How Meditation Calms OCD, Tames Intrusive Thoughts
The Ultimate Guide To Conquering Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
When it comes to slaying Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), meditation is the proverbial magic bullet.
Here, we discuss eight psychological and biological reasons meditation is the key to conquering this multilayered disease.
How Meditation Transforms The OCD Mind
The Nature Of Unwanted, Intrusive Thoughts
Like walls closing in, the obsessive-compulsive mind's hallmark intrusive thoughts can shrink the world of the unlucky sufferer:
"That disease-ridden, germ-filled shopping cart filthied my hands. Must sanitize them now!.. Did I lock my front door? Let's check one more time... One two three four, avoid sidewalk cracks forever more... Every last item in my house must be in its designated GPS configured spot..."
While we all have thoughts like this from time to time, it is the never-ending barrage and freedom-robbing nature that makes OCD thinking so different.
If the psychiatric diagnosis manual (DSM-IV) used animal pictures to illustrate each disease, then the "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" chapter would have a big fat snake on the cover.
Like an overgrown boa constrictor, the intrusive thoughts get tighter and tighter. Slowly but surely, OCD squeezes the breath out of a once free and happy life.
Luckily, meditation puts that husky snake on a diet. But not any diet — a highly nutritious, vitamin infused "thought" diet.
Here is why meditation is so powerful at returning the fearsome Discovery Channel sized boa back to his once cute and harmless baby form:
OCD Lives In The Conscious Mind
Neuroscientists believe that the human mind fires 70,000+ thoughts per day. Doing a little math, that's about one thought every two seconds!
And that's just for normal folks, can you imagine how many thoughts are "thunk" by the OCD mind? The official figure put forth by the American Psychological Association is "too many."
Mastering OCD Through Meditation: Enter Your Subconscious Mind
Though a bit cliché, the human mind is often compared to an iceberg. With the conscious mind the only section above the surface, we think because we can "see" it then this is who and what we are.
While just the tip of the iceberg may look impressive to a boat full of Newfoundland glacier tourists, they have no idea what lies beneath.
Likewise, we have no clue how drastically improved our life would be if we knew about, much less could harness, our limitless yet hidden subconscious mind power.
Since the obsessive and compulsive thought colony infests the superficial conscious mind, then we need access to our submerged, yet far more powerful subconscious mind to clear it out.
So, how is it done? To bring your OCD butt-kicking subconscious mind to the surface, you must float the iceberg.
The Superman Subconscious: How Meditation Clears OCD Thought Debris
Since meditation is, by its very nature, the act of digging down into the depths of your mind, session by session — the ancient practice enables waking access to your once under the surface subconscious mind power.
With easy access to your subconscious mind, meditation quickly repaves any so called ruts dug by your repetitive thoughts, with OCD the first treads to get filled in.
Having more access to your superman subconscious effectively takes you out of your head, so to speak. No more ruminating, no more obsessing, no more compulsive behavior, no more fighting with your so called bad thoughts.
Above and beyond beating OCD, achieving mind mastery through meditation opens a whole new world of benefits — creativity, success, great sleep, less anxiety, less depression, better overall health, the list goes on.
You can use the infographic/ chart below to better understand the various benefits associated with your subconscious/ unconscious mind, and how meditation is the key to harnessing this incredible power.
Mastering Unwanted Thoughts With Meditation
The Great "Mind Ocean"
You can think of the mind as a great ocean. With each thought, a new wave.
Like a surfer with a deathwish, the OCD mind wants to battle the biggest, most gnarly thoughts the mind can send to shore.
The problem is, going "toe to toe" with your unwanted thoughts always ends like the legendary 1991 surf movie, Point Break. The ocean will overtake you — just like it did Bodhi.
And it doesn't need a south Pacific 100-year-storm. The rip-current nature of the human mind can overtake the best of us, OCD doesn't pick and choose its victims.
Luckily, there exists a force above and beyond mother nature. It's called meditation.
How does it work? Instead of burning through your precious energy fighting wave after wave, meditation allows you to watch and observe the entirety of the ocean from a cliff high above the shore.
By neutrally observing your unwanted thoughts instead of chasing them, you become immune to the human mind's tumultuous nature.
This mindful detachment instantly releases the grip of your once intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts.
In time, mindfulness enables full Poseidon-like control of the ocean, with wave amplitude, length, and period all variables of yours to manipulate at will.
The vast meditative ocean floor is riddled with intrusive thought filled pirate ships. May their pieces rest peacefully.
You Are Not OCD
Do my obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior, even if unwanted/ intrusive, make me who I am? Will meditation throw out the baby with the bathwater?
Dysfunctional thought patterns are not your identity. OCD no more defines your being than a case of athlete's foot defines your body.
The real you can be found in the wonderfully intoxicating space between each thought.
Harnessing the power of meditation will open up a world you never imagined, with far clearer, deeper, and more insightful thoughts just the beginning.
Two Key Ways Meditation Transforms The "OCD Brain"
#1 — The "OCD Brain:" When The "Basal Ganglia" & "Frontal Lobe" Stop Talking
When Talks Break Down
In a healthy relationship, partners talk to each other. When communication breaks down, then you know big problems are on the way. It's the same for the brain.
According to the latest research, OCD gets triggered when an overactive "basal ganglia" stops talking to two key regions within the "frontal lobe" (orbitofrontal cortex & anterior cingulate gyrus).
To mend this once happy but now rocky brain marriage, you need someone who knows how to get both sides talking again. You need a highly seasoned expert. Someone like Dr. Ruth, the legendary relationship thought leader.
Luckily, Meditation Is The World's Best "Brain-Talk" Therapist
By cooling and calming down the overactive basal ganglia (with GABA one key reason), meditation re-opens healthy dialogue between it and the frontal lobe. In this way, meditation effectively saves the marriage, while kicking OCD to the curb.
When your brain is in tune, healthy, and synchronized, then obsessive and compulsive thoughts are like the tooth fairy — they don't exist.
#2 — The "OCD Brain:" When The Nucleus Accumbens Runs Out Of Dopamine
How Obsessive & Compulsive Thoughts Deplete Dopamine
Is OCD an anxiety disorder? Or is it an addiction? While it may not matter to most folks suffering from the disorder's hallmark obsessive and compulsive thoughts, knowing how to properly catalog what the disease is, exactly — goes a long way in finding a long-term cure.
Anyone who has been in a Las Vegas casino knows them well. The bad-at-math, deeply entranced, glossy-eyed folks sitting in front of the slot machines, quarter after quarter and hit after hit, pumping their brain full of dopamine.
What's the link? Well, the latest research is now suggesting that the OCD brain is more like that of a Vegas-loving gambler than a severely anxious person, as was previously thought. One key study shows why:
Triggering OCD: When The "Dopamine-Dock" Nucleus Accumbens Gives Up
Psychiatrists (Figee et al) from Amsterdam's Academic Medical Center (AMC) have shown OCD patients to have a very underactive "nucleus accumbens," a critical brain reward circuitry component. Think Pavlov.
Pick your poison. For some of us, we gamble, drink, smoke, or pill-pop. For others, we get our dopamine hit by letting obsessive and compulsive thoughts run wild.
Boosting low levels of dopamine through artificial and temporary means almost never ends well. You can only kick the can down the road for so long before it gets run over.
How Meditation Opens The Dopamine Floodgates
Luckily, a long-term, super-healthy, all natural solution exists. It's called meditation!
Researchers at Denmark's John F. Kennedy Institute (Kjaer et al) found that meditation caused a colossal 65% increase in endogenous dopamine levels!
By retraining your brain to produce happy chemicals all day every day, meditation is like your infinitely funded road construction crew, magically filling every dopamine pothole on your highway.
When these euphoric chemicals naturally flow through your system, then there is no void which needs to be filled, and those of us addicted to obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors drop them like the bad habit that they are.
Beating OCD With "Whole Brain Synchronization"
How Meditation Balances Your Brain
As has been known by doctors for many years and verified by countless studies, when it comes to upgrading the human nervous system, meditation is the heavyweight champion of the world.
Now, neuroscientists studying meditators' brains have added yet another tectonic plate shifting discovery to the already Library of Alexandria sized body of evidence.
So what's that? The ancient mind practice has been shown to quite literally balance and synchronize the brain hemispheres. Neuroscientists have coined the term "whole brain synchronization" for this wonderful state.
And this is big news for anyone stuck under OCD's gnarly thumb. Here are three main ways it helps:
Bouncing Intrusive Thoughts
Like a swank Hollywood club, meditation's ultra-exclusive neuro-environment only admits A-list levels of thought.
D-list obsessive and compulsive thoughts are not on the guest list and couldn't pay the cover charge anyway.
And if OCD did somehow sneak in to the meditating brain — the NFL sized, UFC trained bouncers would resolve the situation faster than a sip of your Sapphire Martini.
Within the brain, habitual/ repetitive (obsessive and compulsive) thinking creates a kind of self-reinforcing "neuro-knot" effect which, left unchecked, only grows into a much bigger, much more tangled mess over time.
What's the significance? A deeply relaxed "acetylcholine soaked" brain is thought to "untie" any so called "neuro-knots" your habitual thought patterns may have dug.
Moreover, this brain untangling effect also happens to get your blissful-juices flowing, as has been shown by a number of meditation->dopamine studies.
And the final result? A happy, unimpeded, and well-connected brain that is bulletproof to unwanted, intrusive thoughts.
Mending Long Lost Brain Regions
As mentioned in a previous section, studies show OCD as a brain communication problem between two key regions — the "nucleus accumbens" and the "frontal lobe."
Like the world's only functional family reunion, "whole brain synchronization" allows all brain regions to reconnect, even if they had a big fight 10 years ago and haven't spoken since.
By getting uncle "nucleus accumbens" and aunt "frontal lobe" talking again, meditation disowns OCD — their illegitimate, twice imprisoned stepbrother.
OCD was never really part of the family anyway.
Serene Serotonin: How Meditation Conquers OCD Naturally
Grappling With Low Neurotransmitters
Between your beautifully complex brain's 100 billion neurons are a web-like network of data communicators known as "neurotransmitters."
For anyone in the octagon grappling with the jiu-jitsu black-belt known as OCD, the most critical need to know neurotransmitter is serotonin.
When your tank of this crucial brain chemical runs on empty, your ability to defend against stress weakens.
If your shields get low enough, the whole "anxiety linked disorder" family can break down your front door and hijack your once happy and healthy home.
And who can be found at the head of the "anxiety family" dinner table, sitting in Grandpa's chair? Obsessive compulsive disorder.
If you are taking medication to cool off OCD, then it very likely is designed to target your serotonin levels.
Then, the solution is easy. Just pop a pill and the problem is solved. Right?
Why Many OCD Medications Aren't So Cool
The problem with depression/anxiety meds are many, including feeling like a zoned out "zombie," dependency, dizziness, drowsiness, poor concentration, memory loss, confusion, headache, blurred vision, insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, nausea, the list goes on.
If these wonderful side effects weren't enough, some clinical studies have shown SSRIs to have little or no effect at all — with some even weaker than a placebo! Awesome.
Luckily, an ancient, yet well-proven solution exists. One backed by millions of anecdotal reports and thousands of medical studies. It's called meditation!
How Meditation Fills Your Serotonin Tank
As shown by a University of Montreal study (among others), meditation gets your body's serotonin factory back up and running, cranking out OCD bulletproof vests by the truckload.
Piling on the evidence, neuroscientists believe that mindfulness produces a very powerful neurotransmitter "cumulative effect," with earth shifting implications for the obsession and compulsion barraged.
To understand how it works, if you put $10 of gas into your tank each morning, while only using $6 on your daily commute, what would happen after a week or so?
Of course, your tank would eventually get full and stay full, don't need to be an economist to read that chart.
Meditation does the same for your brain, ensuring a perpetually full tank of the purest, most refined serotonin — replenishing far more high grade octane than unwanted, intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts could ever deplete.
Achieving OCD Immunity Through Meditation
When your brain is naturally fully of these mind quieting, euphoric neurotransmitters, you inoculate yourself to the mileage (anxiety, depression, unwanted repetitive thinking, etc) which would otherwise have you on the side of the road wishing your AAA membership hadn't expired.
Would you rather be forever reaching for a side-effect loaded pill that, for many folks, doesn't even work?
Or would you rather harness your own biological defense shield through meditation, and be forever "OCD-immune"? No need to obsess on that one.
(Disclaimer: This article, while inspirational, is not meant to replace proper medical advice. Please follow your doctor's instructions!)
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