Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Big Takeaway

If you want to get better from OCD, or from most anxiety disorders, you must perform Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Period. For me, that was the big takeaway from the IOCF Annual Conference in Chicago last month.

Yes, mindfulness, Cognitive Therapy, deep breathing, and any other number of therapies can be very helpful and even necessary in combating anxiety. However, these tools need to be used in conjunction with ERP. The other therapies can help give you the motivation and the understanding of how and why to fight anxiety, but they are only part of the answer.

ERP is extremely frightening to those of us with anxiety disorders, because it means we have to face the very things we are so afraid of. It’s important to note, though, that ERP doesn’t mean jumping into the deep end of the pool, head first, with no flotation device or lifeguard to help us out. ERP can be done in small and attainable steps, and when done with the aid of an appropriately trained and educated professional, it is something that is very achievable. Difficult, painful, sometimes slow going, but very achievable. The most important thing is that ERP works. Eventually, with practice, ERP becomes less difficult and significantly less painful.

Can you do ERP on your own? Sure. If you choose this route, I would recommend that you read up as much as you can on OCD treatment so that you have an idea of how to proceed. (You could look at this year's IOCF conference program guide to see the names of all the 2012 presenters. Many of them are tops in the field of anxiety disorders treatment and have written books on OCD. When I Googled "International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation 19th Annual Conference Program Guide" it came up as the 2nd link as a pdf that I could click on.) It would probably be more difficult and take longer to do ERP without a therapist, but it is not impossible. I am not a very disciplined person, and I knew that I would never get enough traction to fight OCD on my own, so that is why I enlisted the help of a psychologist. I do not regret that decision. I would never have made the progress that I did without her constant encouragement and help fighting the cognitive distortions that so tangled my thinking.

Several times at the conference, I heard that ERP is still the gold standard for treating anxiety. It has a record of working. Another really great thing about ERP is that it can be tailored for each person’s individual fears. Someone with intrusive thoughts will not perform the same types of ERP as someone with contamination fears. Another patient with symmetry issues will certainly have different looking ERPs compared to someone who struggles with scrupulosity. This is also why a medical professional can be of tremendous support and guidance. A therapist can help you think of out of the box ways to create ERPs that are small and bite-sized to help you fight your anxiety, one little step at a time.

Why not try ERP? What have you got to lose, besides your terrifying and paralyzing fears?


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Sunny. I am finding that doing exposures helps me. I hope to give more attention to it once I get through the main therapy for the depression. One thing at a time, but I'm impatient! :-)

    1. I'm impatient, too, Tina, especially about my recovery.

      I'm glad to hear that you've found exposures helpful. I think that's the big thing - once someone sees how helpful they are then it is easier to do them.

  2. I am trying to psych myself up to find a counselor who does ERP and does it well - this post is timely. One part of me is excited about it, the other is dreading. I feel the same way as you, I just don't think I'd stick to the regimen without professional support. Good to know I'm not alone in that. :)

    1. Anna, I know exactly what you are talking about with the exciting/dreading feelings at the same time. It is really scary. The worst part though, that I have found time and time again, is the anticipatory anxiety. Once in a while the actual exposure is as bad as I thought it would be, but by far, most of the time the exposures are not nearly as tough as I expected.

      To be honest, I think most people need a therapist to go through ERP. There is the occasional person that seems to do it well on their own and I say yahoo!!! But, like I said, I think most of us need some guidance.

      Good luck with your decision, Anna. I'm rooting for you!

  3. Oh Sunny...your so right. I think the biggest stumbling block in what could be an amazing recovery process for me is that I am on my own with ERP and it is soooo hard to do alone. I have done them and I have had progress so I know it works and any accomplishments I have done on my own I am so grateful for. I don't want to diminish them and yet I know I could do better. I think at some point I may have to invest in this and travel the distance to find a doctor/therapist and stay in the area till I feel confident I can do it on my own and with the help of my husband who could cheerlead me on.

    1. Oh, it is hard to do alone, Krystal Lynn. I'm pretty much doing it on my own now (with hubby's help) since I officially finished my CBT last Spring. I mean, I have the tools to do it now, but it's so much harder when you don't have someone checking in with you all the time.

      I think you should be very, very proud of the accomplishments you've done on your own. That is truly a very big deal. Unfortunately, it does mean travel for a lot of us to find someone who is trained in CBT/ERP. Thankfully, I only had an hour and half one way drive. It could have been A LOT worse than that.

      I know you feel you could have gone further, but I also think it's important to remember how far you have come on your own. Something to be celebrated!

    2. I agree that this message was loud and clear at the conference, Sunny. ERP is the frontline treatment for OCD, and I love how you put it all in perspective. As a non-sufferer it is sometimes hard to understand why those with OCD avoid ERP Therapy when they are already suffering so much from the disorder itself. If you are going to have all this anxiety, isn't it better to at least have it for a purpose.........to free yourself from OCD's grip? Thanks for encouraging others to go for it!

    3. Hey Janet! I know, it must seem strange to people who don't have OCD why we often put off the treatment for so long. Sometimes fear is just so paralyzing, it's really, really hard to move forward. Plus, our imaginations are pretty good and I think sometimes we imagine really bad things about ERP. Thankfully, I've found that most of the time, my imagination was way off.

      I appreciate the way you encourage others to pursue ERP as well. We have to get the word out to as many sufferers as possible that this is the best way back to a healthier and more joyful life.