP therapy. It sounded crazy – facing my fears head-on without the safety net of compulsions? But guess what? It works.

ERP is like training your brain. We all know that avoiding the things we fear makes them scarier. ERP flips the script. By gradually exposing yourself to those triggers (without resorting to compulsions!), your brain learns that the anxiety isn’t actually so bad. It chills out, and guess what? So do you!

Here’s the thing: ERP isn’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s tough. The first time I tried it, facing a seemingly insignificant trigger (like putting on socks while having a death thought), my anxiety went haywire. But here’s the secret – it gets easier. The more you confront your fears without giving in to compulsions, the less scary they become.

Think of it like climbing a mountain. The initial climb is rough, but with each step, the view gets better. And the summit? Freedom from the OCD beast that’s been holding you back.

It’s not all about therapy sessions, though. Here’s what I’ve learned to manage the anxiety monster outside of therapy:

  • Deliberate Practice: Think of it as “exposure homework.” Maybe it’s touching a public doorknob (if you have a contamination fear), or, like mine – the socks.
  • Self-Compassion: There will be setbacks. It’s okay! Be kind to yourself and celebrate the little victories. If you improve just one percent each day, think how quickly you will be OUT of OCD. 

ERP isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s a powerful tool. It’s about taking back control, one trigger at a time. So, if you’re struggling with OCD, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You deserve to live a life free from the clutches of compulsions.

Here is a link to the podcast if you want to have a listen.