I Experienced Symptoms That Resembled Anxiety — Then I Got This Diagnosis

As I became more adept at working through each progressively sneaky fear, my OCD eventually developed into the version that I experience now. It’s hard to describe, which is part of why it’s challenging to navigate. Generally, it manifests as a sense of doubt and fear around what I consider most precious and important to me. That doubt turns into anxiety about what I “should” be doing in order to be a good person. Again, the key is that the definition of a “good person” from my OCD’s perspective is wildly stringent, specific, and, simply put, untenable.

I work with this anxiety using a technique called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). It’s similar to what I practiced when I was younger, except that it also includes exposure to the core fear. Identifying the root of what I am trying to “fix” or “avoid” is efficacious because it keeps the fear from morphing into a slightly different theme that’s still grounded in the same worry.

In addition to therapy, there are a few things I can count on to support my well-being. These include exercise, medication, sleeping well, and eating in a balanced way. I also try to ensure I have times during the week when I am fully immersed in whatever activity I’m doing, which allows my brain to have some space where it’s not just running or ruminating. Playing music is an especially helpful way to both experience the present moment and process emotions.