Amplifying Obsessional Worry

Someone posted a link to this article on a Tourette’s forum I belong to:

http://www.ocdonline.com/Rethinkingtheunthinkable.php

In my opinion, this is a wonderful article about obsessional worrying or “Pure-O” OCD. In it, several interesting methods for dealing with obsessions are discussed, but one in particular that interests me is what I would call the “amplification” method; or, as Steven Phillipson refers to it here, “turning up the volume”:

Rather than attempting to escape the spikes, the person with “Pure-O” is encouraged to purposely create the thought, repeatedly, following its initial occurrence. One is also encouraged to take the presented topic and actually amplify the threatening component. This has the effect of desensitizing the brain to these spikes by sending the message that not only am I not going to attempt to escape these thoughts; but I am at such peace with them I can create a multitude of them. In response to the thought, “I might have run over someone on my way to work,” a beneficial response would be; “There is probably a stack of bodies all along the street; I probably wiped out half the population of my home town yesterday as well. I can’t wait to drive home tonight and kill the other half.”

I’ve found that this method works extremely well for me. Not only that, but having undiagnosed OCD my whole life, I kind of learned to do it on my own without realizing. I think it came from my older brother. When I was a child and would worry about germs/contamination, or obsess over washing my hands before eating at a restaurant, he would remind me that the cooks probably didn’t wash their hands, and that the plates probably weren’t properly washed, either. That sort of therapy works a lot better for me than someone simply telling me to “stop worrying” or that I’m “just being silly.” In fact, those negative critiques of my thinking actually amplify my fears most of the time, seeming to reinforce them. It works much better if I’m allowed the space to deal with my thoughts myself, and given credit for being able to decide what’s rational and what’s not, rather than being told so by someone else.

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