Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a debilitating condition. Intrusive thoughts and the urge to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions) can significantly impact daily life. But there is hope. Many effective methods for managing compulsions exist, empowering you to take back control.

This guide will explore five common questions people with OCD have about managing compulsions. We’ll delve into various techniques to help you find the approach that best suits your unique needs.

What are Compulsions, and Why Do I Feel the Need to Do Them?


Compulsions in OCD can be perplexing and frustrating. 

Imagine being plagued by intrusive thoughts that trigger an intense urge to perform repetitive behaviors – actions that may seem illogical to others, yet feel essential for managing overwhelming anxiety. 

This is the reality for many people living with OCD.

Compulsions are more than just habits or tics. They are driven by a complex interplay between fear, anxiety, and the need for relief. Here’s a deeper look at what compulsions are and why they feel so necessary:

  • The Cycle of Anxiety and Relief: At the heart of OCD lies a cycle fueled by anxiety. Intrusive thoughts, often disturbing or upsetting in nature, trigger intense anxiety. This anxiety motivates the person to engage in compulsions – repetitive behaviors or mental acts – intended to neutralize the anxiety or prevent a feared outcome.

For instance, someone with a fear of contamination (obsession) might ruminate on the possibility of germs causing them harm. To alleviate this anxiety, they might feel compelled to wash their hands repeatedly until they feel “clean enough” (compulsion).

It’s important to understand that the relief compulsions provide are temporary. While completing the compulsion might bring a brief sense of calm, the intrusive thoughts inevitably return, restarting the anxiety-compulsion cycle.

  • The Power of Reinforcement: Over time, compulsions become ingrained through a process called reinforcement. Each time the compulsion is performed, and temporary relief is achieved, the brain strengthens the connection between the obsession and the compulsion. This reinforces the belief that compulsions are necessary to neutralize the threat and reduce anxiety.


  • The Spectrum of Compulsions: Compulsions can manifest in various ways, both overt (observable) and covert (internal). Some common examples include:


    • Washing and cleaning rituals: Excessive hand washing, showering, or cleaning routines in response to contamination fears.
    • Checking rituals: Repeatedly checking doors, locks, appliances, or the body for reassurance.
    • Ordering and arranging: Needing things to be in a specific order or symmetry to feel calm.
    • Counting rituals: Counting objects repeatedly to ward off bad luck or intrusive thoughts.
    • Mental compulsions: Silent prayers, repetitive phrases, or mental images performed to neutralize obsessions.

It’s important to remember that compulsions are not chosen behaviors. They are a symptom of the underlying anxiety caused by OCD. Understanding the purpose compulsions serve in the OCD cycle is the first step towards effectively managing them.

    Is Resisting Compulsions Helpful?

    Resisting compulsions can feel like trying to swim upstream – incredibly difficult and maybe a little scary at first. 

    But here’s the thing: 

    Resisting those urges is actually your superpower in managing OCD. Let’s break down why:

    • Breaking the Cycle: Remember that OCD thrives on a cycle of anxiety and relief. Intrusive thoughts trigger anxiety, and compulsions become a seemingly easy way to feel better. But here’s the catch: That relief is temporary. By resisting the compulsion, you disrupt this cycle. It might feel uncomfortable initially, but over time, the anxiety associated with the obsession starts to weaken.


    • Think of It Like Training: Imagine your brain is a muscle. The more you perform a compulsion, the stronger that “muscle” becomes. Resisting compulsions is like retraining that muscle. It won’t happen overnight, but with consistent effort, you can weaken the urge to perform compulsions and strengthen your ability to manage them.


    • Building Confidence: Every time you resist a compulsion, you’re essentially telling yourself, “Hey, I can handle this anxiety without giving in!” This builds confidence and self-belief in your ability to manage OCD effectively. Over time, these small victories can have a significant impact on your overall well-being.


    • It Gets Easier (We Promise!): We know, right now, resisting compulsions might seem impossible. But trust us, it gets easier with practice. The more you challenge those urges, the weaker they become. There will be setbacks, that’s part of the journey, but with consistent effort, you’ll find yourself resisting compulsions more and more often.

    Remember, you’re not alone in this. There are many effective methods for managing OCD compulsions, and resisting them is a powerful tool in your arsenal. Think of it as training your brain to be more resilient and developing the confidence to manage OCD effectively. 

    It won’t be easy, but with a little determination and the right support, you can achieve amazing things.

      What Techniques Can Help Me Resist & Manage Compulsions?


      Several evidence-based methods can help you resist compulsions and manage your OCD effectively. Here are a few key approaches:

      • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): This gold-standard treatment involves gradually exposing yourself to situations that trigger your obsessions while resisting the urge to perform compulsions. With repeated exposure and resisting the compulsions, the anxiety associated with the obsessions will gradually decrease.
      • Mindfulness Techniques: Mindfulness practices like meditation help you become aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. By observing your obsessions without reacting with compulsions, you can learn to detach from them and reduce their power.
      • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to OCD symptoms. By learning to reframe your thoughts and beliefs, you can reduce the anxiety associated with obsessions and compulsions.

      Are There Relaxation Techniques That Can Help?

      Absolutely! OCD often co-occurs with anxiety, and relaxation techniques can be powerful tools for managing both conditions. Here are a few methods to explore:

      • Deep Breathing Exercises: Focusing on slow, controlled breaths activates the relaxation response in your body, counteracting the physical symptoms of anxiety.
      • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups, promoting relaxation throughout the body and easing anxiety.
      • Visualization: Imagine yourself in a calm and peaceful setting. Visualization can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety associated with OCD.


      Taking Charge of Your OCD

      Healthy couples communication isn’t about never disagreeing. It’s about creating a safe space to express yourselves openly, listen actively, and work through challenges together. 

      By incorporating these strategies for healthy couples communication, you and your partner can build a strong foundation for a lasting and fulfilling relationship. Remember, communication is a journey, not a destination. 

      Embrace the growth and navigate the roadblocks together, and your bond will only become stronger.

      When Should I Seek Professional Help For My Compulsions?

      If OCD symptoms are significantly impacting your daily life, causing distress, or interfering with work, relationships, or other important areas of functioning, it’s essential to seek professional help. 

      If you live in Ohio, a therapist here at UMatter Counseling experienced in treating OCD can guide you through the most effective strategies for managing OCD compulsions and improve your overall well-being. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about starting OCD Therapy with us.

      UMatter Counseling

      Online Mental Health Therapists in Ohio