Do you have intrusive thoughts that keep looping in your head? Or do you have behaviors you keep repeating in a ritualistic manner? It could be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). An estimated 2 to 4 million people struggle with OCD, a condition that is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsions that can be debilitating.
They may involve repetitive thoughts of:
- Contamination, uncleanliness
- Anger, bitterness, wanting revenge
Many efforts are made to suppress or resist these thoughts, but the more a person tries to control them, the more powerful they become.
Compulsions are behaviors that are performed persistently and repetitively without leading to an actual reward or pleasure. Often, compulsions are an attempt to make obsessions go away and to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions. There is an urgent insistent sense of “I have to do it” inside.
Compulsions are often performed according to certain rules in a very strict or rigid manner, and can result in elaborate rituals. The most common compulsions include:
- Ritual: hand washing, counting, checking
- Touching (especially in a particular sequence)
- Picking skin or pulling hair
- Nail biting
- Compulsive stealing
- Compulsive shopping
- Unreasonably feeling a part of the body is excessively ugly
- Excessive preoccupancy or worry about having a serious illness
- Any other behaviors that feel necessary to do
OCD can keep a person from working or carrying out normal responsibilities at home. So what can you do about it? Here are five things you can do to minimize obsessive thoughts and decrease compulsions.
1) Becoming aware is essential to learning how to stop them and gaining control over OCD. You may see these thoughts and compulsions as habits or thoughts that you have that help to control your emotions. BUT, instead of feeling in control, these compulsions and looping thoughts are getting you stuck and probably affecting the people around you. If you are not aware, then ask the people who live with you what habits or thoughts you have that are compulsive. Most likely you are impacting their lives and they would like to see you get un-stuck. God knows your thoughts. “Search me, God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23
2) When you notice you are getting stuck, get up and do something else. If you actively distract yourself from repetitive thoughts or ritualistic compulsions, they will gradually begin to lose their control over you. Try any of the following to distract yourself: Focus on God, He is the only One in control. Pray, read scripture and meditate. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
3) Boost Serotonin thru diet, exercise, grateful thinking and taking time out to enjoy relationships. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can help calm the overactive parts of the brain. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans, is a healthy way to boost serotonin. Avoid consuming simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, cookies, pretzels, and popcorn. They contribute to increased feelings of anxiety which is common in people with OCD.
4) Exercise can be very helpful in calming intrusive thoughts and can help shift your attention when compulsions arise. Exercise works by increasing serotonin in the brain. In addition, it may distract you from obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behavior and compulsions.
5) Start your day with giving God thanks for at least ten things. This releases serotonin from your brain, uplifting your mood and calming you to face the day.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
Although the exact cause of OCD is not fully understood, studies have shown that a combination of biological and environmental factors may be involved. Additionally, there is new research showing a link between certain types of infections caused by the Streptococcus bacteria and certain types of OCD.
Environmental stressors may trigger OCD in people with a tendency toward developing the condition or cause a worsening of symptoms. These include:
- Early childhood trauma or neglect
- Changes in living situation
- Work- or school-related changes or problems
- Relationship concerns
- Death of a loved one
OCD, like many other conditions, is not just a single and simple disorder; therefore, the counselors at Royal Palm Christian Counseling help you find out what is causing the symptoms you are experiencing and treat the underlying cause, rather than just trying to fix the symptoms. Remember you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 NIV
God Bless You,
Colleen Shue, M.Ed in Counseling Psychology,
Certification In Biblical Counseling and Brain Health Coaching