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My OCD Care

The Art of OCD Non-engagement Responses

We will assist you in reaching your goals using the latest and most researched anxiety treatment tools available.

Intrusive thoughts, by their very nature, demand an immediate response. It makes total sense – whether it’s asking you if you’re going to harm someone, your true sexual orientation, or if your partner is ‘the one,’ the intrusive thought demands an immediate response.

However, one response is never sufficient. Each self-reassuring response to the obsessional questions only serves to further obligate ourselves to continue justifying them with increasingly convoluted answers. This is a mental compulsion. It’s exhausting and painful, but challenging to stop. Freedom comes form not engaging with them. Non-engagement responses (NERs), a term coined by psychologist Lisa Levine, PsyD, is your individualized strategy for not responding to intrusive thoughts.

Once you’ve categorically recognized your intrusive thought patterns, you can apply various non-engagement responses which work to remove you from the burden of applying mental energy to address these non-helpful obsessive concerns.

The most important thing to remember is that the goal in applying NERs is not to decrease your anxiety, but to shift your motivation from answering the intrusive thought to engaging with something more meaningful to you.

NERs are not thought blocking. They are mental compulsion blocking techniques. As you progress in your OCD treatment you will learn which NERs work for you.

Here are two NER strategies that you can try.

1) using the lean-in approach, a sarcastic agreement with the intrusive thought (IT).

IT: what if I push that man onto the subway tracks?

NERs: I guess I’ll build some upper body strength in the process if I push hard enough.

2) Mindful recognition and disengagement.

IT: what if I push that man onto the subway tracks?

NERs: I notice I am having another harm thought, I notice its bringing up anxiety, I will allow myself to have this thought and feel this way. I will now turn my attention to something that is more meaningful to me.

NERs empowers you to do this.

Ultimately, by not engaging with the obsessive question and turning your mind to anything else, you are demonstrating to yourself that the obsessive content is not important, that anxiety passes even when I don’t try to reason it away, and that you can prioritize what’s actually important to you over any intrusive thoughts.

Dr. Elliot Kaminetzky is the founder of My OCD Care and The Center for Child Behavioral Health. His parent consulting services would be found at Serenity Parent Consulting

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