OCD and The Solving Ritual

Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

When someone is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, education is essential. Understanding what the disorder entails and how to best treat it are key components to recovery. As we know, however, OCD can be very sneaky, and sometimes this quest for knowledge can go awry. Sigh. Just when I thought OCD couldn’t get any more complicated…..

In this excellent post written by Stacey Kuhl Wochner, LCSW, Ms. Wochner explains that sometimes OCD sufferers (many who have had previous success with Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy) begin to feel that therapy is not helping as much as it used to. Why isn’t it working? Maybe they aren’t doing it right? Maybe they don’t truly understand everything about their OCD and treatment and need to learn more? What is happening is the uncertainty about keeping OCD in check is turning into an obsession. Sufferers believe they will never be able to beat OCD; their lives will be horrible.

So they begin a quest to research, learn and discuss everything there is to know about every aspect of OCD. Ms. Wochner calls this “the solving compulsion.” Sufferers might even attempt to engage in ERP therapy, but  for the wrong reasons. Exposures now become a compulsion, a way to reduce anxiety, instead of the anxiety provoking act they are intended to be.

How is this type of OCD dealt with? As Ms. Wochner tells us: “Having unwanted thoughts and feelings about losing control of your OCD is not the problem. Your effort to rid yourself of your thoughts and feelings is the problem.”  So really, it’s no different from other examples of the disorder. Sufferers need to feel the uncertainty about their OCD without allowing themselves to engage in any solving rituals. By doing this, they will be engaging in ERP Therapy in the right way and for the right reasons. Of course this will be anxiety provoking at first (which of course means you are doing it right) but eventually your OCD will lose its power.

I highly recommend reading her post, as I’ve only touched upon some of  the basics. What really became clear to me while reading this article is how crucial it is to have a therapist who truly understands OCD. My guess is there are plenty of health care providers who deal with patients with solving rituals (Ms. Wochner does a great job of describing a typical therapy session) and don’t even realize it. Therapy sessions with these providers will hurt, not help, OCD sufferers.

So yes, OCD is complicated, but not so complicated that it can’t be outsmarted. If you’re armed with a competent therapist and a willingness to face and accept the uncertainty of life, OCD doesn’t stand a chance.

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14 Responses to OCD and The Solving Ritual

  1. ERP needs to be carried out with a client to help disprove their irrational belief. However focused attention on constantly doing ERP isnt good as often the brain doesnt desensitise. I am a great believer in accepting the obsession is present but rediverting ones attention away from the pathological brain lock. A person has to understand how brain lock occurs and the misfiring within the information processing area of the brain i believe to become well. The problem with ocd if one focuses on helping a client by just doing erp they may over come that particular ocd but if they are not informed how to get out of brain lock the ocd will just latch on to something else they care about.

    • I certainly appreciate that there are many varied techniques that are helpful to OCD sufferers. Thanks for commenting.

      • Of course every client is individual and what may work for one may not be the best option for the other. In my personal experience of treating OCD, I have found that OCD irrational core beliefs do need to be dug up at the root. Just doing ERP may not always do this as OCD can change form. Good article well written . I hope you don’t mind me commenting Janet. Thank you

      • I welcome your insight and comments Sharon, and hope to hear from you again!

  2. Wochner’s article is interesting. I could relate to her description of the patient sitting in the therapist’s office, anxious about getting all the information possible, and getting it correct, right now. I’m like that quite often, and not just about OCD treatment. I’m like that with my depression treatment, too. So I guess I’m exhibiting OCD while in treatment for depression. (Sigh)

  3. Abigail says:

    Wow, that is a good article, as is your summary. I don’t regret most of my OCD learning – it is nice for knowing what kind of treatment I want, for being smart when I talk to professionals. But I have had to cut down on searching for blogs sometimes. I was a bit surprised when Wochner’s article brought up the fear of the medication not working well enough (I’m not worried about it’s effect on OCD, but I do worry about it’s effect on my depression). Times like this, I wonder how we can know anything for certain… I feel some way, but do I really feel it? I guess that awareness of uncertainty is a gift from my OCD. 😦 (Oh, have you noticed the theme where people with OCD obsess about whether or not they have OCD? Been there, done that, probably will again.)

    • Thanks for sharing, Abigail. It is amazing to me all the things those with OCD can be uncertain about! For me, I am aware of the uncertainty of life, but can easily (usually) put this awareness aside and not think about it. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to not be able to do that.

  4. This resonates with me deeply. Even though I know this line of thinking is fundamentally wrong, I keep trying to search for the magic key that will cure my OCD. I tend to buy lots of books about OCD, be really hopeful beginning them, and disappointed in myself at the end when I’m not magically better. Thanks for sharing this. Your blog is such an amazing resource.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the post resonated with you and I think this “solving ritual” just shows how sneaky OCD can be. I also just read your last post, and understand a bit more how you feel. I think you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself :).

  5. 71 & Sunny says:

    Thanks for bringing that awesome article to our attention, Janet. Very interesting. I’m not sure if I do this. I don’t think I do, but it’s definitely given me something to think about.

  6. Cherie Wood says:

    This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this OCD and The Solving Ritual. God Bless.

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