Saturday, September 15, 2012

isolated OCD moments and exposure therapy

Recently, my OCD has been giving me isolated OCD moments when I get really anxious, fight back, and then somehow forget. Like last night. I was picking up a dvd that cost 15 dollars. I asked if a check would be fine, and was told who to make it out to. Then I worried about if I would spell it right, if it would work. So then I got 15 dollars in cash (okay, now I see that the build up took several steps over twenty-four hours). So then, I put the $15 cash in an envelope with the name on the front (the spelling wouldn't matter this way), put a blank check in my pocket, in case the cash didn't work, and went to pick up the dvd. I requested it, and was told I owed $15. So I rechecked the envelope (which I did not seal just so that I could recheck it), observed the three 5 dollar bills, and handed it to the man. He looked at the name on the front and said that worked. He didn't recheck the 3 five dollar bills. He gave me the dvd and I walked out, slowly so that he could call me back if the change was wrong. But I don't know if he checked it. I worried that if he did, and I was short, he wouldn't awkwardly confront me (he's a friend). So the anxiety mounted.

And then my years of therapy kicked in! I started repeating over and over to myself how I've stolen the dvd and it will mess up relationships. Over and over. I was going to get used to the anxiety! Well, I don't actually remember stopping. I remember that it took concentration to repeat my feared outcome. And I remember concentrating to do it. And then I remember observing people around me and trying to plan how to get into the room where auditions were taking place (not for me this time; for my little brothers) without causing a distraction or an embarrassing moment for myself. And guess what? The fear went away, not even to bother me later in the evening. Of course, now that I'm saying the fear is gone, it starts creeping up. I think that would fall under the "afraid of lying" obsession and compulsion more than my "afraid of accidentally stealing" fear.

Well, this morning, I got a text message. Usually that isn't too bad. But this was with the new pastor's wife of my new church. So I got really anxious. You know when it takes you a long time to decide on wording for a simple text message that anxiety has come knocking. The text conversation involved me sending two time-consuming, anxiety-provoking texts. And then I started repeating how my text would hurt the pastor's wife's feelings and my relationships with the small group she is a part of would be forever awkward and messed up. This time, I didn't get it into one sentence, which is a bit inconvenient when I try to repeat it. But the same effect was achieved. I repeated it until... I don't know what exactly happened, but I moved on. I forgot to keep repeating it.

And so I am once more grateful for Exposure Response Prevention. I think it is really hard to do for really bad (strong) obsessions and compulsions, but I find it works well for smaller issues.


  1. Great job, Abigail! I have never tried that ERP with my checking worries, and I think I will. You've inspired me!

  2. Hey, great job Abigail!!! Really proud of you. I have found that ERP works well for really large issues too. It's just harder to do, but once you start doing it, wow - you will be amazed eventually how well it works.

    Yay for you!!