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Exposure Therapy for OCD--Scared


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My therapist wants to try "exposure therapy"......I have read about it and it sounds terrifying to me.

She is going to talk with me more about it next week.

Has anyone ever done this type therapy?.......If you have, was it successful or helpful?

Any thoughts and experiences welcome......Thanks !

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Personally no - but I have a close family member who had good results. I know it’s scary- but if you have a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist I think it’s really worth a shot. With MI, we put ourselves in doctors hands all the time, dealing with meds and trauma and all that other stuff, this way is just more.... direct. I think all you can do is go into that next meeting with an open mind 

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16 hours ago, Iceberg said:

Personally no - but I have a close family member who had good results. I know it’s scary- but if you have a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist I think it’s really worth a shot. With MI, we put ourselves in doctors hands all the time, dealing with meds and trauma and all that other stuff, this way is just more.... direct. I think all you can do is go into that next meeting with an open mind 

Thanks @Iceberg, I appreciate it.......Nice to know your family member had good results.....I'll try to keep an open mind....I've been with this therapist for 2 years, so I do trust her pretty well.

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I've heard it is very effective but I never tried for the same reason - it terrifies me.  We've spent so long relying on our rituals to keep us safe it's like taking away our armor in battle....except I suppose the battle only exists in our heads.  I hope it goes well, I'd be interested in updates if you're willing to share them.  I think if you have a therapist who is compassionate and knows how to guide you through it, its probably not as scary as it sounds.  

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16 hours ago, Complicated toad said:

 I hope it goes well, I'd be interested in updates if you're willing to share them.

Yes, I will doing updates on this.......My therapist and I will be planning for it at my next appointment in a couple of days....I will post what we plan to do.....I am trying to think positive, and have some hope....

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I’m not sure if this helps at all.  I did exposure therapy for ptsd related stuff.  She had me use a subjective unit of distress scale to rate a bunch of different things that could cause anxiety/trauma symptoms.  For example, the drug raid was one trauma that we worked on (the main one for the exposures) and looking at a picture of a stationary helicopter might be a 1, but being in handcuffs and watching a real drug raid happen might be an 8.  That list led to a hierarchy for how we tackled things, starting with the lowest distress and progressing to the most distress causing.  It was hard, but really helpful.  
 

I’ll stop with that because I’m not sure if it helps since it’s a different disease, but let me know if you have questions.

Edited by dancesintherain
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17 hours ago, dancesintherain said:

I’m not sure if this helps at all.  I did exposure therapy for ptsd related stuff.  She had me use a subjective unit of distress scale to rate a bunch of different things that could cause anxiety/trauma symptoms.  For example, the drug raid was one trauma that we worked on (the main one for the exposures) and looking at a picture of a stationary helicopter might be a 1, but being in handcuffs and watching a real drug raid happen might be an 8.  That list led to a hierarchy for how we tackled things, starting with the lowest distress and progressing to the most distress causing.  It was hard, but really helpful.  
 

I’ll stop with that because I’m not sure if it helps since it’s a different disease, but let me know if you have questions.

Thanks for sharing......I'm happy to hear this helped you..........I am not sure how my therapist is going to do exposure with me.....It would make sense to tackle the least distressing thing and move up, although I have read that some therapists go all out and address the most distressing thing first.

Most of my OCD is centered around everyday things that a typical person wouldn't think twice about doing, like going outside, cooking, driving, going to the grocery store, etc.......I can't do any of those things because they scare me......Someone has to drive me to all my appointments, and to get meds, etc.

My therapist's goal, I think, is to try to get me to do some simple things first, by myself.....At least I hope so.......Her specialty is actually ptsd, and she works with a lot of military people with ptsd, so she is familiar with exposure therapy.......I am not sure how she plans to address my particular fears, since they are not really centered around traumatic events.

I will update tomorrow after my appointment on what her plan is.......Thanks again, so much......Reading about your experience really helped.

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On 7/17/2021 at 8:19 PM, Complicated toad said:

 I hope it goes well, I'd be interested in updates if you're willing to share them.

Well, the latest is that my appointment this past Tuesday was cancelled due to my therapist having a family emergency......I have another appointment scheduled for this coming Tuesday.....I will update then what she plans.......

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Update today, @Complicated toad........Had my appointment with therapist......She wanted me to create a "safe place" in my mind where I can go anytime, before we actually start the exposure.

So, my safe place I came up with is a small bedroom with blue walls, and a blue and green comforter, and lots of pillows.....There are no windows in this room, because I wanted to be blocked off from the outside world in my "safe place".....Only my cat is allowed in this room, because my kitty comforts me....I have a small wooden nightstand with a lamp if I need it.

My safe place is where I want to hide from the world, because there are so many things that frighten me.

She said I can't stay in this room all the time, but it is supposed to be a place of refuge when I need it......Anyway, that was what we did today, is create the safe place......I thought we had a good session.......Next update will be next Tuesday after my appointment.

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Thanks for the update @CrazyRedhead

I already like the idea of the safe place, even if I'm not in therapy I'm going to think about one for myself.  

I'm supposed to go back to the office in a month.  It used to take me an hour or more of checking to get out the door, and even then I'd end up sneaking out during the day to drive home and check again because I was so panicked I couldn't function.  To add to it, I'm going to have to take public transport which means no way to sneak home and back in 45 minutes (a fake lunch break).  I'm dreading going through all of it again, since working from home I've gone from over an hour or more a day of rituals to maybe 20-30 minutes tops.  I am going to need that safe space!   

Wishing you the best in your upcoming sessions, thanks for sharing the experience with us!

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On 7/28/2021 at 1:18 PM, dancesintherain said:

I'm glad it went well!  Thanks for providing the update. 

 

15 hours ago, Complicated toad said:

Thanks for the update @CrazyRedhead

I already like the idea of the safe place, even if I'm not in therapy I'm going to think about one for myself.  

I'm supposed to go back to the office in a month.  It used to take me an hour or more of checking to get out the door, and even then I'd end up sneaking out during the day to drive home and check again because I was so panicked I couldn't function.  To add to it, I'm going to have to take public transport which means no way to sneak home and back in 45 minutes (a fake lunch break).  I'm dreading going through all of it again, since working from home I've gone from over an hour or more a day of rituals to maybe 20-30 minutes tops.  I am going to need that safe space!   

Wishing you the best in your upcoming sessions, thanks for sharing the experience with us!

@Complicated toad and @dancesintherain, you're both so welcome.......I'm glad to share my experience, as it might help someone else as well as me.........toad, I totally understand about the checking, it is so time-consuming, and good luck in creating your safe place, if that's what you decide to do.

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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  • 2 weeks later...

Update: when I had my last session, my "homework" for the week was to stand outside everyday, by myself, for 5 minutes, without checking anything in the house first.

Usually, when I go outside, I have to have someone with me, and I have to go through all the checking first, as well.

Well, I have to say that I was only partially successful with this.......I only managed to do it for 3 days, and then I got very overwhelmed and had a major panic attack on the 4th day when I tried to do it........My next session is tomorrow, when I get to tell her what happened.

I tried my best.....I am hoping for the strength to continue, but I am very discouraged.....I realize this is very early in the exposure therapy, though, and I can't expect it to work overnight.

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I think three days is a great start—not a failure.  I completely get the desire to go 7 for 7, but if you think about it you made it half the week doing something that had previously been really problematic.  It only makes sense that problems might arise.  
 

part of exposures is figuring out what’s a manageable challenge and what’s too much.  Occasionally that means that you’ll find out that something was too much.  My guess is it’ll get modified.  And then you’ll see if the modified version is manageable.

 

take gentle care and hang in there.  You’re doing what you can.

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7 hours ago, CrazyRedhead said:

Update: when I had my last session, my "homework" for the week was to stand outside everyday, by myself, for 5 minutes, without checking anything in the house first.

Usually, when I go outside, I have to have someone with me, and I have to go through all the checking first, as well.

Well, I have to say that I was only partially successful with this.......I only managed to do it for 3 days, and then I got very overwhelmed and had a major panic attack on the 4th day when I tried to do it........My next session is tomorrow, when I get to tell her what happened.

I tried my best.....I am hoping for the strength to continue, but I am very discouraged.....I realize this is very early in the exposure therapy, though, and I can't expect it to work overnight.

I think that's good progress.  To expect to have 100% success out of the gate doesn't seem reasonable, and I'm going to guess that talking about the panic attack and what might have led to it will be part of your discussion, and you will likely learn something from it.  

Would you have stood outside by yourself without checking even one day in the past?  So three days is a victory compared with where you started.  

As dances said, hang in there!

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@dancesintherain and @Complicated toad, thank you for your thoughts and encouragement........My therapist and I talked today about what happened, and we have agreed on modifying it a bit.

The plan now is that I am allowed to check one thing only, before I attempt to stand outside for 5 minutes.....I must choose what thing to check, and only check it once, before attempting to go outside.......This sounds a little bit easier, although checking only one time scares me a bit.

Okay, I'll see how it goes, and update later this weekend......Thanks again for the support !!

Edited by CrazyRedhead
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20 hours ago, Wonderful.Cheese said:

Keep up the great work CRH! 3 days is amazing! You are doing such hard work and doing it very, very well. Try not to feel discouraged. I promise you that you are doing awesome. Much support and admiration from me. 

Thank you, Cheese, for your support and encouragement...!

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Update:  I am still scared when I go outside for 5 minutes....In the past week, I have been able to do 4 days of going outside, but instead of checking just one thing, like my therapist said to do,  I have been checking multiple things before going out.....Once I start checking one thing, I have to check almost everything........So.....I don't know......*SIGH*

I haven't gotten a chance to tell therapist, because my appointment this week was cancelled....My therapist had to go out of town for a family matter, and my appointment was moved up to next week.....I'll see what she says then....

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