This unit the final part of the guide. To see all units in the guide, click here.
If you’ve been doing the exposures correctly, hopefully your anxiety has dropped significantly. If it hasn’t, it might mean you’ve done something incorrectly in Modules 1 or 2. Return to Modules 1 and 2 as often as required, particularly for new obsessions.
Don’t stop too early
You might feel soon enough that there’s so little anxiety that there’s no point in even keeping the reminders there any more, and so you can remove them. However, be careful with this. Don’t stop if there’s even a bit of anxiety or there’s still one or two obsessions you’re not completely comfortable with. Destroy it completely. Otherwise it can come back or just be something which continues to annoy you.
However, you will reach a point where you can stop all kinds of exposures. This is a new stage in your recovery. You’re no longer trying to ‘actively’ recover, and that can have its own challenges. You will actually now probably go long periods totally forgetting about the obsessions.
But what happens now is that you’ll get those obsessions randomly popping up here and there in your mind. Again, your job is to not engage in any compulsion and just get on with whatever you were doing. This shouldn’t be too difficult in the beginning, but the ‘randomness’ of it can affect you. Now you’re not the one reminding yourself, but it’s just coming out of nowhere from your brain. Still, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Dealing with long term relapse
Longer term however, there are more significant risks. I speak from my own experience; though I largely overcame my sensorimotor OCD several years ago (in 2012 to be precise), I had a major ‘reoccurrence’ four years after that point.
What often happens is that after you’ve gone several months (or years) without really thinking about the obsession, you forget what you did right. You start to fall into bad habits and start doing compulsions. These can happen quite subconsciously; for example you start to swallow when there’s a bit of saliva, or subtly control or breathing, or something else. Then you might feel a bit of anxiety. You can also easily fall into a negative thought process “I’ve had relief and been living normally all this time, and now this thought is back, which might ruin my life again!”. Another negative thought that can creep in is ‘What if I fluked it? What if I got lucky didn’t really recover, and now it’s going to go back to how it was!?’ These are anxiety inducing thoughts, and hence you now have more anxiety associated with the obsession…which then means it remains in your mind even more, and the cycle can begin again.
This is what happened to me, and I basically had to re-learn what I did the first time around. Just do what worked the first time; interrogate those thoughts again and bring back the exposures, until the anxiety is back to zero. Fortunately, usually the anxiety won’t be as bad as it was the first time, because you will be more confident you can get over this again, and the recovery period will hopefully be shorter as well. Just as you recovered the first time, you can do so again.
Overcoming sensorimotor OCD
I believe full recovery is possible from SOCD, having recovered myself. You can live a normal life where this doesn’t bother you at all.
However, I think as people who are susceptible to this, we have to be on guard against any kind of OCD thoughts or habits which might build up. You have to know yourself. It’s as simple as maybe recognising you are subtly annoyed by being reminded of an obsession, or avoiding certain activities you know would trigger you. Don’t let yourself live with 1/10 OCD; there’s no reason to. Don’t fear any kind of obsession; rather face them head on. Do whatever exposures you need to do.
Ultimately, you want to become the kind of person who is completely resilient to them. You truly don’t care whether they are there or not. That’s when you have true freedom from SOCD. As a result, you will eventually forget about these obsessions. But remember, they aren’t the enemy, it’s your anxiety that is.
I wish you all the best on your journey to recovery. Any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post below 🙂