Mental CompulsionsApr 08, 2023
It can sometimes be tricky to identify our mental compulsions. There are many you may not recognize! I've compiled a list of some of the most common ones I see / experience. Scroll through for some Q+A about mental compulsions.
IS ______ A MENTAL COMPULSION TOO?
This is not a comprehensive list. Mental compulsions are anything you do internally to reduce, neutralize, or eradicate your distress associated with your OCD obsessions and intrusive thoughts.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EFFECTIVE THINKING AND COMPULSIVE THINKING?
The goal here is not to stop thinking altogether. For instance, there are times when counting in your head is effective and times when it might be compulsive. Maybe those even occur in the same day or same hour! So how do we well the difference? It all comes down to intention.
Is your intention to pray to connect with higher power?
Or to pray to get rid of your distress?
Is your intention to review something that happened so you can make appropriate apologies?
Or is it to "fix" something and get rid of your distress?
Typically, compulsions feel more urgent and specific. You might find it harder to delay or walk away from the behavior. There is a lot of trial and error as you figure it out- be patient with yourself! These behaviors don't change overnight.
WHAT IF THIS LIST IS OVERWHELMING?
Makes sense! You might be recognizing patterns with ways you're thinking. When I first learned about mental compulsions I felt like they were most if not all of my thoughts! Be gentle and compassionate with yourself. It might be overwhelming because you're wondering how you'll ever possibly stop them all. Keep in mind that your OCD wasn't created in a day and that it will take practice to stop engaging with these compulsions. Start small.
Other people may feel distress realizing they don't do each and every one of these. Do they still have OCD? Maybe. Lean into that uncertainty while you still engage in ERP.
HOW DO I STOP?
Did you know that when psychologists were given a list of people's intrusive thoughts with OCD and those without OCD- they could NOT tell the difference? The difference lies in what people do with them. With OCD we give them more credit and engage in compulsions to get rid of them. Therefore, our goal is not to get rid of our obsessions!
It's also not to get rid of our distress or even the urge to do a compulsion. The goal is to be able to let the distress be there and go down on its own without us even having to do anything about it.
That's where ERP comes in! Overtime these obsessions and this distress feel far less threatening. See my other blog and instagram posts for more information on stopping compulsions!