Ali Iverson, Psy.D.
5 Ways To Manage OCD Rumination using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Are you struggling with intrusive thoughts and endless rumination due to OCD? Here are 5 effective ways that will help you break free from the cycle and regain control of your mind
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s a condition that causes people to experience recurrent, persistent, and intrusive thoughts or obsessions, which can lead to ritualistic behaviors or compulsions.
One of the symptoms of OCD is rumination, which involves dwelling on thoughts, ideas, or experiences repeatedly. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that can help people manage OCD symptoms, including rumination.
ACT aims to teach individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment and commit to behavioral changes that are consistent with their values.
Here are five ways to manage OCD rumination using ACT techniques:
1. Defuse From Thoughts: One of the first things that ACT teaches is the technique of cognitive defusion. This involves stepping back from your thoughts and observe them from a distance. You can try to imagine your thoughts as clouds passing by in the sky. Instead of getting caught up in your thoughts, observe them without judgment.
2. Acceptance: Acceptance is the next step in managing OCD rumination. It involves allowing your thoughts and feelings to be present without judgment or resistance. Acceptance can help reduce the anxiety and distress associated with OCD thoughts. What we know about OCD is that the more we resist, the more it persists. By accepting that it is okay the rumination is there, you are taking the first step towards no longer creating a fight or flight response in the body.
3. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help you stay present and aware of your thoughts and feelings. By keeping your attention focused on the present moment, you can reduce rumination and prevent it from spiraling out of control. There is a type of therapy called RF-ERP (Rumination Focused Exposure and Response Prevention). This therapy asserts that rumination is a defense mechanism that can be controlled. Mindfulness is a skill that can help you identify when you are engaging in rumination, and just like other compulsions (such as handwashing or checking), you can learn through mindfulness to engage in response prevention (no longer ruminating).
4. Values Identification: Another technique in ACT is identifying your values. By knowing your values, you can set goals that align with them, and this can help you stay focused on what’s important to you. When you are engaged in activities that align with your values, you are less likely to spend as much time caught up in ruminations. We unintentionally give intrusive thoughts and compulsions (such as rumination) MORE power when we spend so much time resisting them.
5. Behavioral Change: The last component of ACT is behavioral change. After identifying your values, you can work towards changing your behaviors to align with them. By taking small steps towards your goals, you can break the cycle of ruminative thoughts and ritualistic behaviors. Instead of spending your time fighting intrusive thoughts, you will begin building a life that is based on your values.
In summary, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a powerful approach to managing OCD rumination. By teaching techniques such as cognitive defusion, acceptance, mindfulness, value identification, and behavioral change, individuals can learn to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment and to make behavioral changes that align with their values. Managing OCD rumination can be challenging, but with ACT, individuals can learn to reduce the intensity and frequency of obsessive thoughts, reducing the distress associated with OCD, and freeing themselves to live a high quality life.
Do you need support in applying these techniques? Schedule a free treatment consultation with one of our OCD specialized licensed clinicians today!