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!|
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.