Meditation and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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Approximately 2 million American adults suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (WebMD, 2015). What exactly is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? Well, it is a common, anxiety-based condition that is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). An individual with OCD may feel an overwhelming need to obsess over things and/or perform the same rituals and routines repeatedly. This condition typically triggers a range of anxiety-based emotions such as: fear, uneasiness, apprehension, and worry.
The Symptoms & Cause
What are some OCD symptoms? Well, symptoms of this condition may include: repetitive checking, hoarding, excessive washing/cleaning (i.e. clothes, body parts, hair, etc.), a preoccupation with sex and sexual activities, fear of germs, dirt and insects, religious and/or violent thoughts, an aversion to certain numbers, unnecessary counting, nervous rituals (i.e. opening and closing doors over and over again, washing hands repeatedly for no reason, etc.), and a preoccupation (obsession) with romantic partners.
The exact cause of OCD is unknown at this time; however, it appears to be linked to genetic, environmental and biological factors. It is important to understand that millions of people, throughout the world, suffer from OCD. Some people exhibit mild OCD symptoms, while others experience full-blown obsessions and/or compulsions. Intrusive thoughts and compulsive routines and rituals associated with severe OCD can interrupt your life and occupy several hours of your day.
Research in the field has shown that several medications can effectively reduce OCD symptoms; however, these medications do not work for everyone. Thankfully, there are alternative treatments that can complement your prescribed treatment plan. In fact, meditation is one of those alternative treatments. It has proven, effective in the treatment of OCD. Do you spend at least 1 hour a day fighting off intrusive/obsessive thoughts or performing rituals and routines over and over again? If so, you may be suffering from OCD.
***It is important to contact a mental health professional, if you suspect that you are suffering from this condition. Furthermore, always follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan. If you are interested in learning how meditation can aid in the treatment of OCD, you have come to the right place. This article will help you understand the benefits of using meditation to help treat your condition.
1. Make Time
If you want to use meditation to help treat your OCD symptoms, you will first need to schedule time for this activity each day. Set aside at least 15 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day to meditate. Meditating at least 2 times a day is especially important during the beginning stages of the process because it can take time to become “centered.” In other words, for meditation to be effective you need to be in a relaxed, calm state of mind. As you get more accustomed to meditating, your OCD symptoms should subside. As your symptoms disappear or lessen, you will be able to reduce your meditation time to once a day.
2. Find a Private Place & Be Comfortable
Next, you will need to find a private place to meditate. The room should be quiet, and free of distractions (i.e. barking dogs, crying babies, television, phone, and radio). In other words, if possible, avoid high activity locations, such as: playgrounds, coffee shops, malls, and public libraries. Inform others in the area that you are about to meditate, so they do not disturb you. Close the door to the meditation room. Sit on a yoga mat, oversized pillow, or meditation chair that is comfortable. Why? Well, because it is essential that your body be relaxed, and your back muscles be supported during meditation. If your back muscles (i.e. lumbar muscles) are straining, you will not receive the maximum benefits from this activity.
3. Clear Your Mind
Once you have scheduled time for meditation and found a private place where you are comfortable, it will be time to clear your mind. Yes, clear your mind of all of the thoughts racing through it. Choose one word or image to focus on during this time, but banish all others. This word or image should be positive, soothing, and simple. Truth-be-told, this part of the meditative process will probably be the hardest, if you suffer from OCD. In fact, you may need to force your mind back to your chosen word several times during one session. That is fine. It will get easier, over time, to push those intrusive thoughts permanently out of your mind. So, if you find your mind wandering to one of your obsessions - gently force it back to your chosen word or image (point of focus).
4. Breathe Deeply
While meditating, it is imperative that you continue to breathe deeply. As you breathe in, pull from your inner diaphragm, hold your breath for a second, and then release it. More specifically, your abdomen should rise when you inhale (breathe in) and fall as you exhale (breathe out). Breathe naturally, do not force hard or fast breaths because it will only tire you, and undermine the meditative process.
5. Repeat a Positive Mantra
If you have a difficult time concentrating with it being so quiet, repeat a mantra. In other words, repeat a chosen word or phrase in a low monotone until the “noise” goes away. It is important to note that the word or phrase should be positive, uplifting, and/or soothing. If you cannot think of a positive word of phrase, try chanting a letter, such as “A” over and over again until your intrusive thoughts disappear. The key is to maintain your point of focus (i.e. the word, letter or phrase). This step is optional, but it can be helpful, if you experience obsessive and/or intrusive thoughts during the meditative process.
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml
Storrs, C. (2015). 10 signs you may have OCD. Health.com. Retrieved from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20707257,00.html
WebMD. (2015). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/obsessive-compulsive-disorder