Ways to Actively Challenge Your Own Beliefs
Below are some questions you could answer to challenge the thoughts that
you believe are not healthy:
1. What’s the evidence for and against this thought?
2. What would I tell a friend with this same situation (rather than what I tell
3. What’s the worst that could realistically happen? How bad would that be?
4. Is it really true that I must, should, or have to…?
5. Am I over-generalizing from a past occurrence?
6. Are there other explanations besides blaming myself?
7. Is there any conceivable way to look at this positively?
8. Is this situation really in my control?
9. What difference will this make next week, month, or year?
10. Is thinking this way helping the situation or making it worse?
11. How have I tolerated these situations in the past?
12. How can my religious or spiritual beliefs help me with this?
13. What advice would a therapist or mentor give me regarding this situation?
14. What can I accept about the situation?
• Write the thoughts down in a diary. Write down how they are making you feel.
This will help you to see if there is a pattern. It will be easier to control the
thoughts if you know what triggers them.
• You will find that your thoughts are biased. It is important to come to a more
balanced conclusion. Think of a ‘Big Challenge Thought’. If your thought is
– “Nothing works, I’ll never be able to control this.” – come up with another
way of looking at it – “I can learn to deal with this”. Find evidence to support
your positive thought. Can you think of a time when you have coped well with
• Look at the evidence on both sides. Don’t assume your negative thought or
obsessive worry is true. Rate how much you believe in the thought (0-100%).
Then, after looking at all of the evidence, re-rate how strong your belief is. Is it
a fact or just what you think?
• Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What advice would you give a friend in
your situation? How might someone else see you or your situation? Ask
people that you trust what they think. Use what they say to help you to reach
a more balanced view.
• Face your fears! Be prepared to go into difficult situations on your list by
relaxing and controlling your breathing. Think positively; think “I am in
control.” Negative thinking feeds the worry
• Try not to be too hard on yourself. Think about what you can say to yourself
that is more helpful and less worrying.
Challenging Negative Thinking
As well as changing how you act, it is important to fight the negative thoughts that
keep OCD going.
You will likely find that the negative thoughts get worse when you begin to fight your
OCD. More often than not, they are criticisms of yourself – “I’m a failure.” or “I
must be a terrible person for thinking like this.” or “Nothing works, I’ll never be
able to control this.”
These thoughts are part of the vicious circle. They lower your mood and make you
feel tense. This makes it more difficult to tackle the obsessions.
Here are some things you can try that will to help you to control your thoughts…
What if my thoughts are compulsions?
Sometimes obsessive thoughts are followed by thoughts to ‘put them right’. Instead
of acting out a compulsion you may try to think ‘good’ thoughts to fight the obsession.
An example of this might be thinking “I am a good person, I would never hurt
anyone” after thinking about hurting a friend or relative.
• Accept the thought – don’t try to put it right. Don’t try to stop thinking about it.
If you are told stop thinking about a pink elephant all you can think about is a
pink elephant! Let it pass.
• You are worried about what that thought means. You might think it means
you are a bad person. You might think you are going crazy. Challenge this
kind of thinking. Weigh up the evidence – Are you really a bad person? What
do others think? What else makes you a good person? Thoughts are not the
same as actions. We can’t always control them.
• You will have good days and bad days. Don’t let bad days set you back.
Take things one step at a time. Give yourself credit when you cope well.