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5 Tips for Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder While Living in NYC

Marisa Petrarca July 14, 2017

New York City is a scary place, and that’s before you factor OCD into the equation. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, arguably the most frequently misunderstood mental illness, affects 1.2% of the adult population in this country – myself included.  For some, OCD makes it impossible to step on cracks in the cement. For others, it means checking the stove 12 times before leaving the house, and then coming home to check once more after leaving. There are those who wash their hands until they’re raw and those who are struck with disturbing thoughts or images all throughout the day. There are some who can’t escape the image of their partner cheating, no matter how much trust lies in their relationship. And then some who compulsively pick their skin until they bleed. I fall in the latter.

But the truth is that I’m not here to elaborate on my personal compulsion, rather, I’m here to elaborate on everyone’s desire to escape from the debilitating vortex of OCD in the chaos that is the Big Apple. Dealing with mental illness often leaves sufferers feeling alone and as victims of their own mind. And though it’s difficult to speak to a range of people with different fears, thoughts, and ruminations, this advice serves to focus on everyone – to speak to how to live with our compulsions amidst one of the busiest, toughest cities in the world. Here are five self-proven tips on how to conquer your battle with OCD.  Hope they help!

Immerse yourself in your passions.

Finding one’s passion is essential for well-being and happiness, but when dealing with OCD, it’s often more difficult to deal with stressors in the same way as someone without it. In a career-obsessed city like New York, it’s important to accept that your obsessions will become a part of your passion. Instead of letting your obsessions control your passion, reconstruct your thinking to think of them as your powers.

Come up with a response-plan for when your symptoms arise.

Whether you’re on a subway that’s packed like a can of sardines or on a walk back to your apartment, it’s important to have a plan for when your OCD strikes. For some, carrying a notepad to write down every anxiety-driven thought as they occur is an effective method. Since obsessive thoughts are often repetitive, writing them down will help you recognize how senseless they are in a tangible way. Another action-plan includes training your mind to simply recognize a thought as OCD and not as a real fear.

Develop an everyday relaxation technique.

OCD is caused by many triggers, one of them being stress. Depending on what you’re most comfortable with, develop a self-relaxation technique like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. There are also phone apps like Happify, iCBT, and MoodKit, to help you effectively deal with daily stressors.

Join a support group or group therapy program.

It’s extremely difficult for people without OCD to understand the challenges you’re facing in the same way that people with the same illness can. Oftentimes, talking to a close friend or partner won’t make matters better, as they can’t grasp what you’re going through, and in turn, they won’t be able to give you the advice you’re seeking. Joining a support group or group therapy program allows you to share your problems and achievements with others in a safe space. It’s a space where people will understand what’s going on in your mind and where you can learn from each other.

Learn everything there is to know about OCD.

By learning everything there is to know about OCD and what it does to your brain, you will not only feel more in control, but you will have a better understanding of how to be your own therapist. Consult books like Sally Winston’s Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts, Jeffrey Schwartz’s Brain Lock, or the Mindfulness Workbook for OCD by Jon Hershfield.

Marisa Petrarca
Marisa is a freelance writer from Rhode Island and a lover of all things beauty, wellness, style, and pizza. Her work has been seen on, StyleCaster,, Guest of a Guest and Providence Monthly Online. She currently lives in Brooklyn (even though she can just barely navigate it) and enjoys the chaos that is New York City. Food, humor, social media and coffee are very, very important to her.