How I Deal with OCD Backslides
One of the defining experiences in my life so far is my struggle with obsessive compulsive note taking. A few years ago at a relative nadir in my life I decided I’d reach out to someone to do something about it. I ended up on a very positive trajectory. That moment years ago was a great decision that I talk about elsewhere, but isn’t the subject of what I want to talk about here.
Today I don’t have to do much to actively manage residual OCD… but I still have moments of backslide. I’m very lucky today to be where I am. Many people struggle with OCD for a long time and don’t seek help either because it’s undiagnosed or any of a number of other reasons. My biggest concern at the beginning after seeing some positive momentum in my battle against OCD was stepping back from my counselor. At my worst we would meet weekly. I knew for a lot of reasons that it wouldn’t be like that forever, but I was nervous about making the step back from weekly to bi-weekly and to less frequently. This made sense to me because at it’s core OCD is a disorder that deals with discomfort (to put it lightly) as a result of uncertainty.
The first thing I did to deal with a backslide, was to do my best to prevent a backslide. I’m not perfect and I certainly can’t guarantee against a backslide. However, I can increase the chances of success. In my case I was patient with myself and my progress. There was no rush to reduce the frequency of my visits. I should scale them back when I feel like it’s a manageable next step (note: not when I feel 100% comfortable, but when I feel like I can handle any added anxiety).
For me it was probably 4–6 months before I started to scale back. Today I’m 2 or 3 years out from when I started and I still see my therapist every 8 to 12 weeks. The difference is that today I choose to see my person. Maintaining the relationship with my person may not be critical to my success, but I use it as a guard rail to protect against a backslide. Usually if I start to backslide I can email my therapist if it’s particularly disconcerting or I can wait until I see him again a few weeks…