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Stop Intrusive Thoughts: Pure O OCD

Stop Intrusive Thoughts - Pure O OCD

Today, my subject is unwanted, intrusive, obsessive thoughts. Sometimes people call it Pure O OCD. Hi, I'm Paige Pradko. Welcome to Therapy for a Better Life. Today's topic, intrusive, unwanted obsessive thoughts, I will be talking about what to do in the moment you have an intrusive thought.

Have you ever had a sudden scare? Maybe you saw a huge lightning strike or had a near miss on the expressway? And your heart just pounds out of your chest. You feel this whoosh of adrenaline go through you. That is your amygdala being activated. That is your fight or flight response, that adrenaline surge that you feel. And in the moment after that happens, it hits the cortex of your brain, your “thinking” brain. And you say, “Oh, okay, that was a near miss, but everything's fine”. And you kind of calmed down. It was like a false alarm. Well, sometimes our brain does not recognize that something is a false alarm, and our amygdala gives us all kinds of false alarms, because its job is to protect us. It is going to air on the side of sending too many alarms versus not enough alarms.

This is what happens with an intrusive thought or how an intrusive thought is formed. You have a thought and for whatever reason, that thought scares you. “Oh my gosh”. It just scares you and your amygdala gets activated. But instead of your brain realizing, “Oh, that's just a thought that was a false alarm. It's just a thought”. You begin to question that thought, “Oh my gosh, could that really happen? Would I really do that? Is that really true?” And you start examining and questioning it. Well, not only did we have that initial thought and our amygdala take off and activate in our fear response. That initial thought that was called first fear. But now, we have the secondary fear where we are asking all these questions and trying to analyze the thought. “Would we do that? Could we do that?” Let me give you an example. My thought, my initial thought is what if I jump off that cliff over there? Oh my gosh. That scared me. That thought scared me. Now. Most people would say, oh, that's just a thought. And they let it go. Someone that has formed the intrusive unwanted thought would begin to say, “Oh my gosh, would I do that? Could I do that? Maybe I better get people around me. So I don't do that. Maybe I better tell somebody, should I distract myself? Maybe I'm going crazy. What do you think I would do that? I don't know if I would do that. No, no, I wouldn't do that, but I could do that.” And all that activity that we do after we have the thought, trying to think it through and analyze it and question it. Maybe I should pray about it. Maybe I should count to 10. All of that activity actually reinforces that fearful thought, and it keeps the amygdala activated. We call this the second fear. The first fear is the initial thought. Most people say it's a false alarm. But if you're prone to these intrusive thoughts, it's that second wave of thinking and activity that reinforce it and keep it going. We actually believe it. It might possibly be true. Now what is happening in the brain is that the original thought we had the fear response, right? But all that secondary fear where we're reinforcing it, we're associating that fearful thought with anxiety. Now we have both tied together in our brain. So, what do we do? I'm going to talk a little bit about what to do in the moment when this happens. Researchers in the field have discovered how to rewire the brain. We know that we have an association between the fearful thought and the fear response that activates the amygdala . Researchers have discovered that we can create new learning and override this association through something called exposure. In OCD and anxiety fields it is referred to as ERP, exposure response prevention. What I am teaching today is a method of ERP. There are many methods of exposure and response prevention and many methods of exposure. I am going to do another video on how to do a planned exposure. But today, I'm describing what to do in that moment that you have that intrusive thought or obsessive or Pure O OCD thought. I have come up with an acronym to help people remember, and the acronym is I AM. I think most people can remember. I am. The “I” is “identify”. “Oh my gosh, will I pick up that knife over there and stab myself?” Identify that that is an intrusive thought. The next is “A” in I. A.M. “A” stands for “allow and accept”. We have an attitude of allowing. We are not going to try to “not have the thought” or resist it. “Oh my gosh, let me let me go try to distract myself. Let me take all the knives out of the house. Let me make sure somebody's watching me all the time.” We're not going to do any of that behavior. We are going to allow and accept whatever thoughts are there. We have over 60,000 thoughts a day. You know what? We picked this particular one to scare us. We have so many. And so we are just going to allow whatever thoughts to come through, to be there. And the next letter, “M” in “I AM” is to shift your attention and connect to the moment. So while you are allowing all these thoughts, and some of those thoughts might even be all the questioning and analyzing and trying to prove it wrong and all of that stuff. We are going to just kind of notice that chatter going on in our brain and “M” is connecting to the moment. Instead of thinking about all the what ifs, what if this, what if I pick it up? What if I don't? Instead of the what ifs, we're going to think of the, “what is in the moment”. We are going to use our senses to do that. Can I connect to the actual moment I am living in? Can I feel my feet on the ground? What do I see around me? What do I hear? What do I observe in myself? Well, I observe myself. I observe all these thoughts in the background. That's okay. You can observe them. We are just not going to engage with them. We're just going to observe them in the moment that we are living. Claire Weekes used to call it floating. We're just going to let all those thoughts float there. And the other part of M is “moving on”. When your anxiety begins to come down a little bit, I want you to move on and do whatever you were doing before this thought hit you. Soon, if you continue to practice this method, “I AM” where “I” is, identify the thought that's an intrusive thought. The “A” is having an attitude of accepting and allowing whatever those thoughts are. We have so many of them every day, this is no more significant than anything else. We are just going to accept and allow. And “M” connecting to the moment. What is the moment I'm living in right now? What am I doing? What do I feel? What do I see? What do I hear? And “M” is also moving on. Eventually you are going to see that your thoughts are not going to bother you as much. This is a form of incidental exposure therapy or ERP and the more often you practice it, the better you're going to feel. You will be creating new safety learning, new neuro pathways that will allow you to have whatever thought comes up and not have that wired connection to your fear response in your brain. I hope that you learned a little bit about what to do when you have these intrusive, unwanted thoughts in the moment. I can't tell you how many questions I get about what to do in the moment. I hope that this helps you.

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