Identifying the OCD Cycle and How to Break It

People living with OCD struggle with a cycle of obsessive thoughts and negative behaviors intended to control these thoughts, known as the OCD cycle. But, how can one that’s living with active OCD learn how to control this cycle so that it doesn’t negatively impact their life?

What is the OCD Cycle?

OCD involves a pattern of obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviors. Obsessive thoughts may not always be followed by compulsions, but in most cases of OCD, they do. These thoughts are a result of anxiety and can include unwanted and intrusive thoughts about death, sex, religion, disease, and more. People dealing with obsessive thinking may think that they’re going crazy as they are unable to control their thoughts. And, it can be frustrating to not have the control they want of their own thoughts and mind. Therefore, in attempts to control thoughts, they may perform compulsive behaviors.

Examples of the OCD cycle, or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, may include:

  • repeatedly having to check things in order to assure that there is no danger present (whether or not the stove/oven is on, doors and windows are locked, etc.)
  • hand washing a certain number of times or repeatedly to ensure that no disease or germs are spread
  • having to do things perfectly (take a certain number of steps, count objects or routines, etc.) in order to have a feeling that something bad may not happen
  • cleaning or arranging things in certain, specific places and ways to appease superstitions

How to End the Cycle of Obsessive Thinking and Compulsive Behaviors

There are a few methods that people living with OCD can use to help themselves throughout daily life and manage the cycle of OCD. Some things you can do in one of these moments include:

Use Distraction: If you find yourself having obsessive thoughts, you can try to distract yourself so that you start thinking about other things. Some examples of methods of distraction include watching TV, working on a project, exercising, reading a book, reaching out to someone you love, performing household duties, reading a book, doing something creative (draw, paint, journal, etc.)

Reach Out for Support: Sometimes, being alone in your thoughts can lead to compulsive and negative behaviors. So, in these times, it can be helpful to reach out to someone you love for support. Tell them what you’re thinking or just have a simple conversation to distract yourself from your thought patterns.

Remember Your Importance: One thing that can lead to even more obsessive thoughts and negative thinking is low self-confidence. So, during moments of struggle, remember how important you are. And, that all progress is good progress, even if it doesn’t seem that you’ve made enough. Furthermore, remember that your journey is yours alone, so don’t compare your journey with that of others. If you can enhance your self-esteem, you can be better prepared to confront and overcome negative thinking patterns and obsessive thoughts.

Remember That Perfection Isn’t Possible: Many people living with OCD are perfectionists. But, having a perfectionist mindset can make obsessive thought cycles worse. It’s best to remember that not everything has to be perfect. This way, you don’t obsessively overdue making sure that each detail is perfect and focusing on the negative.

Identify Triggers: When you can understand what triggers negative patterns of thinking, you can better work to avoid these situations so that obsessive thoughts are more manageable. So, when you have bouts of obsessive thoughts, try to write down where you were, what you were doing, and other things that may trigger these thoughts.

Get Professional Mental Health Help Through Treatment: One of the best things people living with OCD can do to stop the OCD cycle is to get professional help. There are a number of treatments and therapies available that can help provide management tools and effective treatments that are successful in reducing OCD symptoms.

Professional Help for OCD at Delray Beach Psychiatrist

Delray Beach Psychiatrist offers treatment for OCD on an outpatient basis. We give people living with OCD the tools to manage the cycle of OCD in their own lives, identify triggers, and develop helpful coping skills in order to reduce both intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Learn more about how we can help by visiting our website today.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


Existing patients, please text 561-409-7296 for follow-up appointment requests or if you have medication concerns please text 561-409-7296.