Modification for dealing with OCD is a controversial concept. Some folks will argue — and they have a point — that making modifications allows you to hold onto your same old OC behaviors comfortably, giving you little motivation for change. Others will tell you that anything that gets you out and doing things that feel a bit outside of your “comfort zone” or participating in activities you used to enjoy, are all to the good. Here's the main caution: Don't allow yourself to get too comfortable if you do decide to use one or more modifications.
Modifications should be regarded as steppingstones — transitional moves — and not as ends in themselves. Once you can do without your particular modification, try to go back to your pre-OC way of doing things.
Modification simply means adapting yourself to your situation in any reasonable way you can. Examples of modifications might include things like:
Having someone come to your home to cut your hair
ifyou're afraid to go out and have it done and are therefore not getting your hair cut at all.
Traveling with a stadium chair
ifthat's the only way you'll get out to concerts, plays, and other performances. (Remember, you should do this only if notdoing so would prevent you from participating in the activity in question.)
Choosing a coupe when renting a car to reduce your door-checking time by half.
Modification may mean doing something like buying your own dental tools so you can have your teeth cleaned, rather than staying away from the dentist's office for years, if not longer. If you're seeing a therapist, modifications would be a good thing to bring up with her. Keep in mind, however, that your therapist may disagree with them in principle.
Let's assume, for just this moment, that you would like to try modifications with an eye toward making overall progress. Only you will know what types to choose for yourself — although you may not know, right away, exactly what modifications to use. You might have to give your particular fears a lot of thought before coming up with solutions. Strange as it may sound, you may even need to ask a close friend, your therapist, or another OCD sufferer for advice.
An Example of Modification
One OC woman wanted to vote, but couldn't bear the idea of using her community's touch-screen voting machines, which are heat sensitive and therefore won't work if the user is wearing gloves. She put this dilemma to her online support group and was delighted to receive the suggestion that she simply wear an adhesive bandage on her index finger. After voting, she could peel off and discard the disposable bandage and be on her way. (She will now use touch screens when absolutely necessary, but still does not like them. This is very much in keeping with what you can reasonably expect from treatment. While some former OCD sufferers become virtually fearless, most become much less anxious than before, but not exactly daredevils.)
Again, some will argue that such adaptive behaviors may simply “enable” you and your OC behaviors, and that is certainly a point worth making. Modification works like many other things: It carries a potential for great benefit or great misuse (sort of like cell phones, TV, and the Internet).