I was 17 when I first found out I had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It wasn’t until a year later when I found myself face to face with a psychiatrist. I remember the visit very well, even though it was over 10 years ago. His name was Dr. Knight. I was there with my dad and could not have been more anxious and embarrassed to be there, although deep down I did feel proud and relieved to finally be getting help.
Besides prescribing me medication, what was more useful, in fact, what was priceless, was when he recommended that I read a book called Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. As torpid as I usually was at that time due to my depression, I am honestly surprised that I even purchased the book in the first place.
If you have OCD and you have never heard of or read the book Brain Lock, then you are surely in for a treat as the four steps described in the book are incredibly powerful at helping to minimize not only the intensity of your obsessions, but the frequency of them as well.
So, without wasting any more time, here are the 4 steps to reducing your symptoms of OCD as described by Schwartz, M.D. in Brain Lock.
Step 1: Relabel (Brain Lock)
“It’s Not Me–It’s My OCD”
With the first step, you will want to tell yourself that it is not you who is the one feeling the way you feel, but instead it is your OCD. This can simply be done by telling yourself (when you have an obsessive thought that won’t go away) that, “It’s not me, it’s my OCD.
This simple, yet effective skill will help you to dissociate yourself from your obsessions. So often we find it challenging to discern what is reality and what is an irrational obsession, by relabeling them, you are able to see that it is not you who is truly concerned with the contents of your obsessive thought, but rather it is just your OCD.
Step 2: Reattribute (Brain Lock)
“Unlocking Your Brain”
Once you have effectively relabeled your obsessive thought by telling yourself that it is not you, but that it is just your OCD, it is then time to double-down by dissociating yourself even further. You will do this by telling yourself the truth, that the obsessions and compulsions which are bothering you continue to persist because they are but symptoms of your OCD. You feel anxious because you have a biochemical imbalance in your brain, which causes it to misfire, as Schwartz, M.D. explains in Brain Lock.
He goes on to say, “Your goal in the Reattribute step is to realize that the sticky thoughts and urges are due to your balky brain.” Personally, I often do this by telling myself the following affirmation, “I feel this way because I have OCD. These are just symptoms of my obsessive-compulsive disorder. I take medication every day and see a therapist because of symptoms just like this.”
I have found that saying mantras such as this during the Reattribute step to be very useful as it helps me to realize just how irrational my obsessions truly are.
Step 3: Refocus (Brain Lock)
“Wishing Won’t Make it So”
In step 3 in Brain Lock, Schwartz, M.D. says, “The key to the Refocus step is to do another behavior. When you do, you are repairing the broken gearshift in your brain.” This other behavior can be anything, although it is often a good idea for the behavior to be productive in some way so to ensure that it doesn’t lead to additional obsessions.
For example, after completing step 1 and step 2, you can then refocus your attention by picking up a book to read or you can sit on the couch and watch a show. What you do is not as important as being in the moment while you do it. This means that you will need to be mindful while you refocus your attention.
Step 3 will be useless if you are constantly thinking of your obsessions over and over again while reading a book or while watching a show. You will need to try to remain mindfully in the moment, as free from discursive thought as you can reasonably be. This way, you will be able to truly work around and eventually “get over” your obsessions. Although I should say that in order to truly see success in this step, you will need to practice it many times.
Step 4: Revalue (Brain Lock)
“Lessons Learned from OCD”
In the final step in Brain Lock, Schwartz, M.D. goes on to explain that, “Revalue is a natural outcome of diligent practice of the first three steps–Relabel, Reattribute, and Refocus. With consistent practice, you will quickly come to realize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are worthless distractions to be ignored. With this insight, you will be able to Revalue and devalue the pathological urges and fend them off until they begin to fade.”
It is in the Revalue step when great wisdom and perspective is gleaned as we begin to see our symptoms of OCD for what they truly are, just byproducts of a mental condition with which we had no hand in creating.
Once we realize, by using the four steps consistently and mindfully, that our symptoms of OCD are nothing more than just that, the sooner we will come to grips with the fact that our obsessions are not only irrational and illusory, but that they are also not worthy of even a second of our attention, let alone hours, days, or weeks.
If you have OCD, then I implore you to read Brain Lock as soon as you can. While it hasn’t cured my OCD, what it has done is allowed me to significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of my symptoms so that in many instances I am free to give OCD the attention it truly deserves, none.
Thomas is the founder and CEO of PsychTimes.com. He deeply enjoys writing about psychology, mental health, well-being, and ethics. Besides writing, he’s also deeply interested in the many different aspects of digital marketing, specifically search engine optimization. It is due to his love of both psychology and digital marketing, as well as his deep desire to help people who are suffering from mental illness which has inspired him to create this very site.