When thoughts get stuck
There are a lot of different ways to describe OCD. I used to tell people, without divulging the extent to which my problem truly affected me, that my brain wouldn’t shut off. It seemed like it was on perpetual autopilot, with some kind of internal cerebral accelerator pushed down to the floor, revving my neurons to fire far beyond their usual capacity.
Another way to look at Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is that it is a condition where a thought(s) get stuck. Rather than the more usual situation where a thought enters our heads, is dealt with (or not), then passes on to some other part of the brain for retaining or destruction, OCD presents a situation where a thought can get stuck in the processing part of the brain, where it is continually chewed on by the machinery of the mind.
Many people who have OCD complain about thoughts getting stuck. It’s a good analogy for the disorder, no matter what form it may take. Thoughts of uncleanliness, germs, pedophilia, past wrongs committed, hitting people with hammers, stabbing children, disgusting dog poop and countless others can seemingly get stuck, even to the detriment of other, more normal, thoughts.
Of those people who describe their bad thoughts as getting stuck, many perceive the situation as irreversible; that there is nothing that can be done about a particular thought getting cemented in, making them powerless to deal with the problem.
This is simply not true. The truth is that thoughts get stuck in our heads because we apply the glue that holds them. If not for us and our actions, the thoughts would not get stuck and they would dissipate in the mire of countless other thoughts. What is that glue? Reaction. Quite simply, OCD sufferers react (badly) to their intrusive thoughts and it is that very act that causes the thoughts to get stuck.
And the more you react to intrusive thoughts, the harder they get stuck, the longer they stick around and the more damage they will cause.
How do OCD sufferers typically react to intrusive thoughts? Compulsions, which are direct reactions to the thoughts.
Every single OCD sufferer there ever way has reacted to intrusive thoughts (obsessions) by way of compulsions. Doing so keeps the intrusive thoughts alive, keeps them coming back. It can be a difficult fact for some sufferers to come to grips with. Many sufferers look upon OCD as some kind of out-of-body force that they have become stricken with. In reality, OCD is a condition that is wholly dependent on the sufferer to keep alive.
Take away the glue, the thoughts begin to loosen. Over time, the thoughts can leave altogether. No compulsions removes the ability for certain troubling thoughts to stick around. Standing back and realizing that one can alter their condition by way of not reacting to thoughts can greatly improve the chances that future thoughts won’t grab hold.