OCD & Anxiety Treatment: The Lens of Anxiety
In this episode, I discuss the idea of the “lens of anxiety”. When someone is struggling with anxiety, there is a thin line between the real world and the world they are seeing skewed by anxiety. It’s like you see the world through a set of anxiety goggles or sunglasses. In this episode, I discuss the lens of anxiety and how important it is to develop awareness when you’re in the lens and to understand that you’re not seeing things how they really are.
All right. Hey there and welcome to this episode where we're going to talk about the lens of anxiety. So again, my name is Matt and I thank you so much for tuning in. And in this series, what we're talking about here is just kind of these big picture concepts on OCD and anxiety treatment and really, um, you know, this idea of recovery and what that means, right? And this concept and this in this particular episode is so crucial to your success if this is something that you struggle with. So, um, this idea of the lens of anxiety, I tried to, I was trying to, um, you know, figure out how to explain anxiety and OCD to someone. Um, you know, when, when I was dealing with it, right? So, you know, again, many years ago I was, you know, really just lost in this world of OCD and anxiety.
And when I was really in it, the thing is, is that it feels very real, right? So whatever it is that the person is struggling in is afraid of, and whatever their anxiety is about, whether it's flying or contamination, OCD or social anxiety, right? Or PTSD or panic attacks, right? Whatever their anxiety is correlated to, we need to understand that it feels and looks as real as anything else in this world. And that's, and that's really what I'm talking about when I talk about the lens of anxiety and OCD when I'm talking about here is kind of this idea. It's almost like you have goggles on your eyes, right? Or sunglasses. And when you put those on, you see the world through that lens. Okay. And, um, what happens is, is when you do enough of the your safety behaviors and compulsions, what happens is you're in that state of anxiety more and more and more.
So you begin to see the world like that on a more continual basis. And, um, and this is why what's so interesting is when someone's really in that lens of anxiety, whatever it is that they're worried about seems as real of a threat as anything, right? I mean, and that's why like when I talk to people in there, um, or you know, I'm working with someone and they're like, well, no, that, that is definitely contaminated, right? I can see it. Right. You know, or when they're going into a social setting or whatever it is, the fears about that fear looks very real to them. And, um, there was a, there's a wonderful, wonderful, um, scene in the series better call Saul when Chuck and one kid, one of the characters struck, is explaining what he's experiencing to his doctor. Right? And he's like, in his, he has this, again, this a phobia of, um, electricity writer is he thinks he's allergic to electricity.
And in his mind it looks as real as anything. And that's what he says. He's like, look, when I, when I think of it like it is as real as that chair in front of me or this, right? Or, and, but what I'm realizing is it's like maybe both. But what happened was, is he didn't know that he had a battery on his person. And what he realized was he actually wasn't having that response. And he kind of came to this realization like, what if this is just in my head? And then he said something really powerful where he said, and if it is like what have I done to my life? And in this moment right here is a critical moment to everyone's recovery from OCD and anxiety on their journey to recovery, right? This one moment where we have this epiphany that maybe what we think we're afraid of, like you know, whatever that is, whatever we're anxious about, maybe that isn't actually as real of a threat as we think it is even though we believe it is and it seems real.
Being able to entertain the idea that maybe it isn't real is, is just so important to a person's transition into, you know, really using the tools to overcome that fear. Because as long as you're convinced that you have thread is 100% real and there's not even a shred of doubt in your mind that you might be wrong about this. The thing is, is that you're going to operate from that stance, right? You, and you're always going to operate as if it's 100% real threat. So being able to realize that maybe this is anxiety and maybe I am seeing things differently because essentially that's what's happening, right? It's like this lens is over your eyes and you're, you're not seeing the world how it really is. That's why when I run groups or something like that, one person will look at, you know, a social situation and see a total dangerous situation.
Another person will see a doorknob and another person might have intrusive thoughts about something and all of them can look at each other and like see the kind of very low probability, right? Or kind of the irrationality of the fear. But the person that's talking about their fear is always like 100% convinced that it's real, right? And that it's like, man, this is, this is the problem. Right? And, and it's, it's fascinating to watch people like, and again, I was there, right? So I'm speaking about this. Like I remember like when I was really in that lens, you know, the thing is, is it looked very real. Like what the things that I was afraid of were, were real in my mind. And it wasn't until, you almost have to realize that you're in that when you can realize you're in the lens, that you can start to distinguish the difference, right?
And so there's a couple things I don't want to talk about here in this episode when it comes to the lens. So the first and foremost is you need to realize that the lens is the problem, right? And so back in the earlier part of this series, I talked about the real problem of anxiety, right? And it's never what our mind is telling us. The problem is, right? It's actually that we're misperceiving that as a threat, right? So for instance, it's not the fact that the, the problem with anxiety isn't the fact that I'm afraid of getting on planes. The problem of anxiety is that I'm misperceiving the idea that planes are dangerous. And because of that, I'm limiting my life. So maybe I'm not going on vacation with my family or you know, uh, if I have contamination, OCD, the problem isn't that there's a bunch of germs that I'm really in danger about.
The problem is, is that I perceive there's germs and because of that, I spend three hours a day cleaning my house or I don't go to my kid's soccer game. Something like that. Right? It's the ripple effect of the misperception of the problem. And hopefully that makes sense right there. I'll say it again just to make sure it's the problem of anxiety is the ripple effect after we've misperceived a threat. Right? And that's really the problem of living with anxiety is that, you know, our mind will come up with these endless threats and then there'll be endless ripple effects that will make our lives smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller. And so the, the first thing is once we realized that the lens is actually the problem, right? That we're not seeing, we're not seeing things accurately cause we're seeing it through this lens of anxiety, then the problem no longer is what we think the problem is.
The problem is how do we get out of the lens? And when you realize that that's the actual goal of anxiety and OCD treatment, it's not to become certain about whatever you think the problem is. Right? Because that's the very nature of anxiety. We try to become certain about something we can't be certain about. Like I want to be certain, my playing route won't crash. I want to be certain that these people won't make fun of me or whatever. Right? I mean like just like we'll go ahead and list everything up. I want to be certain I'll never get this one disease. I want to be certain that, I mean, the list goes on and on and on. Right? Um, and once we realize that that actually isn't the problem and it's actually the lens that we're in, that's the problem, then the solution becomes, well, how do we get out of the lens?
Because chances are most of us can look at the same exact thing that we're anxious about. And at some point in our lives, we weren't anxious about it usually. Right? Like there was a shift that happened where we started, you know, ruminating about it or whatever and we became anxious about it, right? And sometimes that event, it was correlated with an actual event. Other times it just happens, right? It just kind of grew. And so when anxiety treatment is all about getting out of the lens, it's all about, you know, what it really is about is about learning the tools to get you out of the lens so you can start to actually perceive the threat in the, in an accurate way, right? You can start to categorize it as this low probability versus this like 100% possibly, you know, like 100% thing that's going to happen.
So does that make sense? So like the idea of someone with, um, contamination, OCD, right? It's like what we're doing is we're doing exposure and response prevention. And the reason we do that is because we want their brain to start categorizing the idea that doorknobs aren't actually dangerous hike. You can touch them again and again and again, won't get AIDS, but we need to actually do that. Right? And so the way out of the lens, that's actually what we're doing is exposure and response prevention where challenging our fears and preventing ourselves from doing our safety behaviors. And that's the more and more we do that, what happens is, is we stop categorizing it as that potential threat and we're able to get out of the lens and start to see that threat for what it is, right? Or what like that potential threat. And, and that's what actually helps us step out of that lens.
And that's why someone pre and post treatment. And what's so interesting is they will have the same exact thought, but they'll have a completely different reaction to it. And that's actually what we're going for, right? We're not actually going for the idea of I want you to be certain that your plane won't crash. It's that when they have the thought, what if my plane crashes, they're able to react to it and respond to it in the correct way as if, and you know, and categorize that possibility at the correctly as opposed to catastrophizing it in their mind. So hopefully that makes sense. And, um, in the, the other thing is, is that when we talk about the lens of anxiety, what's so important is to find little cues for yourself to realize when you're in the lens. Because when you're in the lens, you don't always know you're in it.
So what's important is to figure out for yourself little little cues that might help you, might help you realize that you're in the lens. So for me, for instance, when I was really struggling with anxiety, one of the things that I learned was that I would be, you know, I could know my mind was racing, stuff like that, but I'd also learned that music didn't have the same impact on me as it normally does. So normally I like listen to music, you know, rocking out all that. But when I'm in that lens, what I've learned is that music just doesn't sound as good, right? Like I don't enjoy it as much. And that's a cue right there that I was in the lens. Right? And then you can work to get out of it. So the first thing you know is really this idea of understanding the lens and this is something you struggle with.
Then the next thing is, is about developing the awareness of when you're in the lens, because that can actually help you understand that you're not seeing things how they really are. So hopefully that makes sense. And that's all I want to talk about in this particular episode. Um, you know, and again, we're going to continue on in this series as we move forward in the next few weeks. Um, but again, if this is something you struggle with [email protected] we have resources available for you in the notes below this episode. I have a bunch of links that you can have free guides, free assessments, um, you know, to really help you on your journey. And not only that, but we also have our, our community and our, um, you know, training programs and all that stuff to help you on this journey. So, um, again, thank you so much for tuning in this episode. I really do hope that you found it helpful of this idea of the lens of anxiety and, um, you know, and as we continue on this series, I'll, I'll continue going on this topic. So I'm, you know, stay tuned and I'll see you guys in the next episode. Take care.