It doesn’t matter what mask OCD wears because it’s all OCD, and it all sucks! Yes, building and understanding your hierarchy and subtype(s) is great for getting started, but it can be dangerous to be a slave to your subtype(s). For those that don’t know, OCD is broadly subdivided into categories that help identify specific distressing and crippling thought-patterns aka subtypes. For example, (1) Contamination-OCD is a subtype where maybe you think that everything in your kitchen has salmonella so you excessively clean and check all surfaces and utensils in order to keep you and your loved ones safe, or (2) Harm-OCD is a subtype where maybe every time you see a knife in your kitchen you graphically envision slashing your families throats in a violent outbreak at dinner like it’s the “Red Wedding”, or (3) Suicidal-OCD is a subtype where maybe you have haunting thoughts of hanging yourself that are very visceral and you’re afraid of your own impulses, or (4) Not-Just-Right-OCD is a subtype where maybe you have to perform a particular task a particular way in an elaborate routine all in your mind or else it won’t feel “just right” and chaos will ensue… and the list of subtypes goes on and on ad infinitum. There are as many variations as there are cases, and no single subtype is ever exactly the same because it’s all about the individual. For instance, imagine ten people primarily suffering from the same subtype… yes, they all have the same subtype diagnosis, but they will all manifest symptoms differently, and they will all then be treated in their own unique way accordingly. Basically, OCD morphs and develops based on the person afflicted and not based on its categorization. That being said, subtypes are amazing pillars to help ground you and guide you, but they are not to be taken as absolute truth! Moreover, it’s common to suffer from multiple subtypes, or develop new subtypes after you’ve conquered old subtypes, or even have old subtypes comeback and convince you of their awfulness in a deceptive new way… WHY? Because it’s NOT about the mask it wears, it’s about the doubt that infects you and the amount of meaning applied to the thoughts that are tormenting you.
How does OCD convince us to listen to it? By using truth. OCD uses our own knowledge and beliefs against us; it is a plague to our value system, and it wears masks of truth to convince us to care about its lies. Deviously, OCD weaponizes truth in order to grab our attention, and the time we give OCD simply gives it its strength. So what do we do? Do we ignore it!? Yeah right, good luck with that! Attempting to ignore your intrusive thoughts is the gateway to avoidance and isolation. Then what do we do? You beat the bully to the punch like you’re Eminem in 8-Mile! Spoiler, Eminem wins the rap battle because he says everything his opponent is gonna say… here, watch the video:
Now, when you’re standing up to your thoughts like you’re Eminem, it’s NOT rationalizing, it’s NOT reassuring, it’s NOT reasoning, but it’s agreeing and using OCD’s ammunition against itself. Okay, say you have Harm-OCD and you’re afraid that you’re gonna crank the wheel of your car and mow down all the pedestrians you can! Yikes!!! So what do you do? You tell your thoughts, NOT your actions, “yep, I’m gonna turn the wheel of the car and slaughter all of these innocent people”… WHAT!?! fucked up right!? Sure is!!! However, this seemingly absurd tactic will take the wind out of OCD’s sails and you will start to gain the advantage. Furthermore, every time you apply this method of agreeing with your thoughts, and every time you don’t act on the intrusive thoughts, or do any compulsions to alleviate your anxiety, you will then disarm your thoughts from having power over you through disconfirmation. Personally, I think of it like I’m hijacking OCD with its own weapons which then turns into a ridiculous comedy of errors, and it eventually all goes away with a good chuckle; it takes a lot of work to get to that point, but it is attainable. Is it difficult to do? Yes, but you get better at it the more you do it! Is it scary? It’s fucking terrifying, but you gain a ton of confidence and clarity, and, best of all, you get your life back! Honestly, the time you gain is priceless, especially compared to the time already lost and the inevitable time you WILL lose if you don’t ACT! Look, I’m not gonna bullshit you, if you’re brave enough to engage your own brain in battle and face the biggest fears it has to throw at you and win, then you’re gonna be one badass human with a great life worth living! The comrades I met down in the trenches fighting their own battles are remarkable people because they put in the good hard work; trust us, it’s grueling, but it’s worth it!
Conclusion: agree with your thoughts, accept your thoughts as is, don’t judge yourself for having thoughts because they are simply thoughts; your thoughts are not you. You are defined by that which you do, you are not defined by that which you think. Agreeing with your thoughts does NOT mean acting on your thoughts; however, agreeing with a thought means acknowledging that you are having a thought and you are simply noticing it and allowing it to be there… by not trying to remove the thought, it will go away eventually. Embrace the exposure lifestyle by radically accepting your thoughts without applying meaning to them, and keep your OCD at bay no matter what mask it tries to wear. BOOM!
“When you’re going through hell, keep going!”
– Winston Churchill