5 Simple Things I Can Do If I Have OCD

5 Simple Things I Can Do If I Have OCD


Do you have intrusive thoughts that keep looping in your head? Do you check the stove 20 times before you can head out the door to go to work? It could be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). An estimated 2 to 4 million people struggle with OCD, a condition that is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsions that can be debilitating. Just look at how they were making Gail’s life spin out of control.

Gail’s OCD Obsessions and Compulsions

On the surface, it seemed like she had it all. Married to her high school sweetheart, she had a couple of kids and a good job. But every night after work, Gail spent hours obsessively cleaning her house. If she saw anything out of place, she would scream at her family and become hysterical. She also felt compelled to wash her hands over and over and over again and insisted that her husband and kids wash their hands at least 10 times a day. Gail’s OCD was ruining her life and seriously impacting her family.

What Gail’s OCD Brain Scan Showed

To get an accurate diagnosis, Gail underwent a leading-edge brain imaging technique called SPECT. Her brain scan showed marked increased activity in the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus, an area involved in shifting attention. When there’s too much activity in this area, it causes people to get stuck on thoughts and actions.

Gail’s OCD Brain Scan: Note increased activity in an area called the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus (arrow).

Healthy Active Brain Scan:

Within six weeks on a targeted treatment plan, Gail was much more relaxed, greatly reduced her ritualistic hand-washing behavior, and stopped making her kids wash their hands every time they turned around. Her husband couldn’t believe the change and said Gail was more like the woman he had married.

If you have similar symptoms as Gail, you may have OCD like Gail, and you can get unstuck too.

5 Ways to Reduce OCD Symptoms

Here are 5 simple things you can do to minimize obsessive thoughts and decrease compulsions.

1. Notice when you are stuck.

Becoming aware of looping thoughts is essential to learning how to stop them and gaining control over OCD. Whenever you notice intrusive thoughts, imagine seeing a traffic stop sign in your head and silently say to yourself, “STOP. THIS IS MY BRAIN GETTING STUCK!”  For some people, the more they actively stop these thoughts, the more control they develop over them.

2. Distract yourself.

When you notice you are getting stuck, get up and do something else. If you actively distract yourself from repetitive thoughts or ritualistic compulsions, they will gradually begin to lose their control over you. Try any of the following to distract yourself:

  • Take a walk.
  • Sing a song that makes you happy.
  • Listen to music that makes you feel positive.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Meditate.
  • Do a household chore (unless the chore is part of a ritualistic compulsion for you).
  • Focus on a single word—for example, “love” or “one”— and do not allow any other thoughts to enter your mind. If other thoughts try to creep in, imagine a broom sweeping them out of your head.

3. Focus on foods that boost serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can help calm the overactive parts of the brain. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans, is a healthy way to boost serotonin. Avoid consuming simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, cookies, pretzels, and popcorn. Although they boost serotonin, they also contribute to increased feelings of anxiety, which is common in people with OCD.  

4. Get moving.

Exercise can be very helpful in calming intrusive thoughts and can help shift your attention when compulsions arise. Exercise works by increasing serotonin in the brain. In addition, it may distract you from obsessive thoughts and ritualistic behavior and compulsions.

5. Consider supplements that boost serotonin.

Helpful supplements that raise serotonin and calm overactivity in the brain include 5-HTP.

Since 1989, Amen Clinics has helped thousands of people, including Gail, get an accurate diagnosis and overcome OCD with targeted solutions that are proven to produce higher than average success rates.

If obsessive thoughts or compulsions are controlling your life and holding you back, don’t wait to seek professional help. Schedule a visit today or call 888-288-9834 to get a comprehensive evaluation.



  1. Hi have read your article on OCD which I have suffered with since my son had a life threatening illness nearly 40 years ago. We live in Glasgow Scotland could you recommend anybody/ organisation near where we live?
    Thank you for your many sources of media as I find it very helpful to research.

    Kind Regards

    Helen Mc Clymont
    Glasgow Scotland

    Comment by Helen Mc Clymont — May 13, 2019 @ 2:10 AM

  2. Where are you located and how far HomeAway from me

    Comment by Walter Davenport — May 13, 2019 @ 3:11 AM

  3. I have ocd and have been on Prozac and

    Comment by Donna kerrigan — May 13, 2019 @ 8:56 AM

  4. Is turmeric and magnesium an alternative to Prozac? I do take thyroid medication. Or would 5htp be better..

    Comment by Donna kerrigan — May 13, 2019 @ 9:00 AM

  5. I would like to know this answer also

    Comment by Carol — May 14, 2019 @ 4:42 PM

  6. My son is diagnosed with OCD. It’s a clear diagnosis based on his symptoms. What would the brain scan show that would be helpful in his treatment that would different than what he is already doing – Medication, therapy, ERP? Seems if the diagnosis is there the brain scan is not really needed. Thank you.

    Comment by Robyn — May 18, 2019 @ 12:12 PM

  7. Do you still have a website we can have access to with brain games, etc? I used to use it and loved it it! It was a monthly fee!

    Comment by Rena Beadle — May 18, 2019 @ 2:07 PM

  8. Hello Rena, yes we do! https://mybrainfitlife.com/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 20, 2019 @ 6:03 AM

  9. I’ve had OCD since I was a child. I am now 62.
    I also have chronic clinical major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD.
    As I have grown older, the OCD has become more and more debilitating. Gail’s story sounds mild to me.
    I am now on disability. I cannot get anyplace on time. I am alone. The only places I go are to my therapist once a week, and my psychiatrist about every six weeks.
    Medications don’t help me. I have an MTHFR gene mutation that causes me to have reduced folic acid conversion. I take 800 mcg of L-methylfolate daily, when I can afford it. I also have a CYP2D6 genotype (combination of CYP2D6*4 and CYP2D6*41/duplication) making me a poor medication metabolizer. Most medications only make me sick. My OCD is so extremely out of control at this point, it is increasing my depression to the point that I don’t function. I stay in bed. I’m very close to giving up. It takes me so long (hours, to all day) to get ready to go places, it has became too much, and I just stay home. No one can help me, and my life feels hopeless. My family doesn’t understand any of what I deal with so I rarely talk to them. They believe if I would just find a new job, I would be okay. They wouldn’t even read any of the information I used to give them. I’m on my own. I lost my home and am in an apartment. I recently learned they have raised the rent here, and when my lease renews in August my rent will increase $100 per month. I’m afraid of ending up homeless. I’m alone, and afraid. Can you help a lost cause like me? I never thought I would end up like this.

    Comment by Jane McDowell — May 28, 2019 @ 7:26 PM

  10. Jane, my heart hurts for you and what you are going through. I hope and pray that you have heard back from a medical professional through this forum. There is always hope. Our hope is in our God and I believe God will bring what you need in the way of people and professional help to bring healing to your body. I will be praying for you dear lady.

    Comment by Steve — June 29, 2019 @ 3:42 AM

  11. Hi Jane,
    I recommend listening to podcasts with Daniel Amen in the podcast. They are super helpful! Like nutrition, exercise, fish oils, multi vitamin, gingko. Focusing on detoxification of the body, saunas, sweating, detoxifying the body with different herbs etc. Making the whole body healthy! Good luck there is so much that can be done!

    Comment by Nicholas — August 29, 2019 @ 4:38 PM

  12. In all of Dr. Amen’s books, is there one that specifically that deals with OCD?

    Comment by Susan — September 23, 2019 @ 6:10 PM

  13. I have started to take milk thistle . How long can I take this .?

    Comment by Donna — January 14, 2020 @ 12:45 PM

  14. Hi Jane,
    You aren’t alone. I know you are frustrated and those who don’t understand can upsetting. Please don’t give up hope.
    OCD can be comorbid with other issues.
    I didn’t find SSRIs “alone” to help much with mine.
    I’m just going to throw out some ideas, and maybe a few will help or ring a bell.
    I find that a very low dose of serotonin, dopamine and gabapentin has effectively reduced my symptoms. If I add more exercise, even 15 minutes of yoga a day, it is almost non-existent.
    My treatment after years of experimenting with medications and supplements: magnesium, 5-10 mg of gabapentin, 2 mg of Zoloft, and approximately 2-3 mg of Adderall (twice daily). I’m very sensitive to medications, hence the low dosage.
    The dopamine seemed to help more, in a low dose, than serotonin alone did in over 15 years of my life.
    ADD/OCD can be challenging.
    I don’t do well with just serotonin or just dopamine, for example. Though Adderall was the most helpful with some of my obsessive thoughts, serotonin was helpful with others.
    My brain eventually started shifting properly with the addition of gabapentin. It calmed the activity significantly. I also add lemon balm when stressed as well. Over the counter GABA supplement helped as well.
    I’m still a bit of a perfectionist, but it doesn’t take over my life or my income like it used to.
    Right now I’m in between doctors after moving so I find taking Bronkaid, which stimulates mild serotonin and dopamine production along with a low dose of gabapentin has also worked well in a pinch.
    My only advice to anyone is to trust yourself. Even if your doctor doesn’t seem to understand. In treatment challenging situations or comorbid diagnoses, experimenting to find the right combination is what has improved my life significantly. Best to Jane and everyone struggling with finding the right treatments.

    Comment by AprilDC — February 8, 2020 @ 6:21 AM

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