EXPOSURE – refers to purposely exposing yourself to the objects, thoughts, and situations that make you anxious and start your obsessions.
RESPONSE PREVENTION – After exposing yourself, you make the choice not to do your compulsions once the obsessions have been “triggered.” This is all done with the help of a qualified therapist who will guide you through these exercises. The goal, however, is to teach you to be able to be independent so that you can learn to manage your own symptoms.
HABITUATION – With ERP, you make a choice. You decide that not only are you going to confront your obsessions head on, but you will also make a commitment to not engage in your compulsions. Over time, you will feel a drop in your anxiety level, which is referred to as habituation.
With OCD, your brain tells you that you are in danger a lot, even at times when you know that nothing bad will actually happen. Your anxiety is an alarm that says something bad will definitely happen. This alarm warns you at even the silliest of times. (It’s like if you have a car alarm and the alarm goes off when someone bumps against the car. There was no intent to harm, however the car alarm “decided” that there was a threat and needed to alert the owner.)
Once that alarm goes off, your brain lies to you and tells you that you definitely need to do your compulsions. Surely if you perform your compulsions, you or your loved ones will be OK! Doing these compulsions reinforces your brain’s assumption that you are in danger. So quitting your compulsive behaviors is definitely a necessary step to overcoming OCD.
Starting ERP therapy is hard. You feel as though you are choosing danger! This therapy needs to be done with the help and supervision of a qualified therapist so that you confront your OCD in the right way.