Treatment of OCD is usually a combination of medication and CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. Part of CBT often includes some form of exposure therapy which when you first hear it is terrifying.
When the therapist I was seeing at the time described it, I was confused and shocked to say the least, it was described to me as testing your anxiety. I took that to mean, if I’m scared I was a paedophile, I had to try it out and see if I liked it.
I told the therapist this, she laughed and quickly corrected me. It is however, testing the compulsions or avoidance behaviours to see what would happen, so if you currently avoid something, you need to do it. If you have certain compulsions, stop them.
It’s obviously not that easy and can be very distressing but it often shows that the fears the compulsions are based are not true and OCD slowly loses it’s grip as you are no longer doing the compulsions that keep it going.
I had my own chance at exposure yesterday. I’m shy, awkward and steer clear of social interaction with people I’m not comfortable with and if I do go, you will find me drinking as this lessens my anxiety and allows me to relax. Previously, I’ve put myself in a situation where I can drink, i.e. do not need to drive and have somewhere to stay but since moving this can’t always be the case. Yesterday, I was driving, we were going to Gary’s friends and he drove last time so it was my turn and I was dreading it. They’re all lovely people, we’ve known each other a few years but I still worry, get anxious and usually drink through it. Yesterday I couldn’t. So I had to suck it up, I was crabby and snappy and nervous. I was thinking of faking an illness, an argument or something to get me out of sitting with people trying not to be awkward, but I couldn’t. So I went and yes, the first bit was unbearable, I did have a small beer as we would be there for a few hours but it was nothing to dampen my anxiety. I made small talk and sat, slowly though as I spoke to a couple I get on well with I felt myself relax and was able to come out of my shell.
The day wasn’t perfect and I’m in no way cured but I got through it and I showed myself that I can do it, which in the very least is a victory for me. I struggled, could barely talk to some people and did feel awkward. But less than I thought, and definitely better than not going. This way, I know I can do it and when the situation arises again, I’ll feel a bit better and each time, it will get better and better.
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