Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder has two features that are obsessions and compulsions. Intrusive thoughts trigger the first, and compulsions are the actions we do in response to the obsession. That is to prevent imagined danger and reduce anxiety.

One of the compulsions in OCD is to ruminate about the obsession. It is also known as mental checking. It means we try to make sense of the obsession and reduce the feeling of threat. For example, if intrusive thoughts are about harming oneself or others, ruminating about preventing injury or questioning why we’re having the thoughts will be the compulsion. However, it becomes a cyclic problem because compulsive actions feed the obsession.

Check Out The Three Tips Below To Help Break The Pattern

1. Prevent Defence Behaviours

If we want to stop mental checking, we first need to learn how not to do it. We can do that by discovering how to prevent defence behaviours, which means resisting the urge to do a ritual, including mental checking. The important thing is to catch any opening that invites us to check. By being mindful of that, we set ourselves up to be combat-ready to withstand the urge. It might be that we’re sitting alone in the quiet. Suddenly it seems strange because OCD hasn’t bothered us so much. Notice how this is an opening to start analysing why OCD is less bothersome today? Still, this is the time to identify that we must not yield to the bait. In other words, when an obsession appears non-existent, we can recognise that it is not an invitation to examine why that’s the case.

2. Interrupt Mental Checking

The second thing is to learn how to interrupt mental checking if we’ve already fallen into the trap of doing a defence behaviour. For example, suppose you’re wondering why that particular obsession is no longer active. Now imagine trying to search your mind to work out the reasons for that. You might worry that there could be something else wrong, that the problem was never OCD and before long, you catch yourself in a cycle of ruminations. In this case, when we realise we’re dwelling, we can learn to disrupt the process. We can do this by shifting state, or in other words, shifting our thinking and behaviour. It’s a technique that means moving mind and body onto something else, mindfully, such as a favourite pastime. Or we can stay in the present moment with what we’re already doing. We must let involuntary thoughts come and go but pay no attention to them. By doing this, we break the impulse to analyse them without blocking them out (blocking is a defence behaviour, a compulsion). Mindfully shifting state helps us resist the urge to continue checking for further information about the missing obsession while being attentive to what we’re doing in the present.

3. Resist Comparing Those Checks

Later, and this is the third thing, we might unwittingly fall into a further trap of reflecting on our previous ruminations and comparing those checks. For instance, suppose the spontaneous opportunity to obsess about the missing obsession and searching for clues pops up again. But instead of resisting ruminating, we opt-in one more time. This time, we want to pinpoint something more about the lost obsession, try to make more sense of it. We might feel urged to prove it was never really about us, our values or true character. We might even be at a loss to know how to fill in the time we spent ruminating before OCD started. Still, this is the moment to recognise that we must resist examining or comparing those previous checks. Once we notice we’re doing it, we can remind ourselves of the mindful approach (see tip 2). It takes practice, but it will work in our favour if we keep at it.


First, prevent defence, second, interrupt mental checking and third, resist the impulse to analyse and compare the earlier ruminations. Each is an opportunity to redirect your attention to use ritual prevention. In short, it is the goal of exposure-response prevention, the evidence-based treatment for OCD, which weakens the obsession.