How can I help myself?
Treatment of OCD often includes a combination of strategies, including self-help. The following suggestions are some ideas you could try to help you manage your OCD.
Some people use self-help books, computer programmes or websites to help manage their OCD. Many self-help materials are based on cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles (see ‘Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)’), which have been shown to be particularly effective in treating OCD.
There are many self-help resources available, and you may have to try a few before finding one that is right for you. You may decide to use materials alongside professional help, or you may use them to develop your own coping strategies.
Peer support groups
A self-help, or peer support group, offers an opportunity to meet up with people who have gone through the same sort of experiences as you. It can help you feel less isolated and give you and other group members a chance to share how you cope with your feelings and experiences.
You can also access peer support groups online, through forums, social media sites or online communities. While online peer support can be extremely helpful, it is important to remember that you do not always know who you are talking to, so you should think carefully about what information you want to share.
Relaxation and mindfulness techniques
Learning a relaxation technique will not help you resolve obsessive thoughts or compulsions, but it may help you deal with anxiety that you experience as a result of your OCD. Relaxation techniques can teach you:
- How to improve your breathing to reduce tension
- Physical exercises that relax your muscles
- Action plans to help you progress from coping with non-stressful situations to those that you find difficult
Some people may also find mindfulness techniques helpful to manage unwanted or intrusive thoughts and reduce anxiety. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and yoga.
Doing some regular physical activity, whether it is going for a short walk or playing a team sport, can help improve your mental wellbeing – particularly if you do it outside. Exercise releases feel-good hormones and doing something active can distract you from unwanted thoughts. See Mind’s booklet How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing and the leaflet Mind tips for better mental health: physical activity.
Talk to someone you trust
“Trying to hide my OCD led to stress, which made my condition worse. I’m more open about it now and my friends and colleagues are also more aware.”
Talking about OCD is not easy. But if you can manage to talk to someone you trust about your condition, it could help you feel it is less frightening, and make you feel less isolated. It may also help other people understand your OCD behaviour and how they can help you.
Plan for a crisis
You may want to make a crisis plan, or advance statement, to tell people what you want to happen if you are in crisis. This can help reduce stress and address any worries about what will happen to you or your family if you become ill.