Obsessive Behavior: 10 Ways To Cope With OCD

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated May 06, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness characterized by a series of fears that become obsessions and cause a person to repeatedly perform certain actions or compulsions.

Some of the more well-known compulsions include locking doors multiple times, excessive handwashing, and repeating words or noises a certain number of times.

Generally, there is a deep need within a person with OCD to perform their compulsions. If one tries to resist them, they can become anxious and may be irritable or become angry.

The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to treat your obsessive behavior.

Do Your Research

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The first step to helping yourself through this disorder is to understand your symptoms. Do your research and find out everything you can about your condition.

This is important because if you don't understand the background, you may explore treatment that may not help you on your journey.

For example, many may try to ignore their symptoms as a way to "forget" their compulsions. However, this is not a successful solution.

Take A Break

If you feel overwhelmed by obsessive behaviors, take a break.

When you are experiencing these compulsions, the anxiety and distress you feel can often be overwhelming. Take a moment to relax and cool down. Focus on your breathing and pay attention to the tenseness in your shoulders and throughout your body. As you breathe, you should feel your body start to relax.

Another thing you can do is take a simple walk (or run) in the park or at the gym. Exercising releases endorphins – happy chemicals that relax your mind and body. Try to focus on the trees around you or listen to an upbeat song while you do this.

Even though taking a break may not do much to calm your obsessive thoughts, it can make the presence of obsessive thoughts much less daunting and less stressful. You may display obsessive behaviors, but that doesn't mean they have to take over your entire life!

Practice Self-Care

The first thing you should do any time you are faced with a challenge is to focus on yourself.

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Self-care is simple. Set time aside to pay attention to yourself and your needs or wants. You can take this time to complete activities that will make you feel happy or stress-free. Some people choose to drink a glass of wine or take a bubble bath. Others prefer to enjoy a meal out of the house or go to the movies. What you choose is up to you – just make sure it is fun and stress-free!

The other benefit of self-care is that it can allow you to feel some control over how you feel so that you have enough energy left at the end of the day to manage the challenging elements of your disorder. Again, this strategy may not directly address your OCD symptoms, but it can revitalize your mind and help prepare you to fight the battles ahead.

Resist Your Urges

When you feel an obsessive thought start to come on, do your best to resist the urge to complete the behavior as best you can. This is not to be confused with ignoring the urge. It can be helpful to acknowledge your thoughts but dig down deep and try as hard as possible to resist the urge to act.

At first, this will likely prove to be extremely difficult. You might feel an overwhelming urge that seems to get worse the longer you fight it. As time goes on, though, it should get easier and easier. Most likely, you will notice your urge start to fade, and eventually, you may not have the urge at all.

If you are struggling with multiple obsessions, try to only focus on one at a time. Taking on all (or many) at once can sometimes be too overwhelming. Be realistic in your goals and start small. If you have one compulsion that is less intense than others, choose that one first.

Keep Your Support System Close

Your support system is perhaps the best tool you have to manage compulsive behavior. This can be a person or group of people you trust or a licensed counselor or therapist.

One suggested method of staying on track during is getting an accountability buddy. This person will be someone you can call or text when you feel a compulsion come on. This person should encourage you and possibly help distract you from things that trigger your thoughts.

Another person you might consider recruiting is a licensed professional. Many of the most successful treatments for OCD are implemented right from a therapist's office. They can give you homework assignments and other tips to help you manage your OCD. Talk to them about your compulsions and how your disorder makes you feel.

Research shows that online therapy is also a beneficial treatment option for those living with OCD. This study found that internet-based counseling “can serve as a powerful therapeutic alternative for patients who forego traditional CBT due to time, monetary constraints, and/or stigma.”

BetterHelp is the world’s largest online counseling platform and offers access to licensed therapists, anytime, anywhere. Every counselor has at least three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience helping people improve their mental health and enhance their quality of life. Read these BetterHelp therapist reviews from people like you.

“Melanie is such a thoughtful and caring counsellor. She has really helped me in dealing with my OCD and provided me with a lot of support through the conversations we have had as well as proving me with helpful coping mechanisms. Melanie is very non-judgmental and is really willing to help you deal with any anxieties you are having while ensuring that you stay in the right track.”

“Laura has been a life saver, literally. Without her, I would have drowned in my compulsive, obsessive, irrational thoughts. Thank you for saving me from me and making me feel worthy, safe and valid. You are an angel Laura!”

Avoid Drugs And Alcohol

For many trying to manage their obsessive behavior on their own, turning to drugs or alcohol can be tempting.

While drugs and alcohol may provide instant relief, remember that it is only temporary. Many health risks associated with drug and alcohol use can be as difficult or worse than OCD, and the effects of drugs and alcohol can make your condition worse in the long run.

Invest In A Tech Gadget

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We live in a time where the latest technology is literally at our fingertips. Technology can be a helpful tool in your journey to overcome your OCD.

Let’s say you have obsessions around making sure the oven is turned off or the door is locked. Consider installing a camera facing the areas you find yourself checking multiple times. This is a way you can reassure yourself that you have taken care of the issue and will help you to calm your anxiety.

It is important, though, if you choose this route, to be very careful not to develop an obsession with checking the cameras or other tech gear in your home. Limit yourself to checking these once or twice a day.

If you start to feel like you must check them more often or you feel anxious when you don't, discontinue use immediately. You will do yourself no favors by replacing one bad habit with another.

Don't Engage Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome, irrational thoughts that come on suddenly. They can range from mild to extremely disturbing.

For those experiencing obsessive behavior, intrusive thoughts can be extremely difficult to shake off. When you think an intrusive thought, be careful not to engage it. Much like your obsessions, you want to acknowledge it but don't give it power.

Remind yourself that intrusive thoughts are a part of your condition and that they are not indicative of who you are as a person.

Celebrate Yourself

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Celebrate your small victories. This will give you the strength and perseverance to keep pushing forward, especially when it gets tough.

When you reach a milestone, no matter how big or small, make it a point to reward yourself. This can be something simple like buying a tub of your favorite ice cream, or you can do something more lavish such as going out to a nice dinner with friends or throwing a party.

You must keep reminding yourself that you are undergoing treatment for yourself and that it's sometimes going to be tough. You won't always have an easy way to get around the challenges your OCD will bring you, but if you celebrate yourself, the happiness and joy that you feel after you accomplish something great will give you enough energy to keep pushing forward no matter how rough the road gets.

Be Patient

The most important thing you can remember is to be patient with yourself and grant yourself grace where needed.

To many people's disdain, recovery doesn't happen overnight. There will likely be many slips and falls on your journey. This will undoubtedly frustrate you, and you will likely think more than once about giving up on treatment entirely. It will not be easy, but the result will be so worth it!

The process is long and can be grueling at times. Remember to take a deep breath and keep trekking on. This is a long and hard journey, but perhaps one of the most important ones you will walk in your life!


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