Living by the rules

Constantly ticking boxes, living by rules that you made yourself. Can be quite suffocating!

One of my clients is someone like that. She wants to do everything perfectly, she can’t relax until everything is done. So she runs through the day, ticks every box she meets and then finally goes to bed, exhausted but satisfied with herself because she did it all… Well, she didn’t sit down with her daughter to have some tea together and she didn’t meet with a friend because she was too busy, but hey, she did tick every box!

But this satisfaction doesn’t last very long, because next day it all starts over again. The thing is that it’s never all done, is it? There’s always something that needs attention, could be cleaned/fixed, whatever.

Ask yourself what is really important for me? Does this ticking boxes day after day after day really make me happy in the long term?

How online meetings can help treating OCD

I see this lovely lady right now who’s struggling with OCD. She needs to wash her hands constantly and besides her hands she also needs to wash stuff after hearing a certain word. So she can’t touch it because it’s somehow contaminated. She knows it doesn’t make sense but she still needs to do it and that’s how it works with OCD, unfortunately.

We are seeing each other now via Zoom and she uses her telephone to meet with me. Since the lockdown we started to touch things in her house together without afterwards the obligatory wash and this really helps and enlarges her freedom! We’re not ready yet and this isn’t a quick fix of course but we’re both quite happy with the online work!

How CBT helps with Fear of failure
Sophie (student, 22) came to me because she often experienced high anxiety levels, especially before an exam or test.

Thoughts like: “I’m going to fail” and “If I fail I won’t graduate”, came up. Of course these thoughts had a great impact on her mood; she felt panicking and worried. The thoughts also had a negative effect on her behaviour; she just kept studying until very late in the evening, which made her less fit during the actual exam. So her anxiety to fail was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy!

In CBT you explicit your (automatic) thoughts and together with the therapist you start examining and validating them.

Looking at her thoughts together in our sessions made her realise that her way of thinking was quite black/white and exaggerating, not really realistic and certainly not very helpful! By changing her way of thinking in more realistic, nuanced and more helpful thoughts, she experienced far less anxiety and could handle her exams in a more healthy way.

How mindfulness helps with intrusive thoughts

Ian (27) suffered from intrusive thoughts, like: “thinking gay thoughts can make me gay”.  Whenever he noticed himself looking at a man in the street he had an intrusive doubt: Do I  find him attractive?

This made him feel anxious and annoyed. He tried to control his thoughts by trying not to have thoughts, having heterosexual thoughts and look at girls. He also checked his arousal level.

Mindfulness helped him to detach from intrusions: instead of ruminating on them or by using all kind of strategies, he was encouraged to passively let go of intrusions. Allowing them to occupy their own space without engaging in them. Reduction in his distress makes clear that responses to intrusions rather than intrusions themselves are the problem.