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For the people who struggle with it, as I did for many years, sensorimotor OCD can feel like one of the hardest types of OCD to deal with. The major problem is that our bodily sensations and processes are always with us, so how can we stop paying attention to them? It causes a lot of distress and it’s easy to become hyper focused on finding the cure for sensorimotor OCD. So is there a cure for it, or should we be focusing on something else?
The answer to this question is based on my own personal experiences. There is a cure of sorts, but it’s not the perfect cure. It does work very well, if you are willing to commit to it. However as with all things OCD there will be challenges along the way. Let me explain.
Sensorimotor or somatic OCD is when your attention becomes stuck on previously automatic and unconscious bodily functions or sensations, such as breathing, swallowing, blinking or even going to the bathroom. Just about any body process or sensation can become an obsession if you struggle with this.
The person who is struggling desperately wants the sensations to go back to normal. They do not want to be aware of them anymore and do all sorts of things to try and get rid of this awareness. But this attempt to push away the sensations is actually the compulsion and is the thing that is driving the obsession.
What We Push away We Make Stronger
Unfortunately, the more we push the sensations away, the more we become hyper aware of them. This is where the change of approach needs to come in if we truly want to find a cure for sensorimotor OCD. My way of dealing with sensorimotor issues involves two prongs of attack. The first is to expose ourselves to the obsessions on purpose.
What Should We Do Instead?
At first you may think this sounds ludicrous, why would paying attention to these sensations even more help? Well the truth is that like with all OCD, if we are willing to face the obsession on a regular basis, without performing compulsions to push it away, then we can learn to overcome it.
By paying attention to it we are no longer fighting with it and we stop creating resistance. You are literally changing the way your mind views the obsession as you are making room for it, inviting it in and giving yourself an opportunity to feel the discomfort that it creates. I mean you don’t have to give it a massage as such, but if you wanted to, that probably wouldn’t hurt either.
So What Can You Actually Do?
In reality this means doing things like setting alarms to pay attention to your breath throughout the day on purpose. Or standing in front of a mirror and swallowing consciously ten times. The more we are willing to do this, the more the subconscious mind gets the message, ‘ok this is something they are willing to pay attention to, I no longer need to create anxiety about it’.
Then comes the next prong of the attack, developing your ability to redirect your attention to where you want it to go. Through different types of meditations we can learn to focus our attention to different parts of the body and to different processes.
Different Meditations Help
We can also do meditations that allow us to ‘move towards’ the discomfort that we feel underneath the sensorimotor obsessions. Here i’m talking more specifically about the fear and dread that has built up over the years surrounding your obsessions.
People with OCD have trouble accepting these emotions and this is a big part of the reason for why they start to experience anxiety in the body, as in sensorimotor. What we need to learn to do then is to start paying attention to the discomfort in the body. To meditate on those feelings and to explore them and in doing so, learn to bring more acceptance.
This can have a profound effect on how you view sensorimotor OCD and the emotions that keep it going. Paying attention to the obsessions through exposure helps us to become less afraid of them and meditating on the feelings and sensations they give us, can help us to let them go.
These two prongs of attack are then supported by the principles of acceptance commitment therapy, that acts like scaffolding to support us through the process. In the end it may not be the 100% perfect cure for sensorimotor OCD, but it’s the closest thing to it and if you commit, you may experience a dramatic change with this frustrating type of OCD.
For me today, it barely bothers me at all. I’m able to manage it like this and this is as good as a cure in my eyes. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.