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ID-100159206In any year, 1% of the U.S. population suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) according to NIMH. OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety (obsessions) and behaviors or thoughts that reduce that anxiety (compulsions). Is is often debilitating.

But a five step treatment approach can help. It is called Exposure plus Response Prevention. The five steps include the following:

1) Anxiety is triggered. You feel anxious.

2) Label that anxious feeling along with the thought that accompanies it. You must learn to label to disable the anxious thought.

3) Once you label the anxiety, allow it to remain. Don’t try to resist it because we know the more you resist, the more it persists.

4) Welcome the unwanted thought. Let it stay with you. Put up with it and don’t  engage in the compulsion. Prevent your normal compulsive response.

5) Tolerate the uncertainty. You can do this. You can learn to sit with the uncertainty.

Go through these steps over and over and eventually new neurological patterns will develop in your brain. The old patterns will eventually stop. Over time, the frequency and intensity of engaging in compulsions will abate.

Expose yourself to the trigger, go through the five steps and resist the compulsion. Allow the anxiety to come and then go. The more you tolerate the feeling, the more likely it will extinguish over time.

You may need to work with a therapist who is trained in Exposure Therapies. Find one who understands that the more you avoid anxiety, the more it persists. The key is to walk into the anxiety, greet it like a friend and tolerate it. Over time, anxiety loses its power.

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