How To Deal With Sensorimotor OCD

According to national surveys, 2–3%¹ of individuals have OCD. OCD comes in many distinct forms of compulsions and obsessions. However, the least spoken about is sensorimotor OCD or body-centered obsessions that involve a heightened awareness of involuntary body functions. 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about sensorimotor OCD and the best way to treat this condition.

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is hyper-awareness and sensorimotor OCD?

Generally, sensorimotor OCD (also known as somatic OCD) and hyperawareness OCD are two different kinds of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They involve overwhelming emotional and mental energy directed toward thoughts, noises, physical sensations, physiological processes, visual abnormalities, or energy levels. 

According to the International OCD Foundation,² sensorimotor OCD refers to obsessions focusing on distinct bodily sensations or automated body processes. It causes people to obsess over bodily functions that are usually unnoticed. This overabundance of attention to ideas and sensory events is consistent with the symptoms of OCD. 

People who suffer from this condition discover that despite their best efforts, they cannot get rid of these ideas. They fear that if they do not get rid of these thoughts, they will have a disastrous influence on their overall functioning, future, and ultimate well-being.

What does sensorimotor OCD feel like?

People struggling with sensorimotor OCD find it almost impossible to divert their attention from normal body processes. As a result, these obsessions tend to take your attention and become very distressing once you become too focused on them. It may even cause fear as you think your body is not functioning properly or has a defect.

For example, if someone focuses on breathing, you might think you are breathing too fast or too slow. In turn, this will lead to you thinking that there is a problem with your respiratory system.

Is sensorimotor OCD permanent?

Sensorimotor OCD is not a permanent condition. Several established treatments help those suffering from such obsessions to disassociate their autonomous bodily functions without any resulting anxiety. In other words, it enables them to go through their sensitivity hyperawareness without any ensuing anxiety.

Generally, treatment methods involve developing the art of self-awareness, which will enable sufferers to break free from sensorimotor obsessions. This can involve learning bodily sensory awareness tactics and embracing an accepting and relaxed posture.

What causes OCD to get worse?

Like any other OCD condition, sensorimotor obsessions can worsen once the sufferer is exposed to trauma, abuse, or stress. In other circumstances, age can also exacerbate the condition, as symptoms tend to worsen over time and increase in severity. However, many sufferers have common and constant symptoms.

Some of the sensorimotor obsessions that many people struggle with include:

  • Swallowing

  • Breathing

  • Blinking

  • Eye contact

  • Pulse Rate

  • Visual distractions

  • Mouth movements when speaking

  • Heartbeat

  • Bowel or bladder pressure

  • Hunger levels

  • Minor pains or itches

  • Hair touching ears, forehead, or neck

  • White noise, like that of the refrigerator

  • Items in the field of vision

  • Joints creaking or popping during movement

How can I get rid of hyperawareness and sensorimotor OCD?

There are several methods to eliminate your hyperawareness and sensorimotor OCD. Although everyone reacts differently to different treatment methods, the most common ones used to deal with this condition include medicine, therapy, or a combination of the two. 

If you have sensorimotor obsessions, a large part of your treatment will include understanding the anxiety that the sensory OCD causes and successfully enjoying the feeling without the concern that comes with it.

Treatment for this condition can also be provided by various mental health specialists, including therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, or clinical social workers. You may also opt to find a credible support group to help you effectively deal with this condition.

Below are some of the therapies involved in treating sensorimotor OCD.

Exposure and response prevention (ERP)

 This is one of the treatment therapies where the patient learns how to not indulge in compulsive or obsessive activities, thus reducing the symptoms of this condition. It involves psychoeducation, associating with the trigger that causes compulsions or obsessions, and enforcing a preventative behavior.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a treatment method for OCD in 2018.³ TMS is a therapy that involves brain stimulation to reduce OCD symptoms by sending electromagnetic pulses across the brain.

It is a non-invasive treatment that operates by activating brain nerve cells. Note that TMS is usually utilized as a last resort when other therapies have failed.

How do you sleep with somatic OCD?

There are several ways to treat somatic OCD and sleep well, but the most effective and recommended treatment method is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Some of the psychological interventions used in CBT treatments include cognitive reappraisal, the focus of attention training, cognitive defusion and acceptance techniques, as well as mindfulness training.

Most patients require 8–12 CBT sessions depending on their background factors and presenting problems. Other ways to enhance your sleep quality as a patient of sensorimotor OCD include:

  • Embracing mindfulness and meditation

  • Building good sleeping habits

  • Creating a designated space just for sleeping

  • Do your best to resist sleep-stealing compulsions

  • Try herbal remedies or supplements like valerian root, melatonin, or herbal teas with chamomile and lavender

Can sensorimotor OCD turn into psychosis?

If you are suffering from an extreme case of sensorimotor OCD or experiencing unusually high levels of anxiety, it can lead to symptoms similar to psychosis. As a result, it is conceivable to suffer from OCD while exhibiting psychotic symptoms. But this is not a real psychotic condition.

You may feel like you are losing your mind due to your OCD. OCD may be so obsessive and distressing that it is classified as a psychotic disorder. People with severe OCD may feel "crazy" after a psychosis diagnosis. The fact is that some people suffer a combination of OCD and psychosis, known as "OCD with psychotic characteristics."

The lowdown

Sensorimotor OCD and many other forms of OCD can be difficult to diagnose, understand, and manage. That is why it is critical for people with sensorimotor obsessions to consult a healthcare professional with expertise in OCD treatment. With the correct treatment, people with sensorimotor OCD will soon enjoy better life quality. 

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