OCD tries to separate you from your values. Here’s what you can do.
Media outlets often seem to tell us what we should want from life: trendy pieces of clothing, a specific type of car, an expensive vacation, a certain style of living… you get the idea. Yes, these can all be lifestyle choices that bring happiness for some people and not for others. Sometimes these are lifestyle enhancers that feel completely worth working hard for, trading our hard-earned dollars for things that have meaning to us. But what happens when that does not feel fulfilling; what do we do?
Identifying your values
We might need to pause, take a deep breath and dig deep inside ourselves, to consider what actually means the most to us. What do we value? What is important to us? This will look different for each person, as we are all unique. Through diligently exploring these questions we can decide for ourselves what makes us tick.
By now you’re probably wondering how this all relates to OCD treatment, right? That’s likely why you found yourself on our website, hoping to gain insight into the best strategies for OCD treatment and management. Many OCD specialists recommend that you consider values-based work in conjunction with your exposure-based work. What exactly do we mean when we say “values”? Values can be an incredibly important piece of what makes you, you. Values help enrich our lives. They are important bits of information to understand about ourselves as they can enhance our experience and progress in treatment.
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Having an understanding of our values helps to establish our sense of self. OCD can muddy the waters in any situation, often making you feel that you don’t know who you are. You may doubt the very essence of what makes you, well you. Knowing what your values are can give insight into your personal beliefs and standards that are important to you. We know that OCD often targets what you hold close to your heart and things that you cherish. This can lead to creating fears that feel very real and scary. It can be hard to resist the temptation to worry about these things. This is how OCD keeps us stuck in its cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
Many times in life we feel led to follow a set of standards that are not exactly aligned with our values (hello FOMO, or “fear of missing out”), which can lead to feeling disconnected from our true selves. When we are not feeling connected to ourselves and do not understand how our choices align with the life we would like to be living, we can feel burned out or be driven to make emotional or fear-based decisions.
When we choose to live a values-based lifestyle, we can actively choose how to use our resources, such as time, money, energy, emotions, talents, etc. This style of living a values-based lifestyle not only allows intentional actions, but it allows freedom to move through our days with a purpose and direction. It is often recommended within the OCD treatment community that you consistently consider the question, “is this helping me move towards what I value or away from my fears?” Another question you may ask yourself is, “is this fueling OCD or the life I want to live?”
Values-based lifestyles can be helpful in filling our cups and connecting us with like-minded peers. This active decision, to engage in values-based choices, can allow us to understand our “why” for treatment and provide us with the courage to attack exposures that feel scary with a newfound purpose and drive.
How do we use values in treatment? I’m so glad you asked! Any of our well-trained therapists at NOCD are capable of helping you through this process.
How to move towards your values to challenge OCD
If you’d like to get started on your own, I suggest you consider what your top values are and write them down. Ensure you have defined what these mean to you and consider where you acquired them. Take time to think about how they may be similar or different to those around you (family or origin, chosen family, friend group, etc.). Then review if you believe you are living in accordance with your values. If you are, how can you sustain this in an intentional manner? If you are not, no worries—we all make adjustments over time! Consider how you can align your actions and priorities to be congruent with your values.
Now for the secret sauce: how can we use these to challenge OCD on a daily basis? Consider creating a visual reminder of your values for reference and motivation! For example, consider creating vision boards or paintings that represent your core values, or keep a list of them on your cell phone lock screen for consistent reminders. Additionally, consider how you might be able to incorporate fun values-based exposures that OCD has been keeping you from engaging in. Yes, exposures can be fun sometimes!
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Need help identifying your values and using them to challenge OCD? NOCD can help. Our licensed therapists deeply understand OCD and are specialty-trained in treating OCD with ERP, and they can help you learn more about living a life based on your values. 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.