Getting Unstuck: OCD

Getting Unstuck: OCD

Have you ever felt stuck on a thought? Nagged by worry you simply can’t seem to banish from your mind? Walked down the street with a difficult conversation constantly replaying in your head? Sometimes our busy brains play a scenario over and over again, without a solution.

Often, we imagine the worst.

With such a busy brain we can’t fall asleep, or we awaken in the middle of the night with the cracked record of worries playing over and over again. We’re stuck. And the image of being stuck, as it turns out, is a useful way of understanding what’s literally happening in our brain. Our brains are hardwired to detect mistakes.

We have error-detection circuits in the brain that constantly search for potential mistakes or dangers, orienting the organism to take steps to protect itself. This error-detection capacity, which happens automatically, is thus for a good reason: it optimizes our chances of survival.

Think of the antivirus program on your computer. It scans each website, download, and e-mail for threats. When the antivirus protection works well, it’s almost invisible—working in the background, holding things up just for just a few milliseconds as it scans for unwanted intruders. However, imagine that the antivirus program is not functioning well; in that case, it might flag nearly every website, e-mail, and document as being a potential threat, even when no threat is there. The flow of your work on the computer would be slowed down immensely.

Eventually, the computer might become paralyzed, and with it your ability to work. That’s what happens when the error-detection circuits in your brain are overactive. You become slow, sometimes to the point of paralysis, needing to check and recheck and check again. Stuck—sometimes to the nth degree.

Error-checking matters. Our ancestors from many thousands of years ago needed to constantly scan for threats to their existence. Whether in matters of hygiene (think cleanliness and contamination obsessions such as repetitive and excessive hand washing) or the safety of one’s family and dwelling (think lock-checking compulsions), checking and even double-checking likely improved the chances of staying safe and secure, of surviving.

Obviously, survival behaviors have their place, and mild stuck-ness on these behaviors may be a good thing. Regular hand washing reduces the risk of contamination and the spread of infection.

However, more severe obsessions and compulsions are the mistake-detection circuitry run amok. The antivirus program flags every little thing, paralyzing the computer and blocking you from doing the work you need to accomplish.

We Can Help

OCD is an intricate and often misunderstood condition; Amen Clinics can help decipher the right treatments and protocols. If you would like to learn more, please visit us online or call 888-288-9834 today.


  1. I personally found the article very interesting. I liked the analogy of the overacting virus detect system and I would definitely like to read more in the book.

    Comment by Heléna Kurçab — May 5, 2016 @ 5:28 AM

  2. The headline of the email and “bait” that got me to this page was “How i started to recover from my OCD.”

    Very different than the tone and scope of this email. I find this discouraging and misleading. My daughter is a sufferer and I clicked through hoping to hear about how someone recovered. Instead I got this article.

    Comment by Lily — January 19, 2018 @ 4:00 AM

  3. Lily, I agree with you.

    Comment by Keith — January 19, 2018 @ 8:30 AM

  4. This article was very disappointing. The title leads me to believe you were going to offer ways to get unstuck but you’re just fishing for rich patients. Waste of my time. Tell me something I don’t know.

    Comment by Julie Jensen — January 19, 2018 @ 8:36 AM

  5. I also agree, I could use some help.

    Comment by Dwight — January 19, 2018 @ 8:39 AM

  6. Hello Dwight, thank you for reaching out about the content in this blog. Here is more information on OCD.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 19, 2018 @ 9:07 AM

  7. Hello Julie, thank you for reaching out about the content in this blog. Here is more information on OCD.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 19, 2018 @ 9:07 AM

  8. Hello Lily, thank you for reaching out about the content in this blog. Here is more information on OCD.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 19, 2018 @ 9:08 AM

  9. After struggling for years with varying levels of OCD behavior and obsessive thinking, I found relief and a “cure.” A scientist researcher who linked OCD to low serotonin levels in the brain: William Walsh PhD. Check out his several taped presentations on YouTube. Also check out his book: “ Nutrient Power” ( also check out Julia Ross’s book: “Mood Cure”. Low serotonin can be improved with supplements of 5HTP – the amino acid precursor to serotonin which is taken with a complete B complex vitamin that does NOT have folic acid (artificial B9) and the other cofactors necessary to produce serotonin including Vit. B3, B12, B9, magnesium and iron – food sources are not always enough. You will also want to check your methylation genetics by asking your doctor/naturopath to test your genetics for a MTHFR gene anamoly- 30-40 % of the world’s population has 1 MTHFR gene defect and 10-15% of people have 2! Methylation is a metabolic process required in the human body to produce neurotransmitters, DNA, all hormones and basic mitochondria (energy production) in every cell of your body. Also a heart-based meditative practice (loving-kindness emotional energy directed toward yourself – into your heart/chest does wonders to break thinking “loops” of OCD and activated the parasympathetic nervous system into rest and focus on one’s own breathing as opposed to obsessive thinking. (Out of the head and into the heart) do NOT do TM (transcendental meditation practice) as this is more “head-based” and you want to get OUT of your mental looped OCD thinking and into your body and heart through focusing on your breath. Your exhale activated the parasympathetic (resting and calming) nervous system, while your inhale activates the sympathetic nervous system into more obsessing, so be sure to draw out and elongate your exhales – with a word mantra like “peeeeeaaaaaaaaccccccceeeee” (peace) or love or whatever relaxes you. Nutrition and a self-compassion based breathing/meditation practice can eliminate obsessive thinking and OCD behaviors.

    Comment by John S — January 19, 2018 @ 1:44 PM

  10. John S. Thanks you SO much for your informative comment. It was so well written, in a way that was easy to understand. I have had varying degrees of OCD for almost 40yrs. No therapist has been any real help. I think you are absolutely correct in your comments. I only wish I had a therapist/Dr. who could help me as much as your message did! Bless you!

    Comment by Scarlett D. — January 19, 2018 @ 3:47 PM

  11. Thank you John S. For taking the time to write all of that- sounds like great advice to try 🙂

    Comment by Keisha Garcia — January 19, 2018 @ 4:13 PM

  12. Do you have a suggestion of a good 5 HTP supplement? Also, it needs to be taken with complete b complex? I was confused by that part. The B9 mentioned is not the synthetic?

    Comment by Sara — January 19, 2018 @ 4:52 PM

  13. Thank you John for taking the time to write your comment . I don’t have OCD, but have other symptoms related to low serotonin social anxiety, ruminating, and depression. I’ve heard dr Walsh speak several times and I was really impressed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Walsh trained doctor in my area. Did you work with doctor Walsh directly?

    Comment by Dawn — January 20, 2018 @ 7:53 AM

  14. ditto above

    Comment by GREAT INFO...gonna pass along! — January 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

  15. Dear Dr, Amen been reading your posts for months and cried over this one. I know I’m tired and hungry but I guessed OCD. I have an extensive history, as I’m sure you deal with all the time. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate all that you write, teach,and want to help brain health in everyone, without shoving it down their throat.

    Comment by M.E. Sherman — February 2, 2018 @ 8:00 PM

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