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Learning How to Stop OCD Rituals

Learning How to Stop OCD Rituals

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that impacts millions of people. While depression and anxiety are often talked about in the media, OCD is not as widely discussed. OCD if often misunderstood and conceptualized as someone being rigid around organization and cleanliness practices. Due to misinformation the term OCD is often utilized incorrectly with people carelessly saying that either their behavior or someone else’s “is so OCD”. 

OCD is when someone has obsessive thoughts. In turn, these obsessive thoughts cause them to behave or perform rituals in certain ways to temporarily relieve their mind of the obsession. The pattern of engaging with obsessions and compulsions results in the individual getting stuck in the vicious cycle of OCD and increased time spent engaging in these behaviors to the point of impairment in their daily living. To better understand how to both reduce and ultimately stop engaging in OCD rituals, let’s go over the basics of OCD.


OCD Explained

OCD begins with obsessive thoughts. These obsessions can involve thoughts, images, or urges. Some of the most common obsessive thoughts we see in people with OCD are:

  • Intrusive thoughts around distressing topics such as safety, harm to others, religion, and sexual behaviors. 
  • An extreme desire for symmetry and order 
  • Intense fears about illness or germs

This is not an exhaustive list of obsessions that someone may experience. Once these obsessive thoughts occur, there is often a surge of intense anxiety and distress around the thought. The individual will then engage in repetitive and anxiety-based behaviors that will temporarily alleviate the anxiety and reduce the amount of perceived uncertainty of a negative outcome. These are called compulsions.

While we know that compulsions are not helpful, those who are struggling with OCD engage in them with the goal of reducing anxiety or to prevent something from happening. Depending on the person, the compulsive behavior may look different. But they can include:

  • Checking 
  • Rumination and mental review of past experiences
  • Over-informing oneself (e.g., excessive researching on the internet) 
  • Counting
  • Engaging in excessive order based or numeric behaviors
  • Hand washing or extreme hygienic techniques to prevent germs from spreading

How To Stop OCD Rituals

Living with OCD can be debilitating. However, with the right intervention and support individuals struggling with OCD can reclaim their lives and cope with their anxiety effectively. OCD can be treated and managed for long-term relief. The most effective way to treat OCD is through a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). In more severe cases, medication may also be needed. 

man standing in front of the camera with scenic hillside behind him

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is one of the most researched and effective treatments for anxiety-related disorders. ERP is based on the premise that by facing the fear (exposure) you will learn that you can handle the discomfort without engaging in the unhelpful coping strategies (response prevention) such as reassurance seeking, over-informing oneself, rumination, and avoidance. Through ERP, you learn strategies for reducing compulsions which can often take many hours out of your day.  Some people ask, how do you face the fear if you cannot create it in real life? We do this imaginably, or through the use of scripts.

With exposure therapy individuals struggling with OCD feel empowered to disengage from their intrusive thoughts and focus on being present in their daily lives. 

Mindfulness Techniques

Stress is not good for anyone, so learning to keep stress levels to a minimum is important for every single human being out there, especially for those who are dealing with OCD. OCD is often heightened when someone is under a lot of stress or tension.

There are a variety of techniques that someone can try that are effective. They can include the following:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Participating in activities or hobbies that help you unwind and destress
  • Creative expression
  • Journaling


Self-care is far more than just taking a bubble bath or a long shower at the end of the day. We can think about self-care as the very foundation of what all humans need. The basics of self-care are:

  • Eating nutritious meals
  • Exercising
  • Getting enough sleep

When you are fueling your body with what it needs and giving it time to heal and rest properly, it helps your body to maintain balance and harmony. It will make managing OCD rituals easier, too, because it gives your mind fewer chances to spiral.


If you are struggling with OCD don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more about OCD Treatment and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy


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2805 Butterfield Road suite 120
Oak Brook, IL 60523

(630) 522-3124

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