It’s OCDweek and the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) is doing a face your fear challenge to spread awareness about OCD. The challenge involves you posting a picture or video of you facing your fears. I am not sure if I’m up to that…maybe by the end of the week…. Instead, I thought I would just post a small blog each day with an exposure I have had to do for therapy.
For those who may not know, ERP Therapy is a type of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy that slowly exposes you to your fears or what causes you anxiety. By exposing yourself to those things and not responding with a compulsion, you are re-training your brain to be ok with those things/situations. It can be overwhelming , but done with a qualified ERP therapist it can be life changing.
For my first exposure my therapist started really small. I had made a list of my fears and she started with the one I rated the lowest on the anxiety scale.
One of my fears was getting lice, so I would not sit on any fabric chair or couch. I would avoid it as much as possible. If I did have to sit in one, I would have to say a prayer to protect against not just lice, but all bodily pests. If I didn’t say the prayer right or got distracted I would have to do it again and again until I felt like I wouldn’t get lice. Sometimes, if it was really bad, I would wash my clothes and shower.
So to ease me in, she asked me to move off her leather couch and onto the big comfy arm chair she had in the room. I had to sit there during the session as long as I could and not say a prayer and sit with the statement…”you might get lice.” In one session, she rubbed her head on the pillows and chair to show me that she could get lice from them too. After doing that in just a few sessions I was able to try the exposure outside of the office by choosing to sit in fabric covered chairs or couches in other places. After a short while I was able to do this without fear.
Keep in mind that this was one of my “lowest” fears but it still caused me much anxiety, let’s say an 8 out of 10. If lice or pests were on the top of your list of fears, you would not start with that. The point is to take baby steps, to try and be present in the anxiety and sit with uncertainty as long as you can and not do your compulsion.
What are some of your exposures you’ve had to to do in therapy?
Have any questions about OCD or ERP Therapy? I can try to answer them as best I can or at least steer you to resources that might help. Feel free to comment or email me.