OCD and Tinnitus

Discussion in 'Dr. Bruce Hubbard (Psychologist, CBT)' started by claudiahearsit, Mar 21, 2017.

    1. claudiahearsit

      claudiahearsit Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      A few weeks
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Hi! I have severe OCD and it is largely health-centered. I have gone through a successful course of CBT therapy for my "Pure O" (I know, a misnomer – my compulsions are largely internal). A few weeks ago I woke up with a strange ringing in my ear, that now follows me wherever I go. I spend a lot of time googling and catastrophizing (my life is ruined, I'll never hear silence again) and checking whether I hear it in quiet spaces.

      I know these are compulsions, and it's taken all my willpower to resist these behaviors most of the time. The problem here is, the most of my health-related OCD thoughts (AIDS, cancer, etc) are clearly unfounded, and as such I have been able to rid myself of the distressing thoughts using mindfulness and targeted ERP exercises. With tinnitus, it is ever-present. I wonder: will I never hear silence again? Will I let it ruin my life? It feels inescapable.

      I know that it may still subside, but I know I am not supposed to reassure myself with that hope/fact. I know most people habituate, but I also know this is a form of unhelpful reassurance. I guess what I'm asking is: am I on the right course in trying to stop "checking" and to stop self-reassuring? Or are there further mental exercises I need to undertake in order help myself habituate without falling into the OCD trap?

      Thank you in advance for any guidance. What I really want to hear is "it will go away" or "you will definitely habituate" but I know given my OCD, that would only help me in the short term. I am in the middle of IVF treatment and I don't have my trusty fallbacks (a glass of wine at the end of the day, Xanax, the odd cigarette) and need to get myself right before I have a baby – a kid who, given my family history of OCD – might need more guidance from me on how to tackle the OCD monster.
    2. Dr. Hubbard

      Dr. Hubbard Member

      New York City
      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Music
      Hey Claudia,

      You've done well with OCD! Congratulations! And you appear to understand CBT well. The fact is, most people - around 98% - do eventually habituate to tinnitus. This fact is reassuring to many and helps them let go of their tinnitus. But given your OCD tendencies, if reassurance becomes a ritual, then i'll say maybe you will and maybe you won't habituate. Accepting that uncertainty - will it go away? if it doesn't, will I habituate? - and practicing mindfulness (nonjudgmental, accepting, present centered) attention to tinnitus sounds as well as the spontaneous negative thoughts and impulses they trigger, can help. Also, have you learned any relaxation exercises? Like abdominal breathing and PMR? These are a common part of CBT for and tinnitus and OCD, and might help replace the wine and cigarette!

      Hope that helps!
      Dr Hubbard
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