When I was told I had OCD, I always wondered what compulsions I apparently did to help ease my obsessions. I later realised that reassurance was one of the largest mental compulsions that an OCD patient could do. Reassurance? I asked myself, but that’s the only thing that keeps me sane! Of course it does. Because as I said, reassurance (compulsion) eases my obsessions. Reassurance comes in many different forms and can be quite detrimental. Owen Kelly wrote an incredible account that discusses everything related to OCD and Excessive Reassurance Seeking. You can read the article here, but I will speak briefly about why he believes reassurance seeking only makes OCD worse.
Aside from the fact that it is a compulsion in itself, which I have already addressed earlier, he also discusses how reassurance seeking gives the obsession validation. When you tell your mind that there is something to worry about, thus you are seeking validation on whether the thought is true, you are only furthering the anxiety your brain will feel. In addition to that, it promotes avoidance. Clinically proven, the most effective treatment of OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention. We need to face our fears, and acknowledge that they are simply just irrational thoughts that will never happen. Constantly seeking reassurance is actually avoiding the fear itself. And lastly, he discusses how it can be daunting to your loved ones to constantly have to reassure you that everything is okay. I will give you an example. One of my greatest fears is something bad happening to my mother. Therefore, I don’t see a harm in constantly texting her and calling her to make sure she is okay. It’s only making me feel better, but it’s making my mother feel constantly on edge. Without realising, I am inflicting a fear on her that something could potentially be wrong. Or, I may just be plain out annoying her. After all, I know I wouldn’t be okay if someone texted me four times a day to make sure I was still alive. Let me live my life! I would probably say…
Another huge issue with reassurance, is that when our loved ones can no longer fulfill our needs, we resort to online support groups or forums. Personally, during one of my depressive episodes of OCD, I went and joined approximately five to ten different support groups. All these were great because they were giving me that feeling of knowing I was not alone and I was not what my crazy thoughts were telling me I was. Another issue right there. There is nothing wrong with knowing you are not alone, but there is everything wrong with knowing that you are not what your crazy thoughts tell you that you are. This is because you are giving them validation. You are giving them the attention that they need.
Wrong approach in support groups: Hey guys, I just had a thought about harming my younger sibling. I feel sick in the stomach. Straight after that I went and hid all the knives in the kitchen and packed them away so they were out of sight because I was scared that I would do something bad. Now I feel crazy. Is this okay? Has anyone else experienced this? Am I really a murderer deep down because I had the crazy thought? Someone tell me because I am going crazy!!
Correct approach in support groups: Hey guys, I have OCD. I get thoughts about this and this and this. One of my compulsions was to hide all the knives in the kitchen. How crazy is that! Oh well! It sucks, but hey we’re all in this together right?
After a while, I realised I was leaning more and more on support groups than I had expected to. Each agonising thought I had I would search throughout the groups to make sure I was normal, using key words to make sure I was sane. OF COURSE I AM SANE! BECAUSE I AM FEELING ANXIOUS TO BEGIN WITH. I can assure you, if you were truly what your thoughts tell you that you are, you would be smiling about these thoughts, and going through with them. So I decided to take a break from these support groups and unfollowed them all “out of sight, out of mind”, until I was ready to use the support groups for what they really were designed for. But I know that I am still a victim of this today, I must admit. I have moments where I search religiously every single post to make sure I am normal. And ironically, I am probably writing this now in a state of content, yet tomorrow if another depressive episode occurs I know I will contradict everything I am saying. But the whole point of my blog is so we can all battle this terrible disorder together. And the most important point of my post tonight, is not to come here for reassurance. Because you don’t need it. You are fine just the way you are. And these are just thoughts.