Game Plan

Here’s another great article by Dr. Steven Phillipson, entitled “Strategies for Managing OCD’s Anxious Moments (Dance with the Devil)”. It’s the same old “OCD-as-the-Devil” analogy which actually works quite well.

It actually says “By L. Potter and the Friday Night Group — Adapted from Speak of the Devil by Dr. Steven Phillipson” so, um, I’m not sure how to correctly attribute an author here. But there’s the information; you figure it out.

The piece first goes into OCD’s “game plan,” then suggests what ours should be in dealing with it. One thing that particularly resonated me was that OCD tends “To exploit moments of weakness that come at the worst possible times in your life, i.e., when you perceive that it will be disastrous to become anxious.” That’s definitely true for me! Just like when I’m eating or expected to give a speech or sometimes even finish a sentence my breathing tic will creep in, at the worst possible times my OCD fears pop up, too. It’s not coincidental — those are moments I am more vulnerable to all my fears, especially my worst ones. Most of the time it simply means I have to watch out at the end of the day when I’m tired, because my OCD is bound to cause me to start worrying about something then. Which is funny, because normal people are like “I’m too tired to worry about little things right now” whereas my brain is like “I’m tired — that means I might’ve missed something important that I should be worried about!” But it also means I have to be wary of important times in my life — the loss of a loved one, happy occasions such as weddings, or anything terribly affecting whether negative or positive. It’s these times that I feel the need most to protect myself, and my OCD is trying to do that, but doesn’t realize it’s doing a horrible job. That’s why it ends up being called “Devil” in articles like this — it’s not a bad guy or an enemy, really, it’s just our brain, and our brain wants to protect us, but sometimes its logic is all wrong.

Also from the article: “Consider not rationalizing with the devil: do not attempt to treat the OCD by logically disputing the irrational nature of the spikes.” This is important because when you engage the OCD thought directly, you won’t win. This is probably why I have a knee-jerk reaction when people tell me “Don’t worry” which actually makes me worry even more. The thing you want to do when dealing with someone with OCD is not to tell them not to worry, but instead encourage them to objectively examine their thoughts and fears. A great way to do this is by asking questions instead of making assumptions or giving advice. Instead of saying “That’s a silly thing to worry about” or “You can’t change that” ask questions like, “What are you feeling right now? Why does this make you so upset? Is there anything you can do to affect this situation?” Or, try taking the fears at face value and see what happens. “OK, maybe all those dishes really are still dirty. But — are you sure the napkins are really clean too? What about the table? What about the cleaner you used on the table — how do you know that’s not poison?” If you can eventually get the person to realize there is some degree of uncertainty in all aspects of life, they will either A) Become motivated to accept uncertainty and begin doing so or B) Break down, shut themselves in and do as little as possible. Now of course B is a bad thing, but sometimes things have to get worse before they get better and you can’t overcome OCD without learning to accept uncertainty. That’s why reassurance doesn’t help. Don’t tell me “Everything’s OK” because I know it’s not. Not only that, but I know you don’t know, and no one really knows. The only correct answer is “Things are probably OK and for now we just have to assume that and accept that we can’t be prepared for everything that happens in life.”

If reassurance works, it’s temporary. And you’ll most likely find the time-frame that it works becomes shorter, and shorter, and shorter.

One last quote from the page: “This management is not a cure: if you choose to take the leap, this will require consistent effort for as long as the devil decides to deal it out.”

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