Friday, October 24, 2008

Worry box - how to stop obsessive worrying

Occasionally I'll offer advice from my experience dealing with people with OCD. This is such a time.

I find the mind of an obsessive compulsive disorder sufferer can wreak havoc on their body. Yes, mental stress and worrying about the "what ifs" of life can actually manifest to real physical and medical problems – IF YOU LET THEM!

So my advice for those of you suffering from obsessive worrying and thought cycles that seem to circulate endlessly in your mind: is to create a worry box and place the worry in it. The worry box is not an actual physical box, but more of a metaphor or a mental container for storage. If you can set a time, date or place when to think about this thing you are obsessively worrying about, then you can actually break the cycle and make a plan for addressing it later. Yes the plan is the box. You essentially wrap your plan around the worry and tie it up and break it free from your mind.

For example: Say you have a health concern... something that you are worried about that is abnormally happening to your body. The worrying becomes compulsive. It gets so bad that the thoughts start to invade and interfere with your everyday life. Then, the worry actually starts to manifest itself into other problems like high levels of acid in your stomach that can cause ulcers. So now you're worried that if you don't stop worrying, then you'll develop chronic stomach problems. You start worrying about worrying! The worrying snowballs into more of a worry and consumes more of your time and thoughts. The cycle could go on and on... getting worse and worse...

...but you can stop it!

Make a worry box
- in this case, a planned time somewhere in the near future when you will see your doctor or physician about your concern. Then every time the worry or obsessive thought enters back into your head, you just say to yourself "I'm putting it in the worry box" and go on about your business. The important part is that you ARE addressing the concern, but not making matters worse by obsessing over the problems which potentially cause more problems.


Anonymous said...

My Son has been dyanosed with O.D.D at the age of 10,he has been like it all his life and now his pycotheropist thinks he also has another disorder too all to do with his worring all the time ,we have worry dolls and now a worry box and a number of books to help my Son to understand better whats wrong.But its a long road and do think its going to take a while just to find out why he is so upset.Can you offer any advise?

Unknown said...

Look at these concerns, both you and your son have, from a '20,000 foot' level. When you stand back and look at these situations from a distance it may not look so bad (in the entire scheme of your lives). See, sometimes worries can manifest themselves into snowballing problems when focused on in a vacuum.

Exercise is good! Nature is a blessing!

For your son: I, personally, would also use medications ONLY as a last resort. Psychotherapy would be king!

For you: I would be aware of how much attention I was giving to the situation; as too much could actually re-enforce negative behaviors.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed psychiatrist, psychotherapist or psychologist-I am a fine artist. And I have been blessed with a good head on my shoulders, and all advice I give is simply what I would do.

Have faith and all will be good!

Unknown said...

Also, as for dealing with a child that has oppositional defiant disorder I can recommend - with confidence - a book called 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child: The Breakthrough Program for Overcoming Your Child's Difficult Behavior by Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein. Dr. Jeff also has a great new book called Liking The Child You Love that may help, and it looks like he does phone counseling.

More information can be found at