OCD Recovery and Everyday Life
In this weeks episode of Purely OCD podcast, Lauren Rosen, LMFT, and Kelley Franke, LMFT are joined by Jenna Overbaugh, LMFT to talk about how OCD recovery can benefit us beyond navigating OCD.
They touch on how certain topics, like navigating doubt, doing hard things, and awareness of thoughts and thinking, transcend OCD and can help us more broadly. The three also cover how these lessons can support the process of parenting. To end this episode, Kelley brings it on home with a discussion of self-compassion and, essentially, reparenting ourselves.
Thanks for joining. And go check out Jenna Overbaugh on Instagram, if you don’t know her already!
Introducing Jenna Overbaugh
Jenna: My name is Jenna Overbaugh, I am a licensed therapist. I’m here in Wisconsin.
I’ve been working with people who have OCD and anxiety since 2008.
I’ve also been open about my own experience, specifically with postpartum OCD and anxiety.
I just fell in love with exposure and response prevention from a really early age. I always knew that anxiety sucked. And I always knew that things just got so much better once you ripped that band aid off and just went for it. And then when I realized that exposure and response prevention was actually a thing in college, I just fell in love with it.
And I’ve been doing it since 2008. I’m over on Instagram now that’s where you can find me, but I’m now I work at NOCD. I’m the image behind our social media. And I’m trying to just spread the word about OCD and how wonderful exposure and response prevention is.
What skill has had the biggest impact on your life outside of OCD?
Jenna: It’s not like a super novel concept, but the content doesn’t matter as much as we think. And I spent so much time treating people for their contamination concerns or treating people for their doubts in their relationship, and not really paying attention to the overarching generic sense of doubt, and just the intolerance of uncertainty that people have in their life in general.
And that’s when I started to realize that we would just bounce to something else, right? Like that Whack a Mole game.
And so in my own life, and applying these skills to my own life, and also helping people, I found so much benefit and being able to like go abstract and think about the doubt and how good it is to be able in everyday life to sit with doubt.
But then secondly, I think this concept of doing the hard thing now so that it doesn’t get harder later. And so that it can be easier later. I remember like, even when I was playing heads up seven up when I was super young, and I was super anxious in case they picked me. And I was really anxious about that. I remember from a very early age thinking well, I better do it now. Because it’s only going to be harder, like next time… We have to do it for that future self.
Jenna: I saw a tik tok clip the other day of Matthew McConaughey and someone had asked him, who’s your hero? He didn’t have a hero that came to mind. But then he thought about it. And he was like myself 10 years from now. Like, that’s my hero…And I thought that was really cool. We need to invest in ourselves.
Kelley: I think overall for me, it’s been accepting that I don’t have control over things. And I think is a parent specifically, is you have this little human being and it’s everything. It’s everything, right? And it just does whatever it wants. At any second, something bad could happen and you have to just let that go and be like, “Oh, they’re on the playground and they’re swinging and they could just fall and crack their head open. Well, might as well stick to values and let her just keep swinging.” Right?
So it’s letting go of control.
It’s an ongoing process
Jenna: I’m sure you guys to probably run into this every so often where I feel like I have to give people the motivational talk sometimes. This is not The Biggest Loser. You can’t have gotten yourself into a place that you really don’t like, this hardcore three months, very regimented, very supervised experience, and then go right back to the way things were.
It’s not this in and out experience. And you’re not trying to get rid of the obsessions, you’re not trying to get rid of anything. You’re really reworking your relationship with these things; your confidence, your self-efficacy and all of those things.
Thinking as a behavior
Lauren: One of the things that was revolutionary for me in both my own personal process, and in becoming a therapist was really starting to recognize thinking as a behavior. And that’s where mindfulness becomes so important so we have the ability to practice interrupting thinking, non judgmentally, and then re-orienting your attention towards something that’s meaningful to you.
Are you actually problem-solving?
Jenna: Are you actually problem-solving? I always tell people, you’ll get your answers from doing not by thinking like this ruminative cyclic thinking where you’re just thinking about the same thing over and over again, and you’re not actually making a decision about anything.
That’s not problem solving…It’s not functional problem solving. That’s not you actually taking that next step forward.
Even for me in my own life, you know, there are certain things that come up that are just more real-life problems but you can totally fall into that rumination trap. But you have to ask, am I actually solving the problem? Am I solving the problem right now? Is this where I want to be investing my energy?
When i’m treating somebody, I often say, let’s pick a few content areas that are not related to OCD and practice this concept of rumination. Because we can easily get hooked into a rumination process that is outside of the OCD context believing that it’s helpful, but it’s not.
Problem solving is helpful.Kelley Franke, LMFT
Overlap between OCD and GAD
Lauren: Our discussion of how it generalizes kind of touches on something that the three of us had discussed outside of this, which is the overlap between OCD and generalized anxiety. Most people who come into my office, don’t just have obsessions related to OCD, they have a lot of anxiety more generally, they have a brain that tends to latch on to things and to really want to fix and figure out and to be intolerant of doubt.
And so helping them to understand this difference between problem-solving and rumination is really important.
Exposure outside of OCD
Jenna: We all ruminate, right? This is definitely not just people who have OCD.
Even with my son, there are certain times where he’s uncomfortable with something like participating in a new soccer class or something like that. And that’s a little exposure, right? Like, that’s a little exposure.
I think if I didn’t know about ERP, I would have wanted to make him feel better and try to reassure him that everything is going to be okay, and who knows how helpful that actually is. I try to teach my son some of these things every once in a while; that anxiety is not dangerous, and that it’s good to do things a little bit outside of your comfort zone.
I was laughing with someone the other day, I wish we would have learned stuff like this in school versus like, what is the mitochondria? So much more useful!
Emotional Regulation in Education
Jenna: You guys know Dr. Becky? She’s another huge thought leader when it comes to parenting, so on and so forth. And it was really timely. I saw her story this morning. She has lots of great parenting tips, some of which I try to follow, but not very well.
She had a really great story that aligns with this perfectly about how she tries to work with her middle child who’s very strong-minded and knows exactly what she wants, but also has deep feelings and really intense emotions.
She’s not trying to get her child through that tantrum. She’s not trying to eliminate tantrums. She’s trying as a parent to give her child the skills so that when she’s an adult, she knows how to handle let downs about not getting the job that she wanted, or getting heartbroken or, you know, getting stuck in traffic, right?
Lauren: Experiential avoidance is just a fancy way of saying that we tend to avoid uncomfortable experiences, like thoughts and feelings and all that good stuff.
And so what they found in research is that parents of anxious children with anxiety disorders, their experiential avoidance, so their unwillingness to have thoughts and feelings, actually predict kids’ anxiety.
Which makes little sense because when you’re a parent and you’re watching your child and they’re suffering, your initial response is how do I alleviate my child’s anxiety? Instead of, how do I help them to accept their anxiety?
How do I help them feel this better? And make space for these experiences?
Giving yourself the same self-compassion
Kelley: Being a mom and seeing your kid dysregulated or scared or sad, something that I’ve noticed is my initial reaction is, “I know you’re scared. I know that this is scary. I know it feels this way. I’m here if you need me.”
But we need to talk to ourselves in this way and give ourselves this same compassion and acceptance.
Teaching ourselves that it’s safe to ‘lose’
Jenna: I was in the car with my son the other day, and my son was anxious about something. He gets really anxious when there’s a game of any kind, I think it’s the anticipation. Am I going to learn or am I going to lose? That’s really upsetting for him.
So my husband and I would play Mario or kids monopoly with him. And we would try to make it so that he would win. And I thought we can’t do that. You can’t do that. We can’t make it so that he wins. That’s giving him a message. But it’s also giving me a message. It’s giving him the message that he’s only supposed to win, that it’s dangerous for him to lose.
And it’s giving me the message that I can’t handle his negative emotion, right?
And so your brain is constantly picking up what you’re putting out, your brain is constantly picking up those messages. Now it’s a little exposure for both of us, we will intentionally not let him win.