Tuesday, May 22, 2018

 

Despite the fact that many make light of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by poking fun at minor compulsions or obsessions, OCD is a very serious illness. For those who have it, it can be debilitating and disruptive, upsetting life in very serious and insurmountable ways.

Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: Tips, Tricks, and Skills for Living Joyfully is for people who experience OCD at any level. Those who are newly diagnosed may benefit first from therapy before taking on this added tool. The book is also for professionals who treat patients with OCD, as well as for friends and family members of those diagnosed. Though not a quick fix, the tools offered may become part of a lifelong arsenal to fight the impacts of the disorder.

Authors Jon Hershfield and Shala Nicely have each lived with OCD for almost their entire lives. Theirs are unique perspectives, as both sufferers and clinicians.

Much of the book draws upon a focused OCD treatment called exposure and response therapy (ERP), which has become one of the most effective therapies for OCD. In ERP, the patient is intentionally exposed to compulsions or obsessions that are difficult for them in order to face these challenges head-on without using their typical response. This is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that attempts to re-program the brain’s typical response.

Everyday Mindfulness for OCD introduces mindfulness to readers who have been diagnosed with OCD so that they can eventually learn to accept the existence of compulsions or obsessions without handing over control to them. Allowing oneself to be human and accepting vulnerabilities or imperfections can help those who struggle to deal more calmly with their challenges.

The authors present their material in three sections, beginning with mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness has become a recognized tool for many mental illnesses and mental health challenges. An important dimension of mindfulness is self-compassion, which encourages us to be gentle with ourselves. It is a calming influence in the midst of turmoil or chaos.

The second part of the book is an interesting presentation of games and ideas called “The Daily Joyful Toolbox.” Here, the authors suggest the importance of using both mindfulness and ERP concurrently. Daily meditation is another tool they recommend, and they include many types other than traditional seated meditation including music, ambient sounds, walking, and more. The ERP game recommendations are also useful. With a great deal of variety, there is likely to be several that appeal to each reader.

The final section is called, “Long-Term Mastery Over OCD.” Here, the authors cover three topics including taking ownership of one’s OCD, preventing relapse, and the ecosystem of OCD. Each is compelling in its own way.

It is important for those with OCD to understand that though it is not their fault, they must ultimately accept that they have it and do what they can to make life bearable and meaningful. Self-exploration is proposed as a means to accomplish this. Many other suggestions are offered.

The authors define relapse as a situation when one’s OCD returns at a level that is about as bad or worse than it ever was. Tips are provided to both prevent relapse and reduce its impact. Some lapsing is to be expected, but of course, less is better.

The authors refer to the environment surrounding the diagnosed person as the “OCD ecosystem,” which is a nice way to put it. This ecosystem includes people such as therapists and other professionals, family, and friends. Medication is potentially another aspect. Co-occurring depression, sleep problems, and other challenges are also addressed.

Everyday Mindfulness for OCD would be a helpful tool for someone supporting a friend or family member with OCD. For someone who has OCD, this book can offer support and ideas that may not have been provided in therapy. It is also a nice complement to other in-depth sources of information about ERP and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: Tips, Tricks & Skills for Living Joyfully
Jon Hershfield, MFT and Shala Nicely, LPC
New Harbinger Publications
October 2017
Paperback, 192 pages

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