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3 Signs that Shame is Affecting Your OCD Recovery

By: Shaina Charles

If you’ve been keeping up with us at OCD North, then you’ll know that the buzzword around here lately has been shame. We’re passionate about speaking up about shame and how it shows up in the OCD experience. We want to create a safe space where individuals feel empowered to overcome OCD – no matter the content of the intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions. And, the only way to create a shame-free safe space is to talk about and normalize the experience of shame!

Shame shows up in various ways in the OCD experience. Not only can shame prevent an individual from wanting to seek support, to begin with, but it can also impact one’s recovery journey once they’ve started ERP therapy. Shame can sneak up without you even realizing it, so it’s important to know what you should be looking for so you can beat shame before it beats you!

 With that said, keep reading for 3 signs that shame is affecting your OCD recovery!

  1. You are holding back in the therapy space.

You’ve taken the huge step of reaching out for support and starting therapy with an ERP specialist. Kudos! That’s a big deal. But now you’re sitting across from your therapist (either virtually or in-person), and you just can’t seem to get yourself to share a few of those sensitive details. You’ve provided a lot of information, sure. Still, maybe you’re holding back on a specific intrusive sexual thought, or you’re scared to disclose a particular obsession because if you say it, the nice therapist will never look at you the same again.

That feeling right there that makes you want to hold back? That is shame talking. Shame causes us to stay quiet about our experiences and makes us feel small. This directly impacts OCD recovery, as typically, the things OCD makes you feel the most ashamed about are the things that need to be called out so that you can lean in, tolerate the uncertainty, and overcome them!

If you notice yourself holding back during ERP therapy, and keeping quiet about some things, let your therapist know that you’re struggling with feelings of shame. Together, you can both work out a plan to beat shame and continue towards OCD recovery.

  1. You believe that intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions are reflective of your character.

Another big way that shame shows up and negatively affects OCD recovery is by causing you to believe that the intrusive thoughts are simply reflecting who you are at your core. If you’ve ever struggled to determine if you actually have OCD or if you’re just “messed up” or a “bad person,” then you understand this feeling. Instead of seeing OCD as something you can overcome, you begin to feel that maybe the problem is you.

Shame comes into play here, as you may find yourself feeling unworthy or undeserving of treatment. You no longer see yourself as separate from OCD, which hurts the recovery process, because you’re not acknowledging your ability to take power back from OCD!

The next time you find yourself questioning whether the intrusive thoughts are OCD or if they are reflecting your character and morals, try an exposure statement. Remind yourself that you can tolerate the uncertainty of the situation, and get back to overcoming OCD! Or, collaborate with your ERP therapist to come up with some other exposure statements to put shame in its place.

  1. You feel unmotivated in therapy.

Now, we’ll be the first to say that it is entirely okay if you’re not always jumping up and down with excitement when it comes to exposures and homework in and between sessions (in fact, you may never do that). Exposure work can be a challenge – we get it! But, if you feel like you can’t even muster up a tiny bit of motivation to do the exposure homework or abide by your ritual prevention rules, this could be a sign that shame is seriously affecting your recovery.

Feelings of shame are rooted in fear, which can often lead individuals to believe that they are not capable of change. As a result, feelings of being “unworthy,” “incapable of change,” or “beyond help” can easily seep in, and none of those feelings are conducive to getting in the mood to kick some OCD butt.

If you notice that you have lost all desire to put your best foot forward in ERP therapy, shame could very well be a part of it! Don’t be shy – speak up and let your therapist know how you’re feeling. Together, you can develop a strategy to overcome feelings of shame and get back on track with OCD recovery!

Now that you have some ideas of how shame can negatively affect the OCD recovery journey, we challenge you to stand up to it! Acknowledge shame when you are experiencing it, communicate with your therapist, and remember that no matter what OCD tells you, you deserve all the support, love, and treatment you need to overcome OCD. You’ve got this!