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.
- 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.