Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Scratching the Itch

Aren't hives awful?  So itchy and uncomfortable!  I must be having an allergic reaction to something I walked through yesterday on our hike, because I've got some kind of VERY itchy rash from my knees to my ankles.

Woman scratching an itchIt is so very tempting to scratch the itch because of the high amount of discomfort.  And while scratching does bring temporary relief, that relief only lasts a very short time.  The itchiness comes back amplified by what feels like 100 times.  And continuing to scratch only amplifies the itchiness more.

Isn't this also true of OCD?  An obsessive thought enters the brain and creates anxiety which causes discomfort.  And here is where the decision lies.  Do I scratch the OCD itch and give in to compulsions, or do I use Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) and resist the compulsive behaviors?

I've found through personal experience that scratching the itch makes the OCD that much worse.  Take what happened during church this weekend.  I started obsessing that I had sung the wrong word about God during a worship song, and I scratched the itch.  I prayed for forgiveness.  But then I prayed again just in case I hadn't really prayed the first time.  And what if I'd said the prayer wrong?  Better pray again...and so the compulsive cycle goes.  I scratched the itch and the anxiety went up.  The momentary relief of giving in to the compulsion was not worth the heightened anxiety that came afterwards.

How do you practice ERP?  Have you found it's gotten easier the more you do it?