My Life With OCD: When Relaxation Techniques Become Compulsions

I’m not saying relaxation techniques never work for people with OCD.

Some methods, such as exercising and journaling, have been incredibly helpful for me, and I’ve managed to use these without developing compulsions around them.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about what helps other people with OCD. Although this has been useful, I’ve learned that people are people, not their conditions, and what works for one person with OCD doesn’t work for everyone with OCD.

The inconvenient truth is that you’ll have to try different relaxation techniques yourself before you find something that works for you. There’s no magic formula, no template that you can replicate when it comes to self-care.

I’ve tried dozens of different methods, including grounding exercises, positive affirmations, and meditation, and many of them didn’t work. This was a time-consuming, frustrating process that made me want to throw in the towel. But by taking it slowly, I’ve managed to figure it out.

I found it helpful to approach the issue from a place of curiosity instead of urgency.

Instead of thinking, “I need to find a way to calm myself down during panic attacks,” I tried to frame it as, “Let’s try this method and see where it takes us.”

Instead of thinking “What’s wrong with me? Everyone else likes meditation — why doesn’t it work for me?” I thought, “I’m learning something new about myself.”

It’s also important to remember that relaxation techniques are just that — relaxation techniques. They help you relax, but they’re not meant to solve underlying trauma or replace therapy.

Hard as it may be, talk therapy is necessary for so many people. Although it can be a lot of work, it can pay off in the long run.

If you have OCD or if you think you might have OCD, it may be a good idea to find a therapist.

Don’t be afraid to shop around until you find a therapist who suits you — it’s important that you feel comfortable talking with them.

If possible, look for someone who has experience in treating OCD.

Lastly, if you feel as if your relaxation techniques have developed into compulsions, remember that healing is possible. It is possible to manage your OCD and find a relaxation technique that works for you. It might just take time.


Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. As someone with multiple anxiety disorders, she’s passionate about using her writing skills to educate and empower readers. She believes that words have the power to change minds, hearts, and lives.