January 13, 2022

Why Managing OCD Means Managing Your Feelings

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Anxiety and with tags: Anxiety, OCD

Why Managing OCD Means Managing Your Feelings white woman obsessing

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”?

For many — if not most — of us, the concept of OCD is connected to unusual behaviors. Running parallel to this perception are the thoughts that provoke such unusual behaviors.

So, to sum up, OCD has a reputation for imposing intrusive, obsessive thoughts that force people to act out compulsions. This is essentially true, of course. But it leaves out a powerful driving force.

Before anyone can have the thoughts that lead to the behaviors, they must first experience feelings. Everyone has intrusive thoughts from time to time. It is the feeling connected to the thoughts that create the compulsions.

The OCD Cycle

A feeling — e.g. fear, dread, shame, guilt, etc. — takes form in an unwanted thought or series of thoughts. These thoughts coalesce into a story.

Your story is usually about facing some terrible consequence if you don’t take some kind of action. Such obsessions often fall into a few broad categories:

  • Contamination or germs
  • Loss of control
  • Perfectionism
  • Being harmed or harming others
  • Deviant sexual thoughts or acts

Since obsessive thoughts are the result of emotions instead of logic, the action you choose follows suit. Simply put, the anxiety reaches a point where you have to do something, anything to prevent the dangerous story from coming true.

The irrational behaviors you choose to “prevent” the bad outcome are called compulsions. They may range widely but here are some common manifestations:

  • Avoidance
  • Collecting and hoarding
  • Counting and/or mental reviewing events
  • Repetitive routines
  • Cleaning and washing
  • Checking and re-checking your actions

When addressing your OCD with a trained therapist you can focus on preventing compulsive actions.

Just as likely, you can take steps to block the intrusive obsessions. To go more deeply and get to the root of the issue, you would aim your attention at the underlying feelings.

Managing OCD Means Managing Feelings

Again, intrusive thoughts are inevitable. What matters most is the feeling attached to the thought.

If the emotion is intense enough, you will feel compelled to take action. You can be acutely aware that the obsessions make no sense but still follow through with the compulsions.

Perhaps the quickest path to managing OCD then is to come face-to-face with the frightening feelings that serve as its engine.

For example, your mind may warn you that you’ll become deathly ill if you enter a busy public location. The fear is real even if the warning is inaccurate.

Learning to incrementally call your mind’s bluff, so to speak, is a giant step toward siphoning away some of the OCD’s power.


An increasingly common and popular treatment option for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Your ACT therapist will encourage you to accept and explore what you feel. There’s no avoiding or repressing the scary emotions. By accepting their existence, you are well-positioned to commit to dealing with them.

When a negative feeling kicks off the OCD cycle, you may feel you have two options:

  • Try your best to push it down
  • Submit to it and act out a compulsion

ACT teaches us to remain present with the feeling. We can explore it, accept it, and move on.

Thanks to ACT, you have the skills to make such choices. Utilizing those skills empowers you to live a rich and meaningful life despite the OCD.

In other words, you change your relationship with your mental health issues in a positive and powerful way.


Next Steps

If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD. We’d love to tell you more about management techniques. Let’s connect in the name of healing and recovery.

Please reach out to Eddins Counseling Group at 832-559-2622 to get started today.  Our Houston, Montrose, and Sugar Land therapists offer OCD treatment both in-person and online.

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