ERP Therapy: Better to be Proactive or Reactive?

I recently read this blog post which brings up a discussion that occurred at an OCD support group. I think almost all of those with OCD would agree that Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy can be very effective. One of the problems with it, however, is that by its very nature it is anxiety provoking. And who wants to willingly subject themselves to high levels of anxiety and discomfort?

So the question is: Do you seek out these anxiety provoking experiences, even going so far as to create them yourself, or do you just wait for them to come to you? You know they will, sooner or later.

When Dan began dealing with his severe OCD he would often say to me, “Make me do this,” or “Make me go here,” or “Don’t let me do this or that.” I don’t think either of us realized this at the time (I know I certainly didn’t) but he was instinctively engaging in ERP Therapy. At that point, he had not yet had any real treatment for his OCD. Still, even in his debilitated state, he somehow knew that exposing himself to what he feared most was his ticket out of the torturous cycle of OCD.

To those of us without OCD it may seem like a no-brainer. If this is the therapy that works, of course you should continue to practice it as much as possible.  Sure, easy for us to say. But if you have OCD, and your brain has been relatively quiet for a while, why would you want to shake things up? Why not enjoy the peace when you have it and deal with whatever you need to deal with when it comes along?

Of course there are no right or wrong answers here. Whatever works best for each person is the right thing to do for them….I think.  I would love to hear your thoughts…… Do you try to enjoy the calm before the storm, or do you create your own storms regularly in hopes of completely changing the weather pattern?

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