I know one thing for sure:
OCD is a real nightmare!
Which is why today, we are going to take a look at how you can crush your OCD (and intrusive thoughts) once and for all.
Let’s do it!
- What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
- What Causes OCD And Intrusive Thoughts?
- How To “Re-Wire” Your Brain To Stop OCD
- 7 Habits That Will CRUSH Your OCD!
- 1. How To “Stop Doing” OCD
- 2. Optimizing Your Nutrition And Gut Health
- 3. Getting Good Sleep (Fixing Circadian Rhythms)
- 4. De-Stressing Hard
- 5. Getting Sunlight
- 6. Avoid Poisons
- 7. Awesome Supplements That Can Help With OCD
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
OCD is short for obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The name is more or less self-explanatory!
OCD is a disorder where an individual experiences recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and strong urges to do certain things over and over again (compulsions).
Here is what the typical OCD pattern usually looks like:
It start with the intrusive thoughts a.k.a obsessions.
From seemingly out of nowhere, intrusive thoughts, mental images or urges pop up in your mind.
These are generally associated with A LOT of distress, unease and anxiety.
Obsessions tend to be centred around uncertainties, doubts and ‘what ifs’.
These obsessive thoughts then ‘force you’ to do certain repetitive actions, or engage in mental exercises, to make the obsessions go away or to deal with the anxiety caused by said obsessions.
A.k.a the compulsions.
Basically, there are 2 main components to OCD:
- The intrusive thoughts (obsessions)
- your response to these thoughts (compulsions).
This is important to understand because while we have very little control over intrusive thoughts, we do actually have some influence over our own response to these thoughts.
…More on that later.
As you probably know, OCD quickly becomes a vicious circle where:
Obsessive thoughts → anxiety, fear or disgust → compulsions and mental rituals as a coping mechanism → brief temporary relief → long-term MORE stress and anxiety by feeding the OCD cycle → and so on.
For me all it took was 1 single intrusive thought and then I would spend the rest of the day non-stop ruminating, painfully, on that thought.
What About Different Types of OCD?
OCD tends to be fixated around a certain theme, to give you a couple examples:
- fears of contamination
- sexual thoughts
- health concerns
- existential questions
Well, here’s the thing…
The basic OCD pattern of intrusive thoughts → anxiety and fear → compulsions is always the same.
It’s just that the content of OCD differs from individual to individual.
I know that it can feel really isolating to deal a specific sub-type or OCD theme – like you are all alone in the world with your struggles. Just know that you are in fact NOT alone, and that many others are likely going through the exact same thing, and that it is in fact 110% possible to recover.
I have managed to get entirely well – which I never thought I would – and so have many, many others!
What Causes OCD And Intrusive Thoughts?
OCD often goes hand in hand with horrible depression and/or anxiety.
So… what is going on here?
1. Is it underlying stress/anxiety that is fuelling your OCD?
2. Or is it having to suffer from OCD that makes you anxious and depressed?
Well, to be completely honest, I am not 100% sure what the correct answer is!
In my estimation, it’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg”-situation.
Meaning, it is quite difficult to untangle which came first as fear/anxiety/stress and OCD feed off of each other in a vicious circle (…see picture below).
So… let’s try and untangle this mess.
I know this may get a little confusing but please bear with me.
OCD – A Learned Bad Habit?
In one sense, OCD is a learned bad habit.
And the way to overcome OCD is to stop engaging in these bad habits.
What exactly do I mean by OCD being a “bad habit”?
I don’t think I can repeat this enough, but the core of OCD is really what happens after the intrusive thoughts.
Think about it:
Everyone has intrusive thoughts… yet not everyone has OCD.
Whenever an obsessive thought pops up in your head – while it may sound unbelievable – you do in fact have a choice of how you want to respond to that thought.
So, at least from my understanding, OCD is not so much about having intrusive or unwanted thoughts.
It’s everything that occurs afterwards, the way we label certain thoughts as “intrusive” or “bad”, the often irrational, obsessive mental and physical rituals, the compulsive behaviours, and so on and so forth.
We can NOT control intrusive thoughts.
We CAN influence how we respond to unwanted thoughts.
Of course any OCD thoughts will try to convince you otherwise.
Before my brain would constantly remind me that:
“Bro you have to think about these horrible things 24/7 because they are like REALLY important!”
Which obviously was not true. By reacting to my intrusive thoughts and feeding the compulsions I was only making the problem way worse for myself!
My main point is that:
In a sense, OCD is a learned behaviour… it’s something we “do”.
(Just like we brush our teeth before going to bed.)
And while it may not always be quite so simple, we always have a choice to stop “doing” OCD by changing our perception of our own thoughts and feelings.
OCD – Fuelled By Stress Hormones?
Here is another super important lesson:
The obsessive-compulsive cycle is fuelled by any underlying stress and anxiety.
If you suffer from OCD you have probably noticed symptoms getting worse during stressful periods.
You can think of it as free floating anxiety, a general feeling of unease, dread and fear which you can’t pin down to any specific issue, that then sort of condenses down into OCD symptoms…
In retrospect I now realize that chronic stress and anxiety were big culprits for me personally. During the periods when I was really stressed out (and my anxiety was chronic and severe) I would have the worst OCD episodes!
How Stress Makes OCD Worse (A Vicious Cycle)
Emotional stress is a huge driver of OCD.
- Stressful events may both trigger the onset of OCD and contribute to making existing symptoms worse.
- Perceived stress is higher in OCD patients.
- OCD sufferers have higher levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) compared to healthy individuals.
- A drug called clonidine that reduces levels of adrenaline in the body and brain has been shown to improve OCD symptoms!
Another clue that stress is a huge culprit for OCD is that cortisol (a powerful stress hormone) increases glutamate signalling in the brain.
Glutamate is a stimulating neurotransmitter and in excess amounts can drive your brain into a sort of hyperactive frenzy; resulting in anxious, racing or ruminating thoughts.
And indeed, glutamate levels are found to be higher in OCD patients compared to healthy subjects.
The “irony” of course is that the obsessive thoughts and rituals cause a tremendous amount of stress hormones, i.e cortisol and adrenaline, to be released by the body…
…which makes the OCD symptoms worse.
It’s the damn vicious OCD cycle all over again.
Anyways, the bottomline here is that:
OCD goes hand in hand with stress and anxiety.
If you want to get rid of OCD symptoms, managing stress (physical and emotional) in your life is SUPER important!
What Even Is Stress?
Everyone knows what stress feels like, but, I mean, what exactly is it?
To put it into a nutshell:
Stress is the body’s reaction to any demand or perceived threat.
A stress/fear response activates a bunch of different stress systems in body; hormonal, behavioural, neural, etc.
Stress can either be acute and short-lived (like when you are being chased by a bear) or it can be more chronic and long-lived (like when you ruminate on depressing things all day long). It is this latter form of chronic stress which is so damaging to our mental and physical health.
Psychological stress can have truly devastating effects on your health…
…but physical stressors like infections, or poor sleep, or overexercising, or getting poor nutrition, etc, can also contribute to ill health!
A good example is how having a strep throat (a bacterial streptococcal infection in your throat) – something seemingly unrelated to mental health – can actually trigger OCD in children!
Stress in all forms can, and does, cause all kinds of issues.
How To “Re-Wire” Your Brain To Stop OCD
Okay, but how do I stop my damn intrusive thoughts?
Now that’s a really good question.
Here’s the “never-ending-crap-rollercoaster-OCD-cycle” that you should be pretty familiar with by now:
It’s a nasty self-reinforcing loop that often get worse over time if you don’t intervene and do something.
So, before anything else, you want to defuse the OCD cycle and stop giving power to your obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
This is perhaps easier said than done…
…but it is in fact possible!
As we have previously discussed, unlearning the “bad habit of rumination” is one hugely important piece of solving the OCD puzzle. Changing the way you perceive your own thoughts and feelings can help you not be so consumed by dreadful OCD thought patterns.
Another equally important piece of this puzzle is designing your overall lifestyle in such a way to reduce levels of stress and anxiety to cut off OCD’s fuel supply.
You see, OCD is like a monster that eats fear and anxiety for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And when you stop feeding the OCD monster, it tends to starve and go away!
In my experience a holistic approach is a good idea where you focus on:
a) minimizing or managing stress in your life from work, relationships, health issues, etc.
b) supporting your overall health with healthy lifestyle changes (e.g good sleep, good nutrition, de-stressing, avoiding gut irritation, exercise)
These self-care habits will make you feel a whole lot better mentally, physically and spiritually.
And when you feel good, when stress hormones are low and feel-good hormones like testosterone and progesterone and thyroid are high, it becomes easier to change your perspective on the obsessive thoughts and break the OCD cycle!
When the present balance of stuff, toxicants, euphoriants, etc., is good, you can think and feel what you want to about things.Ray Peat Ph.D.
Now, finally… let’s get into some of the actionable strategies that you can use to get rid of your OCD!
OCD can be directly caused by physical stressors like poor sleep, brain inflammation, gut issues, excessive alcohol consumption, an intolerance to stimulants like caffeine, and so on and so forth. Case in point, individuals with OCD have more neuroinflammation compared to other healthy people.
A useful strategy is to first identify and fix these kinds of underlying physical issues, and then work on the mental aspect of “stop doing” OCD.
Adopting healthy lifestyle habits that reduce inflammation is essential here!
7 Habits That Will CRUSH Your OCD!
1. How To “Stop Doing” OCD
Maybe I am starting to bore you by saying this over and over again, but here it goes again:
OCD is essentially made up out of two parts:
- The intrusive, often quite horrible, thoughts (so called obsessions)
- Your response to these horrible thoughts (so called compulsions).
The initial intrusive and unwanted thought often takes place for just a split second and then it’s gone.
(To shortly after be replaced by another thought).
In contrast, the ensuing response to this intrusive thought – the rumination, OCD rituals and compulsive behaviours – often go on for hours and hours and hours!
Sometimes even days.
So, OCD is not really a problem of “having intrusive thoughts”.
What makes OCD so excruciatingly painful and not-fun-at-all is all of the stuff that happens after the obsessive thought, for instance:
- Spending hours trying to ‘make sense’ or figure out the meaning of your intrusive thoughts
- Repeatedly acting out physical rituals to ‘neutralize’ the obsessive thoughts and stop the anxiety
- Pondering the meaning of the intrusive thoughts
- Forcing yourself to think about other things so as to not think about any unwanted thoughts
- etc, etc.
The solution to stopping the OCD cycle is not to get rid of your intrusive thoughts.
Because we can’t get rid of our thoughts!
It’s literally impossible to prevent certain thoughts from appearing. Different thoughts come and go all the time, sometimes they are happy thoughts, and sometimes they are terrible, anxious or dark thoughts (these would be the ones we label as ‘intrusive’ or bad).
The key is to learn how to be non-reactive to intrusive and unwanted thoughts!
Being “Chill” With Intrusive Thoughts
This is the billion dollar question everyone would like to have the answer to:
How do you have an unwanted, unpleasant thought and act TOTALLY CHILL about it?
Like it doesn’t bother you at all?
Cause’ you see, that way, you wouldn’t have to overanalyse, or ruminate, or act out physical rituals for hours and hours to try and make obsessive thoughts go away.
The first step to recovery is changing your relationship with your own thoughts and feelings, and learning how to not engage with intrusive thoughts.
The problem of course is that obsessive thoughts desperately WANT your immediate attention and response.
I mean it’s the big pink elephant in the room…
…how are you supposed to not react?!
Taking Baby Steps
As with anything new in life, you are going to have to start with small baby steps.
I never went to therapy for OCD myself but I know it can be very helpful for many people.
Typically you would work with your therapist to figure out what your specific OCD revolves around, the specific thoughts, feelings and compulsive actions.
And then you’d probably do something called exposure therapy.
The basic idea behind exposure therapy is to face the very things that scare you the most; the obsessive thoughts and themes that you know without a doubt will trigger anxiety and compulsive behaviours or rituals.
The “trick” is to let the obsessive thoughts occur and feel all of the anxious, dreadful emotions fully WITHOUT engaging with them or trying to ‘neutralize’ them with compulsions.
This takes A LOT of courage to do, and practice.
Again, think baby steps!
But what you will find over time is that by actively exposing yourself to your worst obsessive thoughts, and practicing non-engagement, is that these same thoughts won’t bother you as much anymore.
The moment you stop perceiving an obsessive thought as a threat – it stops holding any power over you. And when there is no threat (real or imaginary) then there is no fear response and you wont feel the need to respond with compulsive behaviours…
In other words it’s about breaking the fear conditioning.
You know you are on your way to recovery when the same thoughts that before would make you feel sad, disgusted, depressed or fearful, no longer elicit much of a response!
Fear of ‘Losing Control’?
It might sound a little cliche, but the way to overcome OCD is facing your deepest fears.
And I think that for many individuals suffering from OCD (including myself!) it has to do with a specific fear of losing or letting go of control.
Indeed it can be a very scary thing to accept uncertainty in life – that there isn’t an answer to every question, that some things can never be really figured out and that many, if not most, things are in fact beyond our control.
If you can learn to accept uncertainties and let go of the need to have control over everything (especially your thoughts and emotions) your brain and body will be a lot happier.
How To Stop Thinking About Stuff All The Time
Below I will share a simple technique that can help you get out of your thinking mind and ‘distance yourself’ a bit from intrusive thoughts.
OCD is something that occurs when we’re stuck in our own heads, thinking about horrible things that may or may not happen, endlessly questioning, overanalysing, ruminating, and so on.
I would sometimes spend entire days pondering some question and compulsively look up information on that specific topic.
It was as if I couldn’t see anything but my own depressing OCD thoughts.
Well – there is an alternative to this crappy state!
Practicing Being Present
When you are fully present, here and now, you are not thinking.
By using your own senses to feel, look and listen, you essentially turn off the thinking part of the brain.
It’s easy to test yourself!
Right now, use your full attention and listen to any sounds in your surroundings.
Perhaps you hear some distant cars, or some people talking, or the wind blowing.
What you’ll find (if you do this correctly) is that you are not thinking anymore.
Using your senses and practicing being present can help increase awareness of your own thoughts and feelings. And with this thought awareness you become better at embracing a “couldn’t care less” attitude towards your own thoughts.
This is a good thing!
It provides a sort of layer of protection from your own negative thinking (which can become very burdensome at times).
So… throughout the day, try to engage your senses and reconnect with the here and now:
- Look at what is around you – really take time to study the things in your surroundings (what are the different shapes, colours, textures etc?)
- Feel the different sensations and energies in your body (even if they are unpleasant or anxious feelings!).
- Listen attentively to the sounds wherever you are, and do it with your FULLEST attention, not just half of it. Try to listen “beyond” the sounds (if that makes any sense).
- Pay attention to what you’re doing. Whether you’re doing the dishes, or walking the dog, or something else – focus on whatever is right in front you.
Whenever an intrusive thought pops up in your mind, this awareness can help you acknowledge the thought (“hey… that’s just an intrusive thought!”), chose not to engage with it, and instead focus on bringing back your attention to the here and now by looking, listening and feeling.
After practicing doing this over and over again your mind will at some point stop recognizing “scary, bad thoughts” as threats, and they will stop bothering you eventually.
2. Optimizing Your Nutrition And Gut Health
Does diet have anything to do with OCD?
In my opinion, anyone struggling with OCD could benefit from optimizing their diet and their gut health.
To make a long story short – your body needs nutrients to function properly!
Nutrients such as vitamin B1, folate, iron, zinc, calcium, copper, selenium, etc, etc, all play important roles.
When you do not get adequate nutrition from foods, weird things start to happen. A nutrient deficiency can make you feel moody, anxious or depressed for ‘seemingly no reason’.
And as the studies below suggest, individuals with OCD seem to be lacking in several key nutrients:
- OCD sufferers have significantly lower levels of important nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin C (and higher levels of inflammatory markers like homocysteine) compared to healthy controls.
- Supplementing with minerals that support our antioxidant system like zinc and selenium may help reduce OCD symptoms.
That is just one aspect of it.
Another aspect is the connection between how gut health influences your mind; in some ways your gut controls how you think, feel and act.
Some authors even go so far as to say that the root cause of OCD is a dysfunctional gut microbiome due to past antibiotic usage and stress, and that the treatment should consist of reintroducing beneficial bacteria.
The foods you eat have a MASSIVE impact on how you feel and your physical and mental health.
By avoiding inflammatory foods and eating in a way that supports your energetic needs, you will find that it is a lot easier to challenge your fears and compulsive tendencies become easier to manage.
(Sleep, managing stress, regular exercise, and so on, are also equally important which I’ll elaborate more on soon).
Some Diet Recommendations
Note: these are not prescriptions, these are just some things that I have found valuable.
Try incorporating one or two of these principles into your diet and see it helps.
- Reduce gut irritation/gut “stress”. In my experience OCD symptoms become WAY more noticeable whenever I eat something that doesn’t agree my digestive tract, makes me gassy and bloated and/or is feeding some kind of bacterial overgrowth. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from foods that cause excessive gas and bloating. Just removing 1 single irritating food or supplement can make a HUGE difference on your mental outlook and mood.
- Exactly how do you avoid gas and bloating? A rule of thumb is to stick with easy-to-digest foods and avoid eating too much raw fiber and roughage. A low FODMAP diet of animal foods like unprocessed meat, seafood, dairy and eggs, carbohydrate sources such as white rice, potatoes, all kinds of ripe fruits. Basically, anything that digests well and makes you feel good!
- Avoid constipation. Drinking hot water or tea between meals is great for improving gut transit time and reducing the risk of bacterial toxins in your gut causing inflammation. 30 minutes of daily brisk walking also helps with having regular bowel movements.
- Eat mostly home-cooked food, made from scratch.
- Reduce inflammatory polyunsaturated fat intake (i.e refined seed oils)
- Eat balanced meals with carbs/fats/proteins. This will balance your blood sugar and calm down your adrenals (and reduce adrenaline).
- Avoid processed foods junk foods, additives, fillers, colourings, supplements with toxic excipients, etc.
- Eat nutrient-dense foods. Again, your body needs calories, minerals and vitamins to function optimally. Animal foods like meat, seafood and milk contain high amounts of bio-available nutrients like zinc (an important mineral that calms down anxiety). Fruits are also good to eat.
- Include some red meat in your diet. Red meat has important nutrients like iron, selenium and zinc (zinc reduces anxiety and intrusive thoughts).
- In this study done on mice, the probiotic bacteria L. rhamnosus was effective for reducing mouse OCD-like behaviours. The gut-brain axis is a real thing and modulating the gut microbiome with prebiotics and probiotics can be worth experimenting with.
Experiment with different foods and see what works for you.
Everyone is different and has different needs (anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something). Meaning, take my advice with a grain of salt and do what works for you. Some do better on a more plant-based approach, some do not tolerate dairy or gluten, some do better with ample quantities of meat in their diet.
If you are interested in more diet stuff, I’ve written more about gut health and nutrition in this article here.
GUT HEALTH HACK: Try taking 1-2 tsp of activated charcoal in 8 oz of water either in the morning or before bed. This is a pretty awesome “gut health hack” for gas and bloating and IBS symptoms. It helps clear out bacterial toxins from your gut which can help calm down/clear your mind.
3. Getting Good Sleep (Fixing Circadian Rhythms)
Sleep is super important.
Sleep is super important.
Sleep is super important!
There, I had to say it three times…
…because it is really that important.
And arguably the most important factor for getting good sleep is light.
That’s right… light… from the sun!
Circadian rhythms are the body’s internal 24-hour clocks which, amongst other important things, help regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Light exposure is what helps synchronise this clock so it runs smoothly. If you don’t get enough sunshine during the daytime, or if you get a lot of unnatural artificial blue light from screens during nighttime, your body is going to get very confused and not know when it’s nighttime or when it’s daytime.
As a result, your circadian rhythms may get a little wonky → your sleep gets wonky.
There is evidence suggesting that in OCD patients circadian rhythms are disrupted which contributes to worsened sleep quality. In individuals with OCD the 24-hour secretion of melatonin (our natural sleep hormone) is reduced compared healthy control subjects.
Agomelatine, a chemical which acts sort of like melatonin in the brain, can help resynchronize circadian rhythms and improve general OCD symptoms.
So… what I am trying to say here is that you should prioritize your beauty sleep!
And the way to get that precious sleep is to fix your circadian rhythms.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night.
- Try to be consistent when you go to bed and when you wake up – the body likes regularity.
- Don’t stay up so late, try to be in bed before 11 PM.
- Make your room pleasant to sleep in – it should be dark, quiet and a little cool.
- Get sunshine exposure after you wake up to ‘lock in’ your circadian rhythm. In other words, go outside in the morning and get some sunshine hitting your eyes and skin.
- Avoid screens emitting blue light during evenings and nighttime as these disturb melatonin secretion.
- AVOID LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE BEFORE BED!
- Eat enough good calories during the day so that you have enough fuel to last you throughout the night. Some find a large meal 3-4 hours before bed works well, others need a small snack just before bed. Avoiding gut irritating foods and supplements will also improve sleep quality.
4. De-Stressing Hard
Did you know that yoga is scientifically proven to help improve OCD symptoms?
If I had to guess, yoga works so well because it lowers stress hormones, quietens the mind, reduces tension in the body and all of that good stuff.
Which is to say, you don’t necessarily have to do yoga, you just have to find some way to de-stress.
De-stressing is important for everyone.
But it’s particularly important for OCD sufferers because, well, OCD is really damn stressful.
The way to fight stress is through healthy lifestyle habits like eating well, sleeping well and regular de-stressing.
De-stressing; any kind of activity that helps bring back your attention into the present moment, turns off the ‘fight-or-flight’ nervous system and allows your body and mind to relax.
Here are some ideas:
- Exercise, walks in nature are especially awesome
- Reading physical books
- Spend more time with friends and family
- Try exploring new places or doing something exciting
- Learn a new instrument or draw
- Knitting… that’s right, knitting
- Meditation (which also happens to boost GABA levels)
- Guided audio meditation
- Taking naps
- Become a hippy
Another aspect of managing stress is about slowing down.
Try to reduce or eliminate unnecessary sources of stress in your life…
Which is sort of difficult, I get it.
You always have to deal with work, family, relationships, responsibilities, etc.
However what you can do is to get rid of unnecessary stress like watching the news, keeping up with social media, being triggered by Donald Trumps hair, trying to do everything at once, and so on and so forth.
5. Getting Sunlight
In general, it’s a good idea to spend more time outside in nature.
And being out in sunshine is really the most wonderful healing thing!
We already touched upon how important sunlight is for entrainment/synchronization of circadian rhythms. Getting sunshine during the morning and day helps lock in your circadian rhythm, so that later on that same night, your pineal gland starts secreting the sleep hormone melatonin and you can get your beauty sleep!
But wait – there’s more!
Vitamin D from Sunshine
When sunshine hits your skin, vitamin D (a.k.a the sunshine vitamin) gets produced.
Vitamin D is an important hormone that regulates many different processes in the body.
Studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and OCD…
…and here’s a case report where two patients significantly reduced compulsive hair pulling by taking 1000 IU vitamin D every day for 3 to 4 months.
As I said, vitamin D has many, many different roles in the body (one of the most well-known is its role in regulating calcium metabolism).
One possible explanation of how vitamin D reduces OCD symptoms is its involvement in regulating levels of enzymes such as tyrosine hydroxylase and tryptophan hydroxylase. These enzymes are involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Vitamin D is pretty amazing, but the rays from the sun also have other beneficial effects.
The sunlight spectrum contains a range of different wavelengths like UVB light (which is responsible for vitamin D production in the skin) as well as red and infrared light (which increases ATP production and reduces inflammation).
So, sunshine not only gives you a vitamin D boost, it also increases your metabolism and lowers inflammation!
Sunshine is good for you – try to get at least 15-20 minutes of sun exposure every day (just avoid burning)!
*If you live where it’s cold and snowy and dark 75% of the year (like I do), you can buy an infrared or UVA/UVB lamp and get some of the same benefits.
6. Avoid Poisons
Yes… I am looking at you alcohol!
And other stuff, too.
I used to get blackout drunk every weekend; it was one of my go-to strategies to stop the obsessive thoughts and the anxiety caused by them.
However it’s a real crappy solution because the “hangover OCD” is seriously 10000% worse than the normal OCD.
And frankly speaking, you are not going to overcome OCD by trying to escape it using drugs.
Remember: the key is not to escape your feelings and emotions, but to confront them.
I can’t tell you what to do or not do – but please be honest with yourself:
Do you feel like you have a problem with drugs like alcohol or weed or something else?
I would seriously consider dropping that habit (and seek help if you can’t do it on your own!).
Even drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages can make anxiety and OCD way worse.
You are only self-sabotaging by continuing to put poisons in your body.
*Not saying coffee is a poison, I actually know some people that said it had anti-obsessive effects for them.
TIP: Replace bad habits with something that is fun or stimulating or gives you a natural high, like hiking or learning a new instrument. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is also great for stabilizing your mood and managing stress levels.
7. Awesome Supplements That Can Help With OCD
…how shall I put this.
Supplements are something you can explore after all the other important stuff has been taken care off.
You are always going to get the best results from sleeping well every night, de-stressing regularly, stop putting poisons in your body, working on your relationship with your thoughts and feelings, exercising, eating nutritious foods, etc.
Supplements are often just a waste of money.
Money that could have been put to better use on high-quality foods… or guitars!
Moreover, if you are not careful it is possible to create MORE problems by taking stuff you don’t need.
I’ve bought supplements for literally thousands of dollars and yes, some of them helped a little, but ultimately nothing really beats good sleep and good nutrition.
With that said…
How GABA Boosting Supplements Can Help OCD
OCD sufferers have low brain GABA levels.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that works as a natural brake system in the brain and CNS.
The “evil twin brother” of GABA is glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain which we talked about earlier.
There is a sort of ying and yang relationship between the GABA and glutamate…
…meaning, GABA helps to calm down racing thoughts and alleviates anxiety.
I found this really interesting study showing that individuals with higher hippocampal GABA levels had a greater ability to suppress unwanted thoughts.
GABAergic neurotransmission is especially important for calming down the amygdala (a small almond-shaped part of the brain involved with processing emotions and fearful stimuli) so that you don’t freak out over small stressors.
This then begs the question:
Why do individuals with OCD have lowers GABA levels in the first place?
Again I don’t claim to have all the answers, but one possible explanation is that chronic worrying and emotional stress has been shown to reduce GABA activity in the amygdala.
OCD is insanely stressful, so it kind of makes sense that GABA would be lower in these individuals.
If you want, you could try experimenting with these (natural) GABAergic supplements which are all quite safe and effective:
- Magnesium – is an awesome anti-stress mineral that helps calm down the brain and reduce anxiety. Magnesium reduces excitatory glutamate signalling and increases GABAergic (calming) signalling. It also decreases catecholamine (e.g adrenaline) release. Chronic stress and anxiety leads to magnesium wasting which is why it can be a good idea to replenish magnesium stores.
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B3 a.k.a niacinamide (a favourite of mine which I wrote about here)
- Lemon balm
- Valerian root – at a dose of 765 mg per day was shown to have anti-OCD effects.
- Magnolia bark
*If you feel unsure about taking any supplement, then just avoid it! Focus instead on the other basic stuff like diet and sleep. Also you could always discuss these things with your doctor.
Free PDF With General Anti-Anxiety Support
If you scroll through any page on this website, there should pop up a subscriber form where you can download a free PDF with my favourite anti-anxiety supplements. There you can find some more ideas on how to reduce stress and anxiety.
OCD is a difficult beast to tame.
Sometimes you feel you’re making good progress, and then all of a sudden bam, you are back to OCD hell again.
You just gotta keep going and never give up.
Use all the tools at your disposal – e.g nutrition, sleep, regular de-stressing, sunshine exposure, practice facing fearful thoughts while practicing non-engagement, use supplements to get some relief from OCD…
While it may sound unlikely, with enough time and effort you will get to a point where OCD is no longer an issue for you.
Sure, it might not happen overnight, but it will happen over weeks and months.
Just do what you can right now – in this moment – to improve a little and try to forget about past mistakes or regrets.
Then do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and so on.
My OCD was so bad that I honestly thought that I couldn’t keep on living for much longer.
Well, thankfully that is all in the past now, and I am doing really good right now!
I hope you found this information useful and please share it with anyone you think could benefit from it 🙂
2 thoughts on “How to Overcome OCD & Intrusive Thoughts: A Self-Help Guide”
thank you… it helps me understand the illness in layman terms. It let me understand what the Indvidual is going through. It gave me some interesting tools/ knowledge to talk/ engage, with the individual.
Hi Chris, glad to hear you found the article helpful! 🙂