Suicidal Thoughts: A Symptom of…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2015 by chrissiehodges

It was 18 years ago this month that I decided that my family, friends, and I would be better off if I was no longer alive. Suicide had taken over my thoughts for almost 6 weeks non-stop. I was symptomatic 24/7 with undiagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and clinical depression. I could barely move. It was painful to breathe.

I didn’t know how to ask for help.

The suicidal warning signs were blaring my family and me in the face. My grades had dropped that semester, I had lost significant body weight, I was isolating, and had no desire to do my normal social activities. I was riddled with thoughts on how to end my life day in and day out. I didn’t want to die, but I believed that I had no other choice. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to torture in my brain to end. I also believed I did not deserve to live. My delusional scrupulosity told me that God wanted me to die as well. I believed that if God didn’t think I should live, there was no hope. I knew it was inevitable.

The shame and guilt accompanying the suicidal thoughts was crippling enough to keep my mouth shut. My family would be disappointed if they knew I had these thoughts. I had always heard how selfish people who committed suicide were, which fueled the guilt and shame. I couldn’t stop the thoughts. I couldn’t control this looming depression. How does that make me selfish? I didn’t ask for all this? I had heard growing up from certain preachers (not my father) that people who commit suicide go to Hell. I didn’t want to go to hell, but my life had become a living, breathing nightmare of obsessions, compulsions, and tormenting anxiety. I couldn’t imagine Hell being worse than how I was already living. My life was so miserable, I was willing to take my chances.

I survived near hypothermia from lying in a freezing cold creek after a self-inflicted stab wound to my stomach. It was miraculous that I was able to crawl and find help when I decided that night was not the night my life would end.

Oftentimes, I think about how different things could have turned out if I had been able to talk about how I was feeling suicidal without the embarrassment and guilt. What if I had been able to bring up the symptom of suicidal ideation the way that I explain symptoms of the flu to a doctor? What if I could feel confident talking to my friends or family when it started? What if friends and family were able to hear the words and feel confident that we would be able to get help and feel better? What if the feeling of panic, fear, and anxiety could be eliminated when the word ‘suicide’ is said out loud?

It can. But, it starts with ME and YOU.

Just as people over-react with fear and panic when they find out they are labeled with a brain disorder, suicidal thoughts can send sufferers and their loved ones into a tizzy when it is mentioned. And it is THIS very reaction that keeps people from sharing with others when they are feeling suicidal.

No one wants or likes to be suicidal, unfortunately it can be par for the course when living with a brain disorder. The more aware you and your support system are about suicidal thoughts, the more likely when they happen, you will be able to act accordingly to stay safe and get help and relief as soon as possible. It isn’t uncommon for individuals to wait out suicidal thoughts hoping they will magically disappear so no one has to know. This is dangerous and risky. No one should have to endure being suicidal because they fear the repercussions of speaking out. And you should not make anyone suffer repercussions if they confronting you with their suicidal thoughts.

Often when I work with people with OCD or as a peer support for mental illness, they are surprised when I make the inference in planning relapse prevention with ‘when you feel suicidal again’. There is a look of sheer terror and panic about the possibility of it happening again. The reality is if they have happened once, chances are they will happen again if you relapse. This doesn’t have to be a source of fear or panic. It is a symptom that can gauge severity or indication that you may need to seek help. I look at it as a tool for recovery. When I communicate this to individuals, I have often watched a wave of relief overcome them. It is as if I have given them permission to have suicidal thoughts and not feel like a horrible, shameful and guilty person.

A common symptom of mental illness is suicidal ideation. If you understand this, you understand that it doesn’t have to be something to be afraid of. Please understand that I am not indicating someone being suicidal should not be taken seriously. If this is what you are getting out of this blog, take a breath, clear your mind, and start over from the beginning. Suicidal thoughts can be anticipated in a way that can identify a brain disorder, validate severity, and be an indicator of relapse or med-complications.

Suicidal Thoughts can Lead to Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

It is statistically unfortunate that many people live for years with undiagnosed mental illness until it is so unmanageable they are forced to seek help. This has mostly to do with stigma and lack of education. Before proper diagnosis, people will manage their symptoms as best they can, but as I mentioned previously, suicidal ideation is often a common symptom of brain disorders. When individuals experience suicidal thoughts, they are likely to become afraid, ashamed, and guilt-ridden. However, the fear and urgency tied to the thoughts can also be an urgent driver to seeking help. It is not uncommon for individuals to finally seek help and receive a diagnosis because they began experiencing suicidal ideation.

Suicidal Thoughts can Validate Severity:

I’d love to say that most people ask for help with mental illness before experiencing the symptom of suicidal thoughts. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. Ignoring certain symptoms of your brain disorder can be manageable but when suicide enters the picture, it’s time to stop waiting. If you know that suicidal ideation is one of your symptoms, then you should know when it happens, it’s definitely time to seek treatment. We don’t want to mess around with ‘riding the thoughts out’ or ‘hoping they get better’. So, when you find yourself feeling suicidal, you can bet that what you have been doing to manage your mental illness isn’t cutting it anymore. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom indicating that your illness is becoming increasingly unmanageable and severe enough to seek treatment.

Suicidal Thoughts can be an Indicator of Relapse or Med-Complication

How do I know I am experiencing a relapse? Suicidal thoughts, always. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize a relapse because of reality perception. If symptomatic, we cannot always tell there is something wrong. We may believe because we perceive our world a certain way, it has to be real. This can keep us in denial of symptoms and relapse. However, it is hard to deny suicidal thoughts and this can be a positive thing when we need to be snapped into reality. When they appear, they can be scary. But, they can be the blaring alarm clock that we need to wake up and get help.

Suicidal thoughts may also be an indication that you are in need of a medication adjustment. Again, you may not realize you are experiencing symptoms of your disorder if you’ve been managing fine on medication. When suicidal thoughts appear, it is the wake-up call that something needs to be changed and done quickly. Your psychiatrist can help figure out if a dosage needs to be adjusted or meds need to be changed to help get you back on track.

So, how do you tell someone you are experiencing these symptoms?

You tell the person you have designated who will not freak out, panic, and make you feel bad for having them. This designated person will be someone who can handle hearing you are suicidal and can help you take action to get help without worrying every second you will end your life if they aren’t looking. The point of asking for help when needed is that you are being proactive instead of desperate. This is what the designated person will understand. This will be the person that you know you can talk to and they will not judge, react negatively, or brush you off. This is someone you trust and will talk to in advance about what to say and what to do if you experience suicidal thoughts. You can have as many designated supporters as you want! They will be your rock when you need them.

It is always unsettling as a Peer Support to hear that someone is suicidal. It can be jarring and scary. But, I also know their level of comfort and outcome in getting help can be affected by my reaction. If I panic, they will panic. If I don’t take them seriously, they will think no one takes them seriously. If I trap them with ultimatums, they will likely retract the threat and not reach out again. If I remind them of all the people who will miss them, they will add that to their burden.

As a designated person to help, I will empathize with them and remain calm. I will take their symptoms seriously. I will treat them with dignity. I will ask them what we need to do to find relief for them. I will let them have power in their decisions on what to do next. I will believe them that these symptoms are real. I will treat these symptoms in the same manner I would treat severe physical illness symptoms, with calm and reassuring urgency. I will do what I can to keep them safe until I can recruit more appropriate help at a crisis center or hospital.

I will respect these symptoms. I will respect their humanity.

It is a misguided myth that talking about suicide will put the idea into people’s heads and they may be more likely to attempt or commit suicide. It is unfortunate that in our society, there is not more of an open dialogue of acceptance for those that need to speak out and receive empathetic response when needing help with suicidal thoughts.

Ignoring the epidemic of suicide, refusing to say the word out loud, and missing the opportunity to educate about the realities of suicide will only make it harder and more shameful for people to ask for help.

When I attempted suicide, I didn’t ask for help because I was afraid. I didn’t ask for help because I was ashamed. I didn’t ask for help because I believed I was a bad person for having the thoughts. I believed I would let everyone down if they knew I was experiencing the thoughts. I believed people would perceive me as weak. I believed I did not deserve to live because of these thoughts I couldn’t control.

I now value the symptom of suicidal ideation in my life. When I experience them, I know it is imperative to get help. I don’t enjoy them any more than anyone enjoys having a high fever with the flu. But, I know that they are an indicator that I need help. I know they are a warning sign for me that I am slipping into a relapse. They are a gauge for me on knowing when to let go of denial and take charge. My symptoms of suicidal ideation now essentially save my life.

My hope is that through my advocacy and your advocacy, we will begin to use the term ‘suicide’ in our language that makes people comfortable to ask and receive help. My hope is that we will not have to look at suicidal thoughts as a reason to shame individuals, make them feel less human, or weaker than they already feel. My hope is that by talking more about suicide we will save people from dying by suicide.

Thank you,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; CBT/ERP Coach Effective OCD Treatment; Host ‘Mental Illness Matters Radio’; Crisis Intervention Team Presenter/Denver Police & Sheriff Department; Peer Support Specialist/Behavioral Healthcare Inc. & Ft. Logan Institute of Denver

Do Not Deny Mental Illness Relapse, Prepare for it!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2015 by chrissiehodges

I checked out of the inpatient psychiatric facility facing the world with a bag full of medication and a new label called mental illness. I thought I had gotten through the worst of it. Now that I know what this horrible disorder is, I should be able to ‘outthink it’. I believed I was stronger than my disorder. I believed that the torture and misery was in the past, perhaps just the result of ignorance. I believed that knowing I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder meant it would no longer affect me.

I was gravely mistaken.

“The meds are great, but I don’t need them anymore. I will just know if I start to feel sick again.” And like clockwork, a couple months after my last dose of the antidepressant, I began to unwind at a rapid pace. The obsessions crept up on me, and like shadows overtaking my mind with the setting sun, everything was dark again. Suicidal thoughts plagued my mind around every corner. I couldn’t escape the anxiety, the depression, and the tormenting obsessions that had been dormant for almost a full year.

The logical explanation was because I stopped my meds, the disorder became unmanageable. But, mental illness isn’t logical. Understanding symptoms in the midst of a relapse does not include rationale. To speak or communicate with someone in a mental relapse expecting logical reason is asinine. It is not a reflection of the human-being; it is a reflection of how the individual perceives the world through the eyes of mental illness.

I have been suffering with OCD and depression for 30 years. You would think that I could quickly point out, understand, and ask for help eagerly when I began to slide into a relapse, right? Wrong. There is still part of me that naively believes I can control OCD anytime, anywhere, and anyhow without outside help. Why? Because I don’t want to believe I am mentally ill. I don’t want to believe with my level of intelligence, I cannot harness power over my brain. It scares me to think that I could be out of control tomorrow. It terrifies me to believe that my perception of the world through my senses can be wrong. It frightens me that my thoughts can be so powerful and convoluted that I may want to die because of them.

But, it is my reality. As scary as it feels, I have to accept it.

The Reality of Relapse

Relapse is a given in most cases of mental illness, no matter how much we will and want to deny it. There is no amount of positive thinking and optimism that can stave off a relapse without vigilance. This can take many years for a sufferer to understand and accept. It is in the phase before this acceptance that the individual is in the most danger.

The element of denial will wreak havoc on one’s life and their loved ones in this phase. If someone believes they are incapable of relapsing, they will be incapable of recognizing when a relapse is occurring. This is not uncommon. The sufferer may recognize symptoms of their illness, but will not want to accept that they are real. This denial can be fueled by many emotions including fear, shame, or guilt.

Fear is the most common denominator when faced with an impending relapse. If one has fallen to rock bottom with their illness, the idea of relapse will associate that individual with the emotions felt at said rock bottom. This feels terrifying. The reality is far different, but fear is a powerful enemy. The sufferer may imagine the relapse as a short freefall back to the lonely and miserable bottom. If unaware how to handle a relapse appropriately, fear may drive a sufferer to embrace denial ultimately expediting the freefall process as a self-fulfilled prophecy.

Shame and guilt inevitably accompany relapse. Most individuals who have hit rock bottom with mental illness understand the pain and suffering they have caused their loved ones. Stigma can riddle an individual on a societal and a personal level as well. Typically before an individual accepts and understands their disorder is life-long and can be managed, it is common to attempt to create distance from it to avoid those negative feelings. When faced with a possible relapse, one may begin to feel the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt they believe they caused their loved ones at one time. The distance from the disorder starts to shrink. Panic can ensue as the feelings create the reality one has tried so hard to distance themselves from. These negative feelings can blanket one’s view of their own life as well as their disorder and exacerbate their symptoms making relapse inevitable.

Another commonality in relapse is individuals may not even realize they are experiencing symptoms. While this may seem bizarre to the average person, it is common for a sufferer. Understanding perception plays a large part in recognizing relapse. If I walk outside and my brain processes the weather as cold, I will put on a coat. If I walk outside and my brain tells me that I should worry about an irrational fear, why would I not believe that? I just put a coat on because it’s cold? Why wouldn’t any of my other thoughts be valid?

When I am symptomatic, I do not only think irrationally, I physically feel things that are not there. Symptoms of anxiety are physical. If my body is reacting to a thought, it absolutely appears real to me. Why would I not believe it? In order to understand my symptoms and my disorder, I have to understand how I perceive things and react to them. I have to figure out the physical sensations accompanied by my thoughts and make an actual decision on whether to perceive them as real or not. This is a very difficult process. It has taken me years to understand, and I still doubt my perception when I am experiencing symptoms. I still need help understanding and convincing me that I am actually experiencing OCD and it is not normal reality. I receive this help from my support system.

How to make a possible relapse easier?

Relapse is never easy. To think one day it will be is setting yourself or your loved one up for failure. A possible relapse should be taken very seriously.

For the sufferer: The best way to preemptively cope with relapse is to understand that relapse is possible and likely. This can eliminate that unwanted fear that it may or may not happen. To understand the likelihood and plan for it puts you ahead of the game.

If and when relapse happens, make a plan on what to do and how to manage it. When relapse does occur, you may be too saturated in your symptoms to know what to do and how to do it. There are many resources you can find to help structure a plan before it happens. (Please see below for recommended sites and plans). Also, educate your support system on what to expect and what to do if you are experiencing a relapse. Often your support system will recognize that something is different about your behavior before you do. Do NOT be afraid to ask for help. Do NOT be afraid to articulate exactly what will or will not help you. Individuals in your support system want you to succeed, so they will want to know how to make things easier for you.

In regards to shame and guilt, understanding that they may be present during a relapse may help lessen their effect. There may not be a possibility of resolving them in the moment, but knowing these feelings are common may ease their impact on your symptoms. It is important to recognize that mental illness relapse and symptoms are NOT your fault. As you progress through recovery and acceptance, it is likely the guilt and shame feelings will diminish. Until then, do not give them power by becoming overtaken by them.

For the Support System: It can feel painful and helpless to watch someone during a mental disorder relapse. But, there are many things you can do during and after to help make the best of it for the sufferer.

Understand that relapse is almost inevitable. If you understand and accept that relapse is part of having a mental illness and expect that it will happen, you are not only preparing yourself, but you are showing immense support to your loved one. This takes the fear out of the potential occurrence. It also gives you an opportunity to plan and prepare your support role when it happens. When you know what to do when a relapse happens, you will feel less panicked and helpless. This will help the sufferer with their feelings of guilt and shame if you are calm and prepared.

As a support, find out how the sufferer wants to be communicated to in regards to symptoms. It is extremely important to know how to talk about symptoms and behaviors with individuals with mental illness. Poor communication can result in exacerbated guilt and embarrassment which may contribute negatively to a relapse. When symptomatic, sufferers may try to shut you out or make you angry. It is important to recognize that their actions and behaviors may be fueled by symptoms as well as fear and stigma. The sufferer feels guilty and ashamed. They may not want you to have to experience the pain. They also may feel as if they have let you down by having the mental illness.

As a support, it is important to practice empathy without verbal validation. If the sufferer is driven by fear, guilt, or shame entering a relapse, it is okay to reassure your understanding of those feelings. It is okay to verbalize these emotions may play a factor. Make it clear that you understand beyond the symptoms the difficulty and suffering relapse can cause. Open communication and acceptance, regardless of the absurd logic will help the sufferer feel less ashamed and validated in their experience.

Most importantly as a support, it is imperative to believe that what the sufferer is experiencing is their perceived reality. To deny what they perceive as real damages trust and may drive them further into the realm of guilt and shame. Even if their symptoms defy all logic and rationale, to them it appears real and sometimes frightening. If they know you believe them, they will be more likely to accept your help and trust your support.

To Sufferers and Supporters Together: Relapse is disappointing and painful, but it can be managed successfully if planned for and executed properly. A few important points to remember about relapse:

  • It is important to stay calm and level-headed as a support.
  • It is important to remind yourself that you have gotten through an episode before, and you can do it again as a sufferer.
  • Just because you have hit rock bottom once, doesn’t mean you will fall that far down again.
  • It is difficult to remember what it is like outside a relapse when you are in it. It is also difficult to remember what relapse feels like when you are out of it.
  • It feels like things will never be okay again when you are experiencing a relapse. It can. It will. Hang on and follow your relapse plan. You will get through it.
  • Your mental illness is NOT your fault. This relapse is NOT your fault. Do NOT blame yourself for this illness.
  • Relapsing feels very lonely. You are not alone, though. Reach out to your support system.
  • Being hospitalized is not a death sentence. It is a necessary place sometimes to find baseline in a safe and controlled environment. If you need hospitalization, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed.
  • Although relapse is oftentimes inevitable, you can be proactive and successful in managing it and avoiding it.
  • There is no shame in asking for help. Don’t wait. Do it immediately.


Even though I experienced all of the negative emotions associated with relapsing, I survived my first bout. Afterwards, the possibility of occurrence was embedded within me. It took me a few months to get back on my feet after the first relapse, but it helped me understand the process and plan for the next time.

Since my first relapse, many weeks have been carved off my relapse timeline. The last episode took roughly 3 weeks to get back to baseline. Even though it was painful and I didn’t believe it was a relapse in the moment because of my perception, I went through the motions of my proactive plan. It worked. It will always work as long as I understand that relapse is possible, I accept the fear associated with it, and I don’t allow the shame and guilt to dictate the outcome.

I can choose to live in fear of my illness or I can choose to actively manage it. I can choose to live blanketed with the stigma surrounding mental illness or I can choose to fight it for myself and others. I can choose to deny that relapse is part of my journey, or I can accept and prepare for it.

You can too. Never give up.

If you would like more information on creating a wellness plan for relapse prevention or management, please visit the following websites:

Thank you for taking the time to read,


Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; Host ‘Mental Illness Matters Radio’; CBT/ERP Coach Effective OCD Treatment; Peer Support Specialist/Behavioral Healthcare Inc; Crisis Intervention Team Trainer/Denver Police and Sheriff Department


My Journey with Pure O; Entering the First Stage of Recovery

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2015 by chrissiehodges

There are 5 stages in recovery that most individuals experience after their diagnosis. There is no correct or painless formula to help us through each stage, and it isn’t uncommon for us to float in and out of stages for many years.

Every experience toward recovery is unique to the individual and the diagnosis. It is unfortunate that on top of dealing with a major mental illness that is typically debilitating by the time we get help, that we also have to endure a grueling process of shedding the stigma associated with mental illness. As we move forward in advocacy, my hope is that recovery is attainable easier and within less time for all individuals who suffer from mental illness that can benefit from peers and advocates’ experiences as we continue to share them out into the world.

The first stage of the 5 stages of recovery is called the ‘Shattering of Self’. There could be no better description of this stage for me upon finding out my diagnosis. I was fragile. I was beaten down by my own brain. I was living in a lock-down psych ward after a suicide attempt as a result of the monster in my brain completely taking over. My body and my soul felt as transparent and delicate as glass. I believed veryone in that hospital could see me for the monster that I was. I couldn’t hide anymore, and I was convinced that I was forever unlovable now. I could barely walk with 25 staples in my stomach from a self inflicted wound. I was weak from barely eating the last month. I had dropped 20 pounds in just a couple months. I didn’t think it could get any worse.

Then the psychologist told me the news. ‘I think you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. For a brief moment, I felt a wave of relief.

So…so, this means that all of these horrible thoughts aren’t my fault? Is this possible? Am I off the hook for being the terrible monster I thought I was?

The reality set in.

I am not Chrissie anymore. I am mentally ill. My brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s.

Then the fear set in.

If I cannot manage my brain, how do I know what is real and what is not? Does this mean that everything about myself, my life, my beliefs, my entire being is a lie? How can I trust myself? How can I trust my brain?

The first stage of recovery had hit me square in the face, and it felt like someone took and axe and shattered me in a thousand pieces onto the cold, hard floor.

I walked around in a stupor for days, trying to grasp onto any sort of positivity associated with my diagnosis. I stared at the walls of the psych hospital wondering how many times I would see them throughout my lifetime in and out of breakdowns, suicide attempts, and crippling episodes. I was backing so deeply into the thin-skinned shell of depression that encompassed me trying to disappear from reality.

The world I knew would never know Chrissie as she once was. For some reason it never occurred to me that there could be a better world for me. Perhaps, a strong and beautiful Chrissie may emerge from all this? Maybe there could be a silver lining? It didn’t matter. I was unable to see past the bold words that infiltrated all of my thoughts. Mentally Ill. Nothing mattered now. I had no reason to hope. I had no reason to believe that there was any way that life could get any better. At least before I knew the diagnosis, I was blissfully ignorant to the truth. The ignorance seemed so much easier.

Not only did I not understand how to exist now that I was mentally ill, I also doubted that the diagnosis was accurate. OCD was a handwashing and counting disorder, it did not seem to fit what I was experiencing. What if they were lying to me? What if they just wanted to give me false hope? How could I know for sure?

I trusted no one. And I couldn’t even trust myself.

I felt isolated. My hands and face pressed up against the plated glass that separated me from the real world. I could only watch from a distance. I could only experience it with a barrier. This was the new definition of life. No matter what happened, I knew that I could only get close to a real life, but never experience it. I would have to see it going on around me, but never get to participate.

This was my shattering of self. I watched the world continue on in time as I stayed bound by chains to my diagnosis. I couldn’t move past the words. I couldn’t wiggle even an inch from the label.

So I crumbled into a corner. I wrapped my arms around my body as I pulled tighter into the fetal position. I knew that all I had in this world was myself. I had to find a way to rebuild all of the pieces that had shattered at my rock bottom.

I was lost in the translation of my own ignorance with no hope, no support, and no idea how to put the pieces back together.

It was the loneliest stage of my recovery.

Check out my video blog below as I describe my experience in the first stage of recovery.

Stay tuned for my experience with Stage 2 of Recovery: ‘Life is Limited’

Thank you for taking the time to read,

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker, CBT/ERP Coach; Effective OCD Treatment, Peer Support Specialist, Radio Podcast Host ‘Mental Illness Matters Radio’

A Letter to Pure OCD Sufferers: You are not Alone!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 9, 2015 by chrissiehodges

Dear Pure O Sufferers,

I wanted to write this letter to tell you some thoughts I have about this type of OCD.

First, I hate it. I cannot tell you how many times I have wished that I could have any other form than the one that I have. Why couldn’t I be a hand-washer? Why couldn’t I be a checker? What did I do to deserve this shameful and horrible type of OCD?

It has taken me years to get to a point where I do not associate my horrific thoughts to my character. When the really bad violent and sexual thoughts first made their appearance, I thought for certain that I had done something terribly wrong to deserve the torture. I spent years trying to repent for whatever I had done so offensive that would warrant such inhumane torment. But, I couldn’t come up with a crime equal to the punishment.  When I stand up to give speeches about my obsessions, there is always the inevitable twinge of fear before I say them out loud that questions:

What if the audience doesn’t believe me?

What if they are judging me?

What if they believe the obsessions are true or will come true?

These questions always bring me to my second thought on having Pure OCD. Did you know that a secondary fear to having Pure O is that we really don’t have OCD and that our obsessions are real? This is a very common theme among us, but one that we don’t like to talk about because we are scared. Sometimes I would think, if only I had outward compulsions, then it would be just the proof I need to convince me that this is real and not something I’m making up.

Proof, huh? Sound familiar? That’s our Pure O hard at work. I didn’t realize how common this secondary fear was until I started working as a coach and peer support with people who have Pure OCD. We worry that because we don’t display the outward compulsions that we don’t really have it. We worry that other people may not believe that we have it because they don’t see the hours of ruminating and avoidance of our obsessions that we deal with. When we start to get better or feel asymptomatic, we worry that maybe we made it up all those years and/or it really wasn’t as bad as we thought.

I’m here to tell you Pure O’s, it IS and it WAS as bad as we thought. I think about myself as a dual personality when it comes to my OCD. When I am not in an episode it is incredibly difficult to understand and remember what it is like to be in it. When I am in an episode, it is difficult to remember what it is like to be out of it. Never doubt what you have been through as real, true, and painful. Also, never doubt that Pure O isn’t priming you for a new obsession that can tailspin you into another episode.

Thirdly, I want to share with you that our triggers can be so much more sensitive than the average person with OCD. Because of the nature of our obsessions and the secondary fear that perhaps we don’t even have OCD, we are highly sensitive to comments that may not normally trigger other types of OCD.

I’ve had people say right to my face that ‘Pure O’ doesn’t exist. Their reasoning was not to imply that I don’t have OCD, it was that the term was not accurate…but oh my, how they had no idea how that statement alone tormented me. What if it doesn’t exist? What if these obsessions are true and real? What if no one believes I have OCD? What if I really don’t have OCD? These were only a few of the myriad of questions I panicked over for weeks following.

We are also more sensitive when people question our obsessions. I think it’s only natural for people to inquire about them in a realistic manner, but it doesn’t feel that way in the moment.

You let your guard down and decide to tell someone the obsession you have had for so many weeks, months, or even years and they ask the dreaded questions:

Well, do you think that’s really true? Do you feel like you really want to harm or hurt people? Have you done anything to make you believe you have AIDS? Do you really think you are gay? Do you really believe in the teachings of Satan? Do you really feel like you want to have sex with a family member? Do you really think you are a pedophile?

Just the inquiries can spiral us downward. I know that I always feel like people are ‘doubting’ my knowledge and ability to differentiate OCD thoughts from my real preferences. While I understand the need to ask these questions, they still hurt and trigger. These types of questions make us question the validity of the obsessions and whether or not we really have the disorder yet again. It can be a vicious cycle that is just as exasperating as the disorder itself.

I  wanted  to write you today to tell you that you are not alone in all of this. These are common threads that the majority of us feel.

I want to leave you with these thoughts, and I could care less if it goes against ERP and is providing reassurance, because sometimes we just need it.

Pure O fears are NOT a reflection of your character, your personality, who you fear you will become, or what kind of a human you are. They are simply thoughts that became stuck in your mind. Every person on earth has unwanted, intrusive thoughts that are similar to our obsessions, we just happen to have a miserable disorder that makes us believe they are true.

The secondary fears and personal stigma surrounding Pure O is atrocious. It’s shaming, embarrassing, and guilt producing.

Many people will never understand your obsessions, but I hope you know that there are many of us out here that understand it all and know how difficult it is to live with it. You are not alone. Trust in your treatment, trust in the ERP process, and trust that you are NOT your Pure OCD.

Pure O is hell, there is no way around it. But you don’t have to go through it alone.

For more information, please visit or

Much love my fellow Pure OCD’ers!

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/ Public Speaker; ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment; Peer Specialist/BHI; Radio Host ‘Mental Illness Matters’

Violence and Mental Illness: It’s Not What You Think.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2015 by chrissiehodges

I sat across the table from her not knowing whether to grab her and hug her with excited empathy, or whether to grab her hand, lay my head down on the table and cry with her.

I was providing peer support to a girl in her mid-twenties who has been hospitalized 5 different times for her symptoms with OCD. The problem isn’t just that she’s not receiving proper treatment for OCD, it is more about the idea that she cannot believe she actually has OCD and cannot let go of believing she is a horrible person for the obsessions that OCD produces.

OCD, as well as many mental illnesses produce thoughts that are horrific for the individual to understand and process. In the case of having Pure OCD/Intrusive thoughts, most of the unwanted obsessions are violent, sexual, and/or blasphemous in nature. They are not a product of someone’s character. They are not a reflection of who that individual is as a human. But, it is difficult to convince the sufferer of those facts when they are being tortured by the horrifying visuals and physical sensations that come with having OCD.

I began my journey with OCD fearing bodily fluids. No, it wasn’t contamination and handwashing that most people are used to when it comes to understanding OCD. I was terrified of the substance. I was terrified of not having control over omitting substances. I would spend 8-10 hours a day at 8 years old doing nonsensical rituals that would give me a few minutes of relief from the terror of the possibility of the obsessions coming true. Later into my teenage years, my obsessions grew into darker, uglier fears. Tortuous thoughts of sex and violence that I wanted desperately to turn off and be free of. But, the harder I fought…the harder I justified that I was a good person and I didn’t mean to think these things…the stronger my disorder became. Soon, my disorder convinced me that I was too horrible of a human being to live and it convinced me that the world would be a better place without me. I succumbed to a gruesome suicide attempt, but luckily survived.

Today, I live with the OCD thoughts everyday. In the last week alone, I worried that I wanted to murder a pedestrian crossing the street in front of my car. I visualized the person lying in the street dead while I shoved my car in park and put both feet on the brake desperately staving off a panic attack and sweating through my clothes. A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting and the entire time worried I would shout out obscenities at my colleagues or grab the people next to me inappropriately. I excused myself from the meeting, splashed water on my face in the bathroom and worked through a panic attack. Last week, I was chopping vegetables at my boyfriends house and when he turned his back, I worried I may stab him through his back. I fought against the visualization. I love this man more than I can describe, but OCD doesn’t care. I put the knife on the cutting board and took a walk outside to beat myself up for being who I am with OCD.

I despise having these thoughts. They are tortuous. They make me feel like a horrible person. But, you know what? They are a product of my mental illness, just like suicidal thoughts are a symptom of mental illness. It is what I have been given and I have to deal with this the best way I can. The shame and guilt that go along with having my illness is so magnificent that I could write an entire book about it.

But, I’d like you to know something. Being in an OCD episode feels a lot like psychosis. It’s compulsive, it’s erratic, and it is scary as hell. But, do you know what I could NOT do when in an episode? I could NOT plan a premeditated crime. I could not calculate the precise amount of ammunition, time, and power to commit a massacre. Have you ever seen someone in psychosis? Have you ever talked to someone who is so symptomatic in their mental illness that they could do things out of their control? If you have, do you believe them capable of planning, scheming, and following through with a plan to take out innocent individuals over weeks and months of time?


The answer is NO!

I know it is hard to not want to blame mental illness for the horrible crimes committed in our country and all over the world. It’s an easy target and YOU don’t have to deal with it, right?

Well, I do. And so do many of my colleagues and fellow sufferers.

Everytime you blame a horrific crime on mental illness, you are putting your foot on top of my head and shoving me back down into the abyss of shame, embarrassment, and stigma of having a mental illness. Yes, YOU. I know you need an explanation…I know that you need to understand why bad things happen in this world. But, stop shifting the blame onto something that you really don’t know that facts about. Stop making assumptions just because it will feel easier to sleep at night. When you do this, especially in a public forum, it makes it harder for ME to sleep at night.

Want to know the facts?

American Psychiatric Association, 1994 ‘Research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness’.

People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al. 2001). Researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University found that people with severe mental illness–schizophrenia, bipolar, or psychosis–are 2.5 times more likely to be attacked, raped, or mugged than the general population.

Don’t believe me? Why don’t you take a stroll down to your local mental health center or institute, talk to the people who suffer and listen to their life experiences. You may walk out with a different and accurate perception.

It has taken me many years of personal stigma, anger, and beatings on my self esteem to realize the truth. My OCD is a disorder, it is NOT a reflection of who I am or what I want to do or be. As much as I have sunk my feet into this truth, it is always called into question when uninformed and an assuming general public puts the label on me that because I am mentally ill, I must be violent, erratic, and not to be trusted.

If you believe this, you are sorely mistaken. And if you verbalize it, you are spreading lies and insulting 1/4th of the population.

Wake up. Get the facts. Stop blaming the mentally ill because you have no other choice or ability to find out the facts.

I left the institute the day that I provided peer support to the young girl who had Pure OCD and a tear rolled down my cheek. She has been torturing herself for over 15 years because her OCD obsession tells her she may one day abuse and molest children. This obsession is absolutely untrue and she would never act on it. There is not an inkling in her mind and body that makes sense to her, but the thoughts torture and torment her every moment of everyday. This is one of the most highly stigmatized OCD thoughts that one can have. The horrific anxiety that accompanies the thoughts are so overbearing that she feels like she doesn’t deserve to live. She thinks that because she has these thoughts that she hates and despises that she is a horrible person. She knows that she never would or wants to harm children, but why would she think about it if it wasn’t true?

Let me tell you why. It is because she has a terrible mental illness that is so horrible to live with that one can barely function, no matter what the obsession is. I was the first person that EVER told her that those thoughts were not true and that there is effective treatment. I was the FIRST person to ever tell her that she did not have to feel ashamed because of her disorder. I was the first person to EVER tell her that there is treatment and there are hundreds and thousands of people that have the same fear as she does.

I was the first person to give her hope.

Violent, intrusive thoughts are not uncommon for people who suffer with mental illness. But trust me, we hate the thoughts. We aren’t excited about them and we are terrified and ashamed that we are capable of these thoughts.

Having violent thoughts are VERY different than acting on them. It is not common for a mentally ill person to be violent. Learn the facts. Stop blaming us for the horrible things that happen in our country and around the world.

Some things just don’t have an explanation. STOP USING US AS THE EXCUSE.

Need more information on Pure O/Intrusive thoughts? Check out

Need more information about pedophilia OCD (commonly referred to as POCD)?

Check out

Thank you for reading.

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate; Public Speaker; Peer Support Specialist; OCD/CBT Coach; Radio Host Mental Illness Matters’

Saying Goodbye to your OCD Self

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2015 by chrissiehodges

Everyone in the classroom enthusiastically answered the question as we went around the room. I noticed that the knees of my pants were wet now after wiping my palms on them over and over as my turn to talk approached.

Everyone is looking at me.

‘Chrissie. Chrissie? Do you want to share with us what you want your career to be after college?’

I had already been accepting into Georgia Southern University with a full academic scholarship, thanks to the HOPE Grant that had been implemented this year. I had no idea how I would even survive college, much less graduate and go on to have an actual life? High school had been absolute torture maintaining grades, a social life, and these horrible intrusive thoughts that plagued me everyday. I knew that in a matter of days all of it could disappear if the thoughts took over my world and forced me to kill myself. Managing my brain seemed like a full time job, I hadn’t even begun to think that I could take on any other real life responsibilities.

I thought quickly. I remembered the pharmacist at Publix where I was a cashier told me that I’d make a great pharmacist because I had such good rapport with customers. Yes, that’s it!

‘Um…I want to be a pharmacist when I graduate’ I said awkwardly.

‘Wow, that is impressive, Chrissie!’ she said with a hint of disbelief in her tone.

Well yea, I’d say it is impressive considering I have no idea what it would even entail to be a pharmacist.

I stuck with that pharmacy story for the rest of my high school career and even into my first year of college. It seemed fitting to me because it was unknown and foreign, just like what life would seem like outside of the monster in my head. It seemed like an unreachable goal, just like the idea that I could ever live a life free of the demons I battled every single day.

Up until my suicide attempt and OCD diagnosis at age 20, it was painful to listen to my classmates, cross country teammates, and sorority sisters talk incessantly about their ‘lives after college’. I was so envious of them. Since age 8, I had been solely focused on managing the horrible thoughts and fears that had latched onto my brain like a giant talon. There was no time to think about what I wanted for my life. There was no hope to even believe that I could have a life outside of the mental compulsions that took place for hours everyday. And somehow I knew that I couldn’t live forever this way, and eventually I would become overtaken by the intensity of the thoughts and would have to end my own life. It was heartbreaking, but it was a necessity. My 24/7 ritualistic behavior was all that I knew. Before my diagnosis, the obsessions and compulsions defined who I was as a human being. They bore into my psyche as a reflection of my character and a definition of my individuality. I had no reason to believe that there was an entirely separate entity of a being from the unwanted thoughts and the irresistible compulsions that I structured my life around. The fear embedded inside of me ran too deep to even begin to untangle. I was too terrified to believe I had a future, but too paralyzed by the unknown repercussions of guilt and fear to reach out for help. I adapted to treading the waters of agony and fear, and managed to fool even the closest people around me for years.

When I began to sink and feel the cracks in my image start to shatter, I took control by attempting to end my life with dignity by suicide. The brain disorder OCD is so convoluted that I actually believed that dying by suicide would be less tainting to myself and my family than actually exposing the debilitating obsessions that plagued me. To comprehend obsessive thoughts to the fullest, you have to understand that the fears OCD places in your mind feel larger than life itself if they were to come into fruition. In reality, the fears are non-existent and a farce, but OCD places just enough doubt into you that you will never be satisfied with certainty. The doubt is what fuels the fire of the deadly cycle. And I do mean deadly, as in the midst of an OCD cycle, death can seem like a viable and relieving option.

After a whirlwind of a year and a half of diagnosis, treatment, and stabilization, I found myself sitting at the precipice of an unknown world of possibilities occupying only a shell of a human being. Everything I knew about myself, had fostered, and carefully maintained for the majority of my life had been exposed as a lie. The life as I knew it was stripped away. I was trapped in a Stockholm syndrome of my previous life with OCD.

You’re better, Chrissie! You don’t have to pretend anymore, Chrissie! You don’t have to live in fear anymore, Chrissie! You could actually be a Pharmacist if you want, now! You can do anything you want now! You can have a ‘life’ like everyone else! You can be anything or anyone you want, now!

But I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know who I was. I had never thought about what I wanted because OCD never allowed me that luxury. I felt as if I were facing the entire world as an adult in my 8 year old body. The last time I understood reality without my illness dictating my thoughts was 13 years prior. Even though the misery of OCD chaos was anything but desirable, it was all that I knew about who I had become. The conundrum of wanting to run back to the comfortable fear was convoluting. Why can’t I just move on? Why can’t I just forget about all of this and get over it? It seemed daunting to me to take any steps into this new world and begin to learn about who Chrissie was without OCD. And, it took many, many years to work through the fears that came along with navigating life without OCD calling the shots every minute of every day.

I turned 38 a few weeks ago. I wish I could tell you that I have untied all of the knots of pain, sorrow, and confusion that I’ve held so tightly to because of OCD. I wish I could tell you that there is a magic formula for ‘getting on with life’ after OCD. I cannot. What I can tell you is that it is okay to grieve the person that you were with OCD. You don’t have to hate who you were because you hate how OCD made you feel. I can tell you that it is okay to feel afraid about life without OCD. This doesn’t mean that you somehow want to have OCD. This simply means that you do not know just yet how to live outside of the confining nature of it.

After 30 years of the onset of my disorder, I am finally learning to allow myself to feel happiness without guilt. That is something most individuals innately experience, but I learned early that I did not have permission from my brain to feel anything good without fearing the repercussions. Resting into happiness, feeling comfort in hope, and relaxing into who Chrissie Hodges really is outside of OCD without catastrophizing everything is perhaps one of the most difficult and painful processes I have experienced outside of my disorder. But, I believe I deserve it.

The tears began to drop even as I typed that last sentence. Guilt is a difficult opponent.

Wherever you are in your journey and recovery, give yourself permission to love who you are and where you are with it outside of OCD. I wish that this disorder was cut and dry and there was an easy equation that always equals peace and happiness, but that isn’t a reality. You do not have to have all the answers right now. It is okay to feel angry, sad, and grief about what OCD put you through. And, it is okay to feel fear without the disorder as well. Nothing about OCD is a reflection of who you are as an individual. You are not your illness. You are not your obsessions. You are not your OCD. You are a unique individual fighting a twisted and difficult battle that is OCD.

Don’t ever stop fighting.

Keep reaching for happiness. You deserve it.

Thank you for taking the time to read,


Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker; ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment; Peer Support Specialist;Behavioral Healthcare Inc; Radio Host ‘Mental Illness Matters’/

ERP Works! So, Why Won’t You Do It?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2014 by chrissiehodges

Exposure Response Prevention is a proven method for managing symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You would think that people would run as fast as they can toward ERP to get some relief from the debilitating effects of OCD, however many times, that is not the case.

If it works, then why won’t individuals just go for it?!

There are several reasons why people are not eager to partake in ERP. One of the clients that I coach through ERP made the comment, ‘Even though ERP works at combating OCD, it sure is a hard sell. Wow, let’s intentionally make ourselves miserable in order to get better!’, she would sarcastically remark. She is right, it is a hard sell. By committing to ERP, you are taking the risk of going against the world as you know it (even though that world may be miserable), and living with the uncertainty that it may or may not get better. It is not proven that you will not get better, but ERP can give no reassurances that it will work for an individual, and that is a difficult leap of faith when one is already plagued with anxiety and fear.

It’s possible that ERP is not for everyone, but many individuals who resist it or do not benefit from it are not fully committed to the process out of fear. I will discuss 3 common fears associated with ERP that keep individuals from partaking, and some strategies on how to combat the fears that are keeping them from getting effective treatment.

  •  What if by partaking in ERP, I find out that I really don’t have OCD—what if my fears are real and/or I am just a crazy person?

I have never met an individual who has gone through ERP that did not feel this particular fear. First of all, starting a sentence with ‘What if’ is a dead giveaway that OCD is in charge of your thoughts. And typically, this is ALWAYS how this particular fear is communicated. What does this mean? To quote the late Riley Sisson; you are being ‘OCD about your OCD’! You are giving fuel to OCD by questioning the outcome before you even start the process.

In effective ERP, you will not receive any reassurance in regards to your thoughts being real, true, or that you are not just a ridiculous and sick individual. That is how ERP works. This can be very painful and traumatic, especially if an individual is dealing with obsessions that make them feel they are questioning their ethics and morality. It is frightening to know that at the end of ERP, you still will not have a definitive answer about the obsession that plagues your life. This alone will deter people from partaking in ERP because they are driven by the need to know with certainty one way or another.

During my first session of ERP, I asked my therapist whether or not he thought my obsession was real or not, based on other patients he has had with a similar obsession. He said point blank, ‘I have no idea, but I guess that is what we are going to find out in the next few months!’ I felt like I was going to have a heart attack right then and there!


So, I tried to bait him and asked him if he really thought I had OCD or not? He saw right through me and said, ‘I’m not sure if you have OCD or not, we will just do the exercises and see if you get better’


I felt as if I were going raving mad at his lack of empathy and reassurance. But, I committed to trust the process and I jumped off of the cliff of uncertainty hoping to land in a safe and healthy spot. As I worked my way up my hierarchy the first few weeks, I found myself still worrying ‘what if my thoughts are true and/or what if I am a horrible person’, but the intensity had started to fade. The idea of having a definitive answer was starting to dissipate. This gave me some relief and hope. I could look back and understand why my doctor never wanted to give me reassurance. He was already training me to think differently and take control of my OCD thoughts even in our first interaction. ERP is a way of life, not just a one-time experience that will cure your OCD. It is tough work. It is a lifetime commitment. And it is worth the pain in the end.

Believe me when I say that you are not alone in worrying that completing ERP will somehow prove your obsession or intrusive thoughts one way or another. The idea of NOT KNOWING is what fuels our OCD, so it only seems natural to question the validity of this type of therapy that cannot answer these doubts definitively.

Some thoughts to ponder if you are stuck on this fear:

1. You cannot prove or disprove your obsessions/intrusive thoughts now with your compulsions…why not take a leap of faith and try a different method to help ease your OCD?—-what do you have to lose?

2. You will never know with certainty if your obsessions/intrusive thoughts are real or true while you are stuck in your compulsive cycle….why not take the risk of trying ERP and live with the uncertainty that you could actually learn to manage it in the long run?

3. You are stuck and miserable in your OCD cycle…what is it going to take for you to stand up to OCD, decide that you are worth it, and believe that you are strong enough to manage your OCD? Take the chance—take the risk—take back your life!

  •  If I become ‘indifferent’ and my obsessions/intrusive thoughts don’t bother me anymore like ERP will teach me to do, won’t that mean that I am ‘okay’ with having these horrible thoughts? Won’t that make me a bad person?

And here we are again…being OCD about our OCD. This is a very common fear for individuals who are contemplating ERP. Upon researching ERP, you will find out that the goal is to have the thoughts but not let them bother you. The anxiety we experience has programmed us to believe that we are so abhorred by our obsessions/intrusive thoughts that we have to somehow prove or disprove their validity. This is where our compulsions come in as a soft blanket of reassurance; and this is a blanket that we are very reluctant to give up! Asking us to resist doing the very thing that helps us to hold onto any shred of our humanity seems equivalent to cutting our hand open, pouring lemon juice into it, and telling everyone how great it feels.

When an individual is stuck on this particular fear, they are confusing who they are as a person with the thoughts which are controlled by OCD. Their fear of not being afraid of the obsessions/intrusive thoughts is fueled by a twisted OCD separation anxiety. As long as they can experience some sort of repulsion or urgency behind these thoughts, they feel as if it justifies their character or morality. Take away the urgency and anxiety, and they must be some horrible human being that wishes bad things on themselves and others! It’s easy to wish that they did not have a particular obsession, but OCD sufferers cannot see the real truth which is that they wish they did not experience the anxiety around the obsession. Why? Because the only reason the particular thought became an obsession is because it was accompanied by anxiety.

Every human being that walks the planet has intrusive and unwanted thoughts. Chances are, whatever your particular obsession is, many people have had that same fear/thought go through their mind. But, they may not have OCD.

You do.

The reason why you have your particular obsession is because it got stuck in your mind and was accompanied by anxiety. That is the only reason. There is no underlying truth and there is no way to prove or disprove that there is or isn’t.
It is important to remember that you are reacting to the anxiety and not the obsession/intrusive thoughts. The goal is to get rid of the anxiety so the thoughts can come and go without disrupting your life. Separation anxiety is normal because you do not know any other way to deal with these thoughts. However, it can be a hindrance to your recovery if you do not recognize it and commit to moving past it. Remember, the goal of ERP is not to find answers to these questions you have been tortured with for so many years. The goal is to train your mind to see the obsessions/intrusive thoughts as non-threatening. It is okay to take some time to recognize the separation anxiety, but please make sure that it is not keeping you from getting effective treatment.

Some thoughts to ponder if you are stuck on this fear:

1. If you did not have anxiety accompanying the obsession/intrusive thought, would you spend hours everyday trying to suppress the thought? No. It would be like any other fleeting thought that came and went. You are treating the anxiety with ERP, not the obsession.

2. Think about an obsession that you know other OCD sufferers may deal with that is different from yours. (i.e. contamination, responsibility, relationship OCD, etc) Do you get anxiety when you think about it? If not, does that mean that you are a bad person for not feeling anxiety? Well, if it could be an ‘intrusive thought’ and you are not alarmed with anxiety, why can’t your particular obsession feel the same way? ERP will teach you how to look at your particular obsession/intrusive thought and not experience anxiety.

3. You are stuck and miserable in your OCD cycle…what is it going to take for you to stand up to OCD, decide that you are worth it, and believe that you are strong enough to manage your OCD? Take the chance—take the risk—take back your life!

  •  I have read about/heard about the things I will have to do in my hierarchy for my particular obsession/intrusive thought. NO WAY am I doing that EVER!

I believe wholeheartedly in the old saying, ‘knowledge is power!’ unless it has to do with OCD. Just knowing that you have OCD does not make the disorder any better whatsoever, but especially knowing what you must do in order to manage it can be mind-boggling and very frightening.

We live in a time where you can find out anything you want with the click of a button. This unfortunately doesn’t always bode well for individuals contemplating ERP. Finding out what a ‘hierarchy’ looks like for your type of obsession/intrusive thought can stop you in your tracks. This is why I always encourage individuals to resist the urge to research ERP tactics before treatment starts.

A good ERP therapist does not follow just one set of rules or protocols. They assess the needs of the individual and create a hierarchy based on those needs. No two patients are the same in ERP, and every one of us must go at our own pace. Hierarchies are typically built on your own personal journey with OCD, so if you think that just because you have contamination issues that you will have to lick a toilet seat, you are mistaken.

My hierarchy was built off of my triggers of avoidance from the bottom up. There was no time limit for me to get to the top. I would work on each level until I was ready to move to the next. I knew that if I had trouble with one and became stuck, my therapist would adjust the intensity and/or the plan in order for me to be successful. I was floored by the time I was at the top of the hierarchy and I was able to do the exposure with relatively little anxiety. But looking back on how the therapy was executed, I didn’t feel surprised at all. My therapist strategically planned all of my exposures and debriefed each one until I was ready for the next step. A good therapist will work with you, not against you.

Take some time to find the right therapist for you. Make sure you have a say in your hierarchy. Be verbal about how you feel while you are moving up to the harder exposures. The therapist is there to push and encourage you, but also to support you when you feel stuck or paralyzed by anxiety. They have the knowledge to help you move through the steps toward recovery.

Some tips if you resisting ERP based on this fear:

1. Resist the urge to google ERP stories of your obsession. Remember that your ERP journey will be different than anyone else’s. Do not psych yourself out based on other people’s hierarchies.

2. Interview several therapists before you decide who to be treated by. Therapists have different styles and you will want to find a style that helps you to feel comfortable and motivated.

3. You are stuck and miserable in your OCD cycle…what is it going to take for you to stand up to OCD, decide that you are worth it, and believe that you are strong enough to manage your OCD? Take the chance—take the risk—take back your life!

There is a fine line you must walk while being treated successfully with ERP. You have to go at a pace comfortable enough to not feel overwhelmed, yet aggressive enough so that you are seeing results quick enough to stick with it. It can be a difficult and frightening experience. Having the right therapist, the right mind-set, and faith in the process is a MUST in order to have a positive outcome.

ERP saved my life. By the time I sought treatment, I was in a mindset of desperation. I was willing to do anything to be able to manage my intrusive thoughts. I was lucky that I went into therapy blind to the treatment process, as I believe that lessened my anxiety by not knowing what ‘could’ happen. I was riddled with fear and anxiety throughout most of my treatment, but I held onto hope and faith that as long as I committed and gave it my all, I would win over OCD in the end. And I did.

Don’t let these three fears or other fears surrounding ERP stop you from receiving the treatment you need in order to have the life that you deserve. ERP is the key to managing and living successfully with OCD. Make the commitment. Trust your therapist. Have faith in the process. You can win the battle.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Please contact the International OCD Foundation at if you are looking for a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy/ERP/OCD Specialist in your area.

Chrissie Hodges

Mental Health Advocate/Public Speaker, Radio Host ‘The Stigma of Mental Illness’ Radio, CBT/ERP Coach/Effective OCD Treatment, Mental Health Peer Consulting


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