A hallmark of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is distorted thoughts that turn into patterns. These are the “obsessions” referenced in the disorder’s name. OCD thought patterns can severely impact the quality of your life. The more you try to not think of something, the more intensely it keeps popping up.
As a method of soothing the obsessions, a person with OCD will match them up with compulsions. These are actions and behaviors you believe will cancel out the obsessions. They typically have nothing to do with the thoughts but can very temporarily calm a person down.
Common Types of OCD Thought Patterns
Those with OCD may initially maintain an unrealistic need to know what is going to happen. This can lead to avoidance. After all, if you can’t be sure how something will turn out, why even try it? From there, the thought patterns can become more distorted in an increasingly exaggerated way, e.g.
- Overestimating both the risk of danger along with any potential consequences
- Inflating the importance of one’s thoughts
- Imaging your responsibilities to be much higher than they actually are
The disproportionate mindset needs to be soothed, and thus, the compulsions multiply. With help and support, someone with OCD can cultivate far more productive methods for managing intrusive thoughts.
7 Tips to Manage OCD Thought Patterns
Let’s start with a small step. Whenever a rumination cycle is starting, try to derail it through distraction. Immediately pick something else to do and do it without hesitation. It doesn’t have to be something major, so try, for example:
- Household chores
- Playing music and singing along
- Doing something creative, like drawing
- Calling a trusted friend or family member
- Engage in exercise, or at least take a walk
- Try meditation and deep breathing
Obviously, each person’s list will be different — depending on their individual needs and preferences.
Thoughts are not facts, so question them. Talk back to that inner voice. Interrogate it if necessary. Anxiety is a skilled liar so, almost always, the claims it makes can be debunked in a matter of seconds. If nothing else, challenge yourself to change your perspective about the subject at hand. Even when going through a distressing experience, it is your mindset that matters most.
3. Reject Perfectionism
Intrusive thoughts and overthinking are often the results of unrealistic expectations. This is not to say you should settle in your life. But rather, accept that attaining goals is like climbing a ladder. You’re aiming for the top, but you must take it one rung at a time. Keep a journal to monitor both your short- and long-term goals.
4. Identify Triggers
Once OCD thought patterns gain momentum, they can spiral out of control. The key is to stop them in their tracks. To accomplish this, it is critical for you to recognize what triggers you. This is another excellent use of your journal. Whenever you catch yourself ruminating, take notes:
- What happened right before the thought patterns launched?
- Where are you?
- Who are you with?
- What day and time is it?
7. Boost Your Self-Esteem
A poor self-image has been linked to rumination and even depression. Thus, a bulwark against OCD thought patterns is the work you do to boost your self-esteem. This is often accomplished in the presence of a skilled mental health practitioner.
Let’s Work Together to Manage OCD Thought Patterns
OCD is not something that should be addressed alone or with solely self-help steps. Anxiety therapy has been found to offer productive methods for managing the disorder and its symptoms. If what I’ve written above resonates with you, we should talk soon to get you on a healthy path to relief and self-esteem.