Since quiete some years I'm suffering from ocd compulsions mainly characterized by repeating simple actions like closing the door, putting light on and off, typing something several times, etc.... And other simple actions. In my head it's something like something must 'feel' perfect or the right way and if it doesn't feel 'ok' I repeat until it does... kinda weird but ok... Is this a lack of self control? How do I get rid of this self thought behavior? I started doing this in a really stressfull period.

Thanks in advance,


  • 1
    Instead of OCD, perhaps Buddhism can somehow help with "a really stressful period".
    – ChrisW
    Feb 21, 2018 at 13:10

5 Answers 5


In Buddhism, the practise is called 'mental cultivation', which similar to OCD, repeatedly cultivates a Buddhist practise. For example:

What do you think, Rahula: What is a mirror for?

For reflection, sir.

In the same way, Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

MN 61

Therefore, when OCD keeps repeating the thought: "Its not good enough; its not good enough"; Buddhist practise would keep repeating the opposite thought in order to make the OCD thought subside, i.e.: "Its good enough; its good enough".

MN 20 states to replace an unskillful thought with the opposite type of thought, as follows:

When unskillful thoughts... arise in a monk through reflection on an adventitious object, he should, (in order to get rid of that), reflect on a different object which is connected with skill. Then the unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination, the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

Like an experienced carpenter or carpenter's apprentice, striking hard at, pushing out and getting rid of a coarse peg with a fine one, should the bhikkhu in order to get rid of the adventitious object, reflect on a different object which is connected with skill. Then the unskillful thoughts are eliminated; they disappear. By their elimination the mind stands firm, settles down, becomes unified and concentrated, just within (his subject of meditation).

MN 20

  • Thanks indeed maybe the thought of saying it's ok can help.
    – Sammy Vdb
    Feb 21, 2018 at 21:20
  • @SammyVdb: While my limited understanding that the of the canon is that it does encourage Buddhists to sometimes engage with defiling thoughts forcefully, I would caution a person with OCD about trying this as a regular method. Pushing thoughts out, trying to substitute them for other thoughts, etc. can strengthen OCD thoughts, as I'm afraid know from experience. Additionally, the temporary elation felt by suppressing OCD thoughts makes the practice addictive, even though they tend to bounce back almost immediately.
    – Random
    Mar 29, 2018 at 1:00
  • 1
    @SammyVdb: Most effective (or at least, somewhat effective :P ) therapies reccomend coexisting peacefully with OCD thoughts in a structured way, without reacting compulsively. That said, I do think Buddhist practice can help with OCD. Aside from comforting the (or perhaps, validating) doctrines of not-self and impermanence I've found that meditating regularly, or before a difficult task, calms me enough that I can not react to a thought that would otherwise send me scrambling. I should emphasize that I'm new to daily meditation, so this is a very recent discovery for me.
    – Random
    Mar 29, 2018 at 1:09
  • (This is all meant without offense to the above answer of course.)
    – Random
    Mar 29, 2018 at 1:09
  • Buddhists don't take offense. As for my answer, it is a Buddhist answer. As for your suggestions, while they may possibly be better for OCD than the Buddhist approach, your suggestion is not found in the Buddhist scriptures. Also, using wisdom to change a thought is not "suppression". It is transformation. Regards Mar 30, 2018 at 3:31

In my head it's something like something must 'feel' perfect or the right way and if it doesn't feel 'ok' I repeat until it does...

This part sounds like attachment. This is what we call it in Buddhism, attachment. Sounds like you need to learn to let go. Meditation should help... Maybe try gazing at a flowing stream, like a creek, see if you can learn to let things go, without grasping. Then repeat the same with your thoughts.

  • Will try this! Thnx!
    – Sammy Vdb
    Feb 21, 2018 at 21:16

From my understanding, people with OCD do those rituals because it helps alleviate anxiety , etc. I have heard from someone who heard it from somewhere that instead of giving in and commit to that ritual, try to observe the raise and fall of the anxiety with still body. Eventually the anxiety will go away on its own without having to commit to that ritual. Wish you the best.

  • Hello I will try this thanks for the tip! And yes it's true somehow I feel less anxious when I do them. So maybe what you're saying can help!
    – Sammy Vdb
    Feb 21, 2018 at 21:13

OCD is a lack of self control. Why? You already know why -> because you can't stop when you want to stop.

There are two schools for helping you stop when YOU want to stop: that of psychology and that of spirituality.

You can get rid of OCD by visiting a psychologist specialized in treating OCD or by visiting a wise spiritual teacher.

Since wise spiritual teachers are very hard to find, I would advise you to go to a psychologist specialized in treating OCD.

  • Please do not say lack of self control. To me that sounds putting blame to someone. OCD is usually a genetically inherited disorder. As you mentioned, I would suggest to seek a cognitive behavioral therapist. Acceptance and commitment therapy falls under the umbrella term "Cognitive behavior therapy" and shares some aspects of Buddhism. OCD can be managed by Exposre and Response prevention, because one learns that one must not give into thoughts and urges and thereby one is changing one's cognitions and feelings.
    – Val
    Mar 26, 2018 at 13:49

From a Cognitive Behavioural point of view Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) might help. The whole idea is to expose yourself gradually. So you deliberately either postpone the very thing you supposedly cannot bear or you expose yourself to the problem. If one is obsessed by checking the stove one replaces that with an helpful and realistic self statement like "Okay, I feel now these uncomfortable feelings and they are hard to bear but I if I am honest with myself I can bear them and it's worth bearing because (...)" and at the same time acts the opposite, but be aware that it might be better to do that gradually instead of all in one chunk (flooding). Now many therapists (among that Albert Ellis is one proponent of that) support the idea of flooding, however, do it with caution. Rather do "challenging but not overwhelming", because in the end it's all about long term change and also the motivation and courage to do face your fears. If one floods just one time it's barely going to work and it can be quite unpleasant too, so be aware!

From a psychological viewpoint Emotions, congitions and behaviour are all in a reciprocal relationship. If you change one the other two will follow. Now, many circles say "change your thinking, change your thinking", but this alone might not always help because the conviction in the older belief is just too strong. So, one needs to think and act differently simultaneously. This is also why clinical depressed person are not treated with cognitive interventions (alone), because they usually don't work on highly depressed persons. If one thinks "I'm too weak to get up" questioning that might help in a person who isnt depressed but if one is depressed one needs to gently and compassionately (!) force himself to repeatedly get up in order to convince himself that the former belief was erroneous.

I'm quite new to Buddhism and I like it a lot and I cannot give you "the" buddhist answer but what I can give you is a good method by Dr. Dryden which might be even somewhat similar to the idea of reflecting on the disadvantages tvat was endorsed by the Buddha, let me start:

  1. Acknowledge that you have a feeling/thought/urge and do not kid yourself about it. Be honest and don't "should" on yourself, i.e.:" I shouldnt have this feeling, I must always feel serene.."

  2. Realize that you do not have to act on it immediately (rehearse your self statement for example)

  3. Acknowledge that you have an option: To act or not to act

  4. See the (long term) disadvantages in giving in

  5. Counter any possible reasons why it is good to give in

  6. Do whatever you would have done if you wouldnt experience the craving

  7. Keep in mind that your thinking might still be distorted and pulls you in your habitual way of thinking because your underlying irrational belief is still somewhat active. This needs to be done repeatedly and you will eventually lapse because we are all fallible. Accept yourself and try to do better in the fure and take the horror out of the badness.

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