Anxiety, OCD and all obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders bring unwanted thoughts and feelings.
Often our first reaction is to try to control these difficult internal experiences, which is understandable but not effective. Mindfulness teaches clients a different and skillful way to respond to unwanted thoughts, feelings and sensations. And studies show that incorporating Mindfulness improves recovery outcomes for OCD and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.
Mindfulness is the practice of observing our thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges, without judgement in the present moment. Clients learn to accept these unwanted internal events without resistance, and in doing so find that the unwanted thoughts, feelings and sensations will move through on their own because they are transitory.
Clients with Anxiety, OCD and other obsessive-compulsive disorders over-attend to their thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges. They see them as important and try to push them away. However, trying to get rid of these uncomfortable internal experiences is a compulsion which can actually keep them around longer and reinforce the disorder. Through mindfulness training clients learn how to tolerate the discomfort that comes with not doing a compulsion, which is a valuable tool when doing Exposure and Response Prevention.
Mindfulness can be practiced formally through meditation and informally by practicing shifting attention to the present moment while doing literally anything such as driving, working, eating, walking, taking a shower, having a conversation or doing household tasks. As clients do this they strengthen their ability to shift attention to what is helpful and meaningful in their lives, rather than have their attention on OCD content or any other disorder. This, in turn, weakens the disorder and the brain begins to learn there is another way to respond to the unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges that are a part of OCD and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.
Learning how to use Mindfulness with Exposure and Response Prevention teaches clients how to respond skillfully and not react to OCD and related disorders. With continued practice they learn that the content of OCD and other disorders is not important, which over time reduces anxiety and puts clients back in charge of their lives.