A Series of Unfortunate OCD Events (Chapter 4): Don’t Do this To Treat OCD
Most people with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) try to treat it on their own before going to a specialist. People may spend at least 100 hours researching websites, blogs, books, and workbooks. Despite all this information, here’s what not to do to treat OCD.
Can You Treat OCD On Your Own?
If you have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) symptoms, you’ve probably tried to treat it on your own. By the time people come to see me, they’ve usually spent at least 100 hours researching websites, blogs, and forums. They’ve also read at least a couple of books.
If you look up “OCD books” on Amazon, you’ll get 20 pages of suggestions. How do you know which ones to read? There’s no way you can read all of them. Trust me, I’ve had patients try.
Despite all this research and studying, most people still don’t fully understand what OCD is or how the information applies to them. Mostly, they get reassurance that what they have is likely OCD and that other people have had similar symptoms.
In order to treat your OCD, don’t rely on books and workbooks to get you through.
Unfortunately, most OCD books and workbooks aren’t going to help on their own. They may help once you’ve already been working with an OCD specialist and have a better understanding of how it works.
6 Reasons Why Books Don’t Work To Treat OCD
There is so much information out there. A lot of it is free. We’re tempted to think we can fix our health and mental health ourselves.
There are some things we can do on our own. Learning to manage OCD isn’t one of them. It’s too complicated and there are too many nooks and crannies.
Here are 6 reasons why OCD books and workbooks don’t work:
- No guarantees:
Many books and workbooks are written by therapists and researchers. Some of them are reputable and know a lot about what works best to treat OCD. Unfortunately, many of them don’t.
There’s no way for the public to know which book or workbook they should get or which ones can make them worse.
- They’re too technical:
Since many of these books are written by specialists and researchers, they’re often written in really advanced language. It would be great if these books could be in basic, everyday English.
Unfortunately, most experts don’t write like that. Other experts in their field expect them to write differently. I hope that what they wrote made sense to them. But, if you can’t understand it, then it’s useless to you.
- Explanations are too generic:
When you’re writing a book, you can’t get into every example or every exception. You’d wind up writing thousands upon thousands of pages.
So, you may see yourself in some explanations, but not at all in others. How are you supposed to understand your OCD if you’re not diving deep into your OCD?
- Exercises are too rigid and generic:
Since these books are written for everyone, the exercises provided have to be really general. You won’t get a lot of guidance on how to modify exercises (e.g., an exercise was too difficult) or handle setbacks (e.g., a new OCD thought popped up).
By the way, both of these situations are inevitable once you start working on your OCD.
- No one is holding you accountable:
OCD is really scary. If it wasn’t, then the thoughts wouldn’t be an issue. You would just blow them off. Since they’re really scary, doing exercises that go against what the OCD is telling you to do will feel uncomfortable or even terrifying.
If someone isn’t standing there with you, you’re not likely to take on something terrifying. Humans are hard-wired to run away from anything terrifying.
- You won’t get the mindset:
There’s not enough information or guidance about the mindset and new thought patterns that are at the foundation of managing and conquering OCD.
Without the mindset, any gains are just new habits. You’ll do them but won’t understand why.
When your OCD flares again or something in life gets difficult, you’re likely to wind up at square one.
When to Call an OCD Specialist
We’re wired to understand why things happen. Our brains don’t do well with unanswered questions or situations that don’t make sense.
This is where OCD highjacks an already existing system and uses it against you. By creating really scary thoughts, the OCD forces you to go find a conclusive answer.
By the time you call an OCD specialist, you’ll probably do about 50-100 hours of research on your own. You’ll also ask others for information and reassurance countless times. You’re not trying to be annoying. You’re trying to calm a brain and body that feel like they’re on fire.
Most people call an OCD specialist when rituals and getting reassurance no longer calm down the scary thoughts and feelings.
Next Steps for Helping Yourself
In order to help yourself, avoid trying to overcome OCD on your own. Your best bet is to do two things:
- Look for general information about what OCD is and how it works.
Make sure the sources are reputable. Some of my favorites include:
- International OCD Foundation
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- Mayo Clinic
Once you understand the basic rules of this game, you can pretty quickly figure out how they apply to you. When you know what you’re working with, you might feel less overwhelmed. This will also save you time in therapy.
- Call an OCD specialist.
Find someone who specializes in OCD and schedule a consult.
Depending on where you live, you may need to work with a specialist by phone or virtual sessions. Thanks to technology, your access to an OCD expert has never been better.
The International OCD Foundation has a directory of therapists with the type of experience and knowledge you need.
If your OCD is so bad that it’s impacting your ability to do basic tasks like going to work, maintaining your hygiene, or interacting with your family, you may need something more intensive than once a week outpatient therapy. An OCD specialist will be able to recommend the best next steps.
We are anxiety and OCD specialists.
All of our staff members are trained in Exposure Response Prevention, the gold standard in treatment for OCD.
If you’re still in the learning phase and want more basic, straight forward information on OCD, please check out our other blog posts on OCD:
When you’re ready to take on the challenge of conquering your OCD, please contact us.