Can Giving OCD a Name Help You Manage It?
Have you ever heard about the concept of giving your OCD a name? It may help you manage OCD: when you name your OCD symptoms, you are externalizing them. This can provide a concrete way for you to separate yourself from the condition, allowing you to see intrusive thoughts for what they really are: words, urges, or images that everyone experiences and that don’t need to mean anything at all.
Personifying OCD is gaining momentum, helping those of us with OCD to recognize that we are not our thoughts. This idea of looking at the disorder as an external spectator can empower us to feel that disorder is not a part of us, but that it exists outside of ourselves. Personifying OCD can also help to provide awareness of OCD’s presence in situations where you may have not recognized it otherwise.
Seeing OCD for what it is
When naming your OCD, you might start by thinking about what kinds of characteristics the OCD you experience takes on. This is more than just the themes in which your OCD manifests; this is the creative power that OCD takes on in your life. For example, one person might identify that for them, OCD is overbearing, demanding, insensitive, hurtful, irrational – you get the idea. Someone else may be able to see ways in which OCD has been helpful to them at times, so they may identify characteristics like “organized” or “persistent.”
Once you have a clear idea about the personality of your OCD symptoms, the next step is to identify a suitable name. For many, OCD is often thought of as a bully or a monster because of the pain and torment it can leave in its wake. Those people may choose to identify it by the name of an old childhood nemesis or the name of a villain from a TV show. Others may choose to give it a silly name that takes away its fear. No matter what you choose to call it, identifying it can be one way to help you in your recovery journey.
After you’ve identified the characteristics and “personality” of the OCD you experience, you can explore what it may physically look like. Some people may envision it as a menacing creature, while others may see it as a goofy-looking, non-intimidating figure. This is when you can really use your imagination to describe what you feel OCD personifies in your mind.
This practice of personifying OCD can be a very meaningful experience. It can be cathartic to release these thoughts outside of one’s self – to not own them as one’s own – and it’s a creative way of seeing OCD as something that you experience, not something you are. That’s an important distinction that can prevent you from internalizing the intrusive thoughts that you have and from getting stuck on them. Instead, you can view them as a bystander, seeing that these are thoughts that do not reflect who you are as a human being and what your true character is.
How family members can work with children to name their OCD
Children who have OCD often relate well with the method of “naming the beast.” It’s a very effective way for them to see OCD for what it is: a condition that doesn’t define who they are and what they value. This practice can also allow a family unit to have a common enemy that they are battling.
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When a child is struggling with OCD, their family plays an essential role in treatment, because children often lack insight into the illness. By nature, most parents want to help their child by protecting them from feelings of discomfort, leading them to enable or take part in their child’s compulsions before they even realize it. It’s easy to see why many caregivers may inadvertently accommodate the behaviors that often go hand-in-hand with OCD.
Once the family is aware of the child’s OCD and can readily identify what it is and what it isn’t, they can face this giant together. By naming it, parents can help the child identify this bully and help them to fight it, rather than giving into its unreasonable demands. They can remind the child that the more they feed it, the bigger it grows. The family can be supportive and care for the child while guiding the child to stand up to the symptoms and not allow them to control their lives.
Of course, having support from family members and loved ones is also beneficial when you are an adult struggling with this debilitating condition. Many people stay silent in their symptoms due to stigma and fear, but opening up to people you trust can be a significant part of your recovery process. Explaining how OCD looks and sounds to you could be one way to help them better understand how it’s affecting you.
Naming OCD can help you to see it for what it is
Regardless of age, everyone can benefit from seeing OCD as something outside of themselves that can cause tremendous pain and suffering. Naming it for what it is to you, however you want to view it, allows you to separate yourself from it and not live in the guilt and shame that OCD often causes.
By labeling something you can take away its power; it’s no longer the unknown scary monster in the closet. It’s out there in the open. It’s not a dirty little secret. It’s there and now that you see it, you can properly fight it. You can help take your power back.
Naming your OCD can also help you become ready to defeat it. Though naming OCD is not required to be successful in treatment, some people may find it helpful. Whether you decide to or not, it’s still important that as you prepare to begin treatment you are able to recognize that OCD is a very debilitating condition, not something you brought on yourself. It’s important that you show yourself compassion as you maneuver through it.
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Having OCD is hard, and doing treatment is hard. But you can do hard things. The key to long-term management of OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, the gold standard OCD treatment. ERP helps you learn to stop letting OCD control your life. You can make choices to starve the monster that is OCD, to sit with discomfort and anxiety, and to experience tough feelings so that you can see yourself through OCD episodes. Your brain can learn that the danger OCD makes you perceive is minimal and that you can manage uncertainty rather than avoiding it.
If you’re struggling with OCD and are ready to begin taking your own power back, NOCD is here for you. Our licensed therapists deeply understand OCD and are specialty-trained in treating OCD with ERP. We work side-by-side with the OCD experts and researchers who designed some of the world’s top OCD treatment programs – and that means the best care for our members. You can book a free 15-minute call with our team to get matched with one and get started with OCD treatment.
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Licensed Therapist, MA
I started as a therapist over 14 years ago, working in different mental health environments. Many people with OCD that weren't being treated for it crossed my path and weren't getting better. I decided that I wanted to help people with OCD, so I became an OCD therapist, and eventually, a clinical supervisor. I treated people using Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and saw people get better day in and day out. I continue to use ERP because nothing is more effective in treating OCD.
Licensed Therapist, LCMHC
When I started treating OCD, I quickly realized how much this type of work means to me because I had to learn how to be okay with discomfort and uncertainty myself. I’ve been practicing as a licensed therapist since 2016. My graduate work is in mental health counseling, and I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy because it’s the gold standard of OCD treatment.
Licensed Therapist, MA
I have personally struggled with OCD and know what it's like to feel controlled by intrusive thoughts and compulsions, and to also overcome it using the proper therapy. I’ve been a licensed therapist since 2017. I have an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and practice Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy. I know by experience how effective ERP is in treating OCD symptoms.