A Tool For Managing OCD Checking Behavior


If you have OCD with a tendency to check and recheck things such as whether doors are locked, you may be able to give yourself some relief by using exaggerated mindfulness.

Mindfulness, or being mindful, means being attentive to the present moment. The goal is to keep your awareness focused on whatever you are doing or experiencing in the ever present now.

By purposely exaggerating in-the-moment awareness, it is possible to outsmart the urge to check or re-check something. It can help you, for instance, remain in bed instead of getting up to examine the door locks one more time.

Exaggerated Mindfulness

Exaggerated mindfulness is making yourself aware that you are aware. You are not only noticing in the present moment that you are locking the front door (or checking the stove burners, or whatever), you are also reminding yourself—making mental notes—that you are aware of locking the door.

This coping technique can be adjusted to suit your own situation and creativity, but it goes something like this:

  1. You go to lock the front door before going to bed.
  2. As you turn the lock you tell yourself, “I am now turning the lock. I feel the lock between my fingers, I feel it turning, I hear the bolt clicking into the locked position.”
  3. Check the time and tell yourself, “It is now 11:35 and I have just locked the front door. I felt it lock, I heard it lock, I see that it is locked.”
  4. Look away from the lock and then look back at it. Tell yourself, “I can see that the front door is locked. No matter what my mind tells me later, I know that at 11:35 the front door was locked.”
  5. Do something out of the ordinary such as jumping up and down three times, dancing a little jig, or rubbing your stomach while you pat your head. Then tell yourself, “I know the door is locked because I just jumped up and down three times and I see the door is still locked. (This step is optional but very effective.)
  6. Go to bed.

Now, when an urge comes up to check the front door, there will be no doubt in your mind that it is indeed locked. You can talk back to your symptom with confidence (“I felt it lock, I heard it lock, at 11:35 it was locked,” etc.) and settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Even if you wake up during the night and think of the front door, you will know that at 11:35 it was locked and that after rubbing your tummy and patting your head it was still bolted.

Ideally, we want our OCD symptoms to be reduced or eliminated without needing to apply coping methods such as exaggerated mindfulness. However, when symptoms are active, having tools that work can bring much needed relief.

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Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

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