Since ERP is the gold standard treatment for OCD, people often assume I went through it with a therapist. However, I actually did ERP on my own—I’m not recommending one method over another because we’re all individuals with different needs, but a less formal route did work for me.
How did I do it? With some tips from my psychiatrist, who diagnosed me, and lots of research. After I was diagnosed I got to work with three books (in addition to medication, which played a huge role in my recovery):
- The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts by Lee Baer, PhD. I recommend this book for anyone who’s struggling with taboo intrusive thoughts. It helped me tremendously, because its primary focus is on the same “bad thoughts” I struggled with for so many years. It’s packed with case studies and examples of bad thoughts other people worked hard to overcome.
- Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions by Lee Baer, PhD. Another book by Baer, but this one isn’t specific to any one type of obsession or compulsion. As the subtitle implies, it’s a how-to guide on dealing with obsessions and compulsions and contains helpful checklists and coping techniques.
- Stop Obsessing! How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions by Edna B. Foa and Reid Wilson. This practical book has step-by-step programs for overcoming obsessions and compulsions, charts and guides, questionnaires, and tips on how to find a therapist.
Several books have come out since my diagnosis in 2006. I also recommend The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Jon Hershfield, MFT. This comprehensive book guides the reader along with practice exposures and mindfulness techniques. You can go at your own pace and use the chapters that apply to you and your obsessions and compulsions. And, yes, you can use ERP even for “pure OCD,” or OCD with mostly obsessions and mental compulsions, not compulsions such as hand-washing.
A book I haven’t finished reading but that is highly recommended is Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty by Jonathan Grayson, PhD. A good therapist will guide you through ERP using hierarchy, meaning she won’t expose you to your worst possible fear on day one. Grayson’s book also includes lower-hierarchy and higher-hierarchy (say that 10 times fast) scripts for several common obsessions and compulsions.
Of course, these are just a handful of great books out there, and you may find much comfort in reading memoirs—I haven’t included those here because they don’t necessarily give steps for employing ERP on your own. I’ve found that learning as much as I can about the disorder helps me understand how to deal with it.
Have you forgone formal therapy? If so, why? Maybe it’s because your insurance doesn’t cover it or there aren’t qualified therapists within driving distance.
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