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Stopping Your Compulsions

Home Study
  • Stop Obsessing!
    Chapter 6. Mastering Your Compulsions
  • The Stop Obsessing! Audio-Tapes
    Tape 2-2: How to Handle Compulsions

Now we are going to talk about compulsions, or rituals. We've already explained how rituals tend to persist because they provide temporary relief from your obsessions. But the solution can be as bad as the problem. Rituals can begin to take more and more of your time, and eventually dominate your life.

Ultimately, getting rid of your OCD symptoms means giving up the rituals. For now we propose that you temporarily delay the goal of ridding yourself completely of the compulsions, so that you can focus your efforts on specific, smaller modifications. Little changes. Reachable goals, to prepare yourself for successful resistance in the future.

In this section, we will describe four techniques you can use to start to prepare yourself to give up the rituals. The fifth self-help technique we will present will help you stop ritualizing altogether.

The first four self-help practices can be applied while you work on letting go of your obsessions. Or, if you'd prefer, you can first work on your obsessions and then start changing your compulsions.

Now let's look specifically at the techniques. This material is also covered in Chapter 6 of the self-help book Stop Obsessing!.

There are no rules as to which you should try first or which will work better for certain rituals. However, when you chose one technique, give it enough opportunity to work for you. Don't simply dismiss a method because it isn't helpful the first few times.

We know just how much courage it takes to challenge your obsessions and compulsions. These symptoms can be powerful, and a tentative commitment for change will not be enough. Winning the battle requires that you be persistent in following a new plan of action. Again and again, people with OCD have proven that they can improve their lives dramatically by actively following through on their decision to give up their obsessions and compulsions. You too can join them by searching inside for strength and determination.

There's no need for you to tackle your problem alone. If you are hesitant to begin the program, or if you start losing your momentum after a few weeks, then seek the help of a trained mental health professional, find out if there is a local support group for OCD, or ask a friend to help you implement the self-help program.

Best of luck in your commitment.

Stopping Your Obsessions Self-Help

Self-Help Practice 1: Postpone Ritualizing to a Specific Later Time

We have already discussed how to postpone your obsessions. Many of the same principles apply to compulsions as well.

Postpone Your Ritual

  1. Mentally agree to pay attention to your ritual.
  2. Choose a specific time in the future when you will return to it.
  3. As that time arrives, either start ritualizing or consider postponing the ritual to another specific time. Whenever possible, choose to postpone.

If you have more than one ritual, select one you think might be the easiest to postpone. Then the next time you feel compelled to ritualize, delay it for a specified length of time. This is a mental ploy that will help you resist the ritual successfully because it requires resistance for only a short period of time. How long you postpone the ritualizing is a judgment you make based on what you think you can accomplish. Sometimes waiting thirty seconds is all you can tolerate. Other times, postponing for half a day is possible.

But please remember: that urge is just going to grab you. It's going to hit you instantly, and all you will be able to think about is ritualizing.

You've got to drive a wedge between your urge and your action. Even stopping for thirty seconds is a worthwhile effort. Thirty seconds! It's not that long! Really focus on getting any length of time to pass before you impulsively ritualize.

This practice will help in two ways. First, you will begin to tolerate longer periods of distress instead of instantly reducing the discomfort through ritualizing. Second, successful postponement will enhance your sense of control.

Last Updated: 30 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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