Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

Living with OCD: Practical Tips for Everyday Life

By Stacy Quick, LPC

Aug 22, 20235 minute read

The idea that someone may have to learn to live with OCD can seem daunting. People suffering from OCD have often spent years figuring out how to get rid of it. They may have imagined a life free from intrusive thoughts, images, and urges. 

The truth is that OCD is considered a chronic disorder. There may be many years when it lies dormant, only to reemerge at a later time. OCD can come and go throughout a person’s life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be all-encompassing. You can still live a beautiful, meaningful life in which you work through the anxiety or discomfort while moving toward the things that you value. 

Living in remission

When the OCD symptoms take a backseat or are quieter, we call this living in remission. This is what many may identify as feeling “normal” or a feeling of being unhindered from living the life they want to live. During this phase, most people will say that they are living in recovery from OCD. This can be described as recognizing that OCD is a chronic condition and that they have the appropriate tools and abilities to cope with it. For many, it can be a badge of empowerment, a sign of how far they have come in battling this debilitating disorder. 

This awareness helps the individual to identify and address triggers or stressors that may lead to an increase in symptoms and stop the cycle of OCD in its tracks—or at least deal with it effectively. Remission doesn’t mean you’re cured or that you no longer experience intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges. It doesn’t mean that you have completely stopped engaging in compulsions. It just shows that you’ve done the really hard work of learning how to manage your OCD better. Recovery is not a destination—it’s a process. And while it may take time and effort, consider these five tips to help you take the necessary steps toward living the life you want to live. 

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Tips for managing symptoms while living in recovery

  • Live in the moment. Stay present. Practice the art of not reviewing the past and not trying to predict the future. It’s harder to worry when you’re just living day to day, moment to moment. I know this may seem impossible or at the least, very difficult, but it is possible. It will take practice and dedication. You’ll need to catch yourself when you’re thinking too far ahead or behind. It will require self-discipline, and as much as you may want to try and figure out something, you will need to learn to let it go.
  • Identify, but don’t avoid your triggers. It can be productive to know what may trigger your anxiety or discomfort in relation to OCD symptoms. Remember that when it comes to OCD, knowledge is power—it allows you to be better equipped and more aware of the ways in which OCD may try and wiggle its way into a situation. At the same time, we must also remember that part of the OCD cycle can be avoiding the trigger and we don’t want to do this. Instead, we want to face it and keep teaching our brains that we can handle the feelings these situations, thoughts, images, or urges bring to our minds. It can be so powerful when we realize that we do not need to do anything with these thoughts or feelings—they can be there and we don’t need to attach any meaning to them.  
  • Take care of your mind and body. It’s important to recognize the mind-body connection. What affects one impacts the other. Eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, and do things you like with people you care for. Find activities that you enjoy, whether it’s sports, journaling, crafting, or anything else that makes your heart feel full and happy. Having a hobby can be vital to your well-being. 
  • Give yourself compassion and celebrate all your successes. This may seem like a no-brainer but believe it or not, people with OCD tend to be very hard on themselves. I know, big shocker. Give yourself permission to be human. Humans make mistakes. Humans are imperfect beings. We fall down and we get back up again. Celebrate all of the things you have worked so hard to overcome. You can do this while still recognizing areas that you would like to grow in. Both things can be true at the same time: I can be happy for how far I have come, and hopeful about improving even more in the future. 
  • Seek out support. Maybe you’ve been able to open up with family and friends about the struggles you’ve faced with OCD. Perhaps they’ve seen you go through this for many years and are aware of the way in which it has hurt you. But maybe you don’t have a circle of family or friends that are aware or who are supportive. Maybe you’ve had negative experiences in the past when you have opened up about your OCD struggles. It can be so important to find the right kind of support. Find that place, person, or community that you feel heard and validated within. This will look vastly different for everyone and that’s okay. It may be an online support group. It may be that one friend or family member who has been there for you and who you feel comfortable confiding in. Maybe it’s a spiritual leader or someone that you look to for guidance. Find someone that helps you to see that you are not alone in this. 

ERP is a tool that helps you manage OCD long-term

Though OCD is considered chronic for the majority of individuals who suffer from it, Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy can help people improve their quality of life, manage OCD, and reduce their OCD symptoms as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. ERP is most effective when the therapist conducting the treatment has experience with OCD and training in ERP. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training.

Effective, specialized OCD therapy is here

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If you have questions or think that you may need ERP therapy for your OCD, speak to someone on our care team on a free 15-minute call.
If you’re worried or uncomfortable about discussing your symptoms and thoughts with someone else, keep in mind that a therapist won’t judge you, and a trained OCD specialist (like the ones at NOCD) will deeply understand all themes of OCD. You don’t have to suffer in silence or live with debilitating OCD symptoms forever, and many people find relief in sharing their experiences. Over time, you can learn how to manage OCD and regain your life, as well.

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