Dear Soft Hearted Loves,
What is OCD?
In decolonializing care with the folx I serve and debunking a narrow-minded, Eurocentric field of psychology I’ve come to find trauma and grief show up in a number of different ways, including through obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is neurological and sometimes genetically linked. Sometimes it serves as a protection to keep someone from great grief or protects as control over one’s environment in some way. Whatever OCD is or wherever OCD comes from, folx who I serve who have OCD have experienced it on a heavier level lately and it is NOT THEIR FAULT. These thoughts can feel scary, dooming, and are often DEEPLY UNWANTED. I’m releasing a series of tips for adolescents and young adults regarding their OCD over the next few weeks.
OCD shows up in a number of different forms and can whack a mole into other forms from Relationship OCD (ROCD) to intrusive thoughts and magical thinking. OCD can also go hand in hand with things such as confessing or doing things to try and lessen the OCD. The more we learn it is neurological and ways to tend to it the more we can take away self-blame and a disappointing illusion of control. However, I will warn that sometimes simply reading about or watching information about OCD can be activating so please read this article with tenderness to any parts of you that may feel activated.
For the first OCD article in our series I’d like us to focus on the body. Sometimes uncertainty like the uncertainty we are experiencing in the world right now can be a trigger. Sometimes hormonal changes such as pre-menstrual cycle can trigger OCD quite a bit. Sometimes nothing in particular seems to trigger OCD. Some triggers for OCD can be addressed in the body. Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Seif and Winston discusses how caffeine, media, and other substances can worsen the racing, charged, looping thoughts.
You can note the charged thought or compulsion. You can observe and witness it without blaming yourself. We cannot cognitively control our first automatic thought. It is not your fault. Now that you’ve noted the thought or compulsion you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. In the blog from last week I briefly explain how this parachutes us down to a grounded, safe space. Rather than trying to figure out what’s up in our minds or why it is there or how to make it stop, focus on the bottom of your belly filling up with air by breathing in slowly through the nose, hold the breath at the top for an extra second, and slowly release the air like you’re blowing out birthday candles, emptying all the air from the bottom of your belly. Do this for a few minutes. Do this daily throughout the day. You can ask a parent or set up reminders. It’s crucial to practice belly breathing daily throughout the day to get the parasympathetic nervous system to a place where when there is a trigger then you can breath big and slowly. Focus on your breath. When you can’t that’s okay too because the body will parachute itself if you keep doing these slow breaths. There are also some great meditations on Insight Timer such as a meditation by Dr. LaTrice Dowtin titled “Allowing Distance From Thoughts”.
This workbook in combination with parasympathetic nervous system soothing activities can be helpful. This workbook can be purchased at this link: https://bookshop.org/a/23992/9781626254343
There are OCD specialists too.
Sneak Peak into Part Two
Our next article in this series will be on how to kindly quiet the inner critic versus the inner defender battle within. The inner defender may tell the inner critic kind, affirming things, but this battle will go on and on without some interruption from the quiet, calm, centered part of ourselves.