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!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reassurance Seeking & OCD, Part 2

Yesterday, I shared with you about reassurance seeking (both external and internal) and how it was a damaging compulsion to those of us with anxiety disorders. In treatment, we are taught to resist reassurance seeking as much as possible. However, should our loved ones stop answering all of our questions cold turkey and do we need to stop all reassurance seeking right away? Do we even need to remove all reassurance seeking?

There is more than one trail to the summit!
In answer to my first question, I think that if a friend or family member has been providing reassurance to someone on a regular basis, pulling all reassurance away at once can be perceived as cruel. Ultimately though, reassurance can, and should, be weaned. The goal is to move the person with OCD away from reassurance. This can be set at an agreed upon pace. I've known people that have worked out "deals" with their loved ones. Perhaps they are allowed to ask for reassurance 5 times a day in the initial stages of treatment. Then after some time, maybe it can be weaned down to 3 times a day, and so on. I've also known people to write down their fears in a notebook and then they would show the notebook to their "reassurance provider" at some agreed upon time. Even now, there are times when I will ask my family a question and they will answer, but when I ask the same question a 2nd or 3rd time or, well you know how OCD works . . . I will hear, "I've already answered that question. I'm not answering it again." Said in a nice, calm, and non-angry tone, I have no problem with that answer. Ok, well maybe I have a little problem with that answer - I do have OCD, after all! But in the heat of the moment - I get what it is they are trying to accomplish, and I still feel cared for and loved. I'm just not being enabled. When my family sets healthy boundaries that is a win-win for everyone.

But do we even need to remove all reassurance? Perhaps, if we lived in a perfect world. But we don't live in a perfect world. And most of us and our family members don't have Ph.d.'s in psychology and we don't have all day, every day to simply work on our anxiety. So my qualified answer is no, we don't need to stop all reassurance seeking if it helps us to move forward. I remember an incident early in treatment when I was faced with a terrifying ERP - and the only way I got through it was to give myself reassurance that I was going to be ok. In this case, I believe the greater goal of facing that scary ERP was much more important than any reassurance I was giving to myself. On that day, self reassurance helped me toward better mental health.

Many times over the years, I have been afraid to do some kind of ERP - like touching a perceived dirty item, or using a public restroom. On more than one occasion, my husband either touched the item with me, or reassured me that I could go in that scary bathroom and that I would be ok. Again, while the ultimate objective of treatment is to learn to live with the uncertainty that maybe I would or wouldn't be ok after using that bathroom, I think the more important point was that I actually used the bathroom! I probably would not have done many ERPs without my husband's reassurance and encouragement. The reassurance helped me move forward. I consider that healthy reassurance.

The danger with reassurance is when it is just used (repeatedly) as a soothing technique instead of as a way to convince the person with OCD that they are capable of dealing with their fears. Repeated reassurance is toxic reassurance.

I have not eliminated reassurance seeking from my life. I clearly do more than is healthy, but I do a lot less than when my OCD was at its worst. As stated earlier, my family has also gotten better about drawing boundaries with reassurance.

Those of us with OCD often seek perfection in life, and even perfection in our treatment and recovery. Perfection cannot be found! Believe me, I've looked. As long as my general trajectory is onward and upward, I'm ok with making some compromises. In fact, for this perfection loving girl, I consider compromise to be part of my treatment.

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting perspective Sunny, and what strikes me is that this post is the opposite of "black and white thinking" which so many people with OCD often struggle with (I know my son did). As you say, it doesn't have to be (or sometimes can't be) "all or nothing" and just moving in the right direction is a big achievement!

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    1. Exactly! I struggle mightily with all or nothing thinking (still) and I try really hard to fight that. One little step forward, is still a step forward!

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