7 Steps to Stop OCD Compulsions: Regain Control

Written by Reid Wilson, PhD


Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be overwhelming, with anxiety and compulsive behaviors dominating your daily life. However, there is hope for finding relief and regaining control. Below, we will explore practical steps to stop OCD compulsions and empower yourself in the process. Remember, you are not alone, and with patience and perseverance, you can break free from the grip of OCD.

1. Recognize and Understand Your OCD

The first step in stopping OCD compulsions is acknowledging and understanding your condition. Educate yourself about OCD, its symptoms, and how it affects your thoughts and behaviors. By gaining knowledge, you can differentiate between your true self and the intrusive thoughts and fears that fuel your compulsions.

2. Practice Mindfulness and Acceptance

Mindfulness and acceptance play crucial roles in overcoming OCD compulsions. Practice being present in the moment and observing your thoughts, feelings, and rituals without judgment. Remember that your rituals do not define you. By accepting the presence of obsessive thoughts and uncomfortable feelings, you can gradually reduce their impact on your actions.

3. Postpone Ritualizing

Mentally agree to give your ritual mindful attention, and to delay it for a period of time. Postponing your ritual allows you to gain some control over your compulsion, at least for a period of time. This amount of time is entirely up to you, based on what you feel you can manage. You may choose to start with a short delay of one minute, and work up to a half a day or more. As you learn to dispute and delay these rituals, their hold on you will weaken, empowering you to resist the urge to engage in compulsive behaviors.

4. Change an Aspect of Your Ritual

Compulsive behaviors are repetitive, and analyzing their characteristics can help you determine an aspect you can change. By changing one element of your ritual, you begin to regain control over seemingly involuntary actions. List the characteristics of your ritual, including specific actions and feelings, and choose one you feel you can change. Then practice that change regularly over the next few days. Repeat this process until you have modified your ritual pattern to the point you feel you can let go of the behavior entirely.

5. Create a Consequence

If you have found a ritual that is particularly challenging to postpone and/or modify, add a consequence. It shouldn’t be self-punishing, but rather something that will distinctly disrupt your thought patterns. Choose a consequence such as putting money in a jar, going for a walk, or calling someone you trust. The consequence should be costly enough to create hesitation before you ritualize again.

6. Practice Self-Care and Stress Management

Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is vital in managing OCD. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and practice stress management techniques like meditation or breathing exercises. Prioritize self-care as an integral part of your recovery journey.

7. When in Doubt, Seek Professional Help

Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if you feel overwhelmed by the process. A qualified mental health professional can provide guidance and support on your journey to recovery. They will help you develop personalized strategies and coping mechanisms to manage your OCD effectively.

Stopping OCD compulsions requires dedication, patience, and perseverance. Remember that progress is not always linear, and setbacks are a normal part of the process. You deserve a life filled with peace, joy, and control, and with persistence and support, you can achieve it by implementing these steps to stop OCD compulsions.

About the Author

Dr. Reid Wilson

REID WILSON, Ph.D. has spent his entire 30-year career in the field of self-help for
anxiety disorders and OCD. He is Director of the Anxiety Disorders Treatment Center and is an international expert in the treatment of anxiety disorders, with books translated into nine languages. In 2014 he was honored with the highest award given by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and he was presented the 2019 Service Award by the International OCD Foundation. 

To learn more about Dr. Wilson, click here.

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