Thursday, December 17, 2015

Starting a New Treatment: Exposure and Response Prevention

Edvard Munch The Scream
This is me even thinking about
exposure therapy. 
Anyone with a persistent mental illness who has sought help can tell you that getting treatment just right takes time. That space between getting sick and feeling relief stretches long for those of us with OCD intrusive thoughts. These horrid thoughts can plague us for months or even years before something provides significant relief. Mine has been pretty cyclic, so I have had downtime over the past six years, but I've never actually been treated specifically for OCD because standard CBT helped enough to be encouraging. The OCD has always been treated as part of the larger picture of my mental health problems. Not anymore. My amazing therapist is gearing me up for exposure and response prevention. We're starting full bore next week.

What is exposure and response prevention? It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The patient is exposed to her fears and is asked not to engage in the typical response (compulsions). In time, this habituates the patient to the fear and hopefully reduces the amount of anxiety felt in response to it. You can read more about it here, here and here.

I'm excited to try something new and hopefully get a grasp on my life again after a recent upsurge in symptoms, not to mention a healthy dose of depression (maybe that's not the best way to put it *shrug*). I'm a little nervous too. Obviously, I don't want to face my fears. They make me scared. However, I'm crazy willing to do anything they say will work at this point. The other component of my nerves, apart from the obvious I'm scared of everything bit, is that my obsessions and compulsions are not clear-cut. I have "Pure-O." I don't wash my hands to get rid of germs or flip light switches on and off. My therapist is going to have to wizard up ways to expose me to obsessive thoughts and stop me from reacting with my compulsive thoughts.

It's all a little Greek to me right now, but true to form, I'm researching the process and getting ready to take it on. I really hope that I get positive results to share with you fellow obsessers, particularly you Pure-O types who have to put a little extra work into identifying what your compulsions are. I'll let you know how it goes, as long as my anxiety keeps letting me get my writing done. Wish me luck and feel free to share your thoughts and experiences about/with exposure and response prevention in the comments section.