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Navigating Existential OCD: A Guide to Exposure and Response Prevention Techniques

February 6, 2024

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Existential OCD, a challenging aspect of obsessive-compulsive disorder, often leaves individuals grappling with profound questions about life, death, and existence. As a therapist specializing in exposure and response prevention (ERP) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I aim to shed light on evidence-based strategies to manage this form of OCD.

Understanding Existential OCD and ERP

Existential OCD goes beyond typical existential questions. It involves intrusive, distressing thoughts about life’s biggest questions, leading to intense anxiety and obsessive rumination. ERP, a cornerstone of OCD treatment, involves gradually and systematically exposing oneself to the source of fear without engaging in compulsive behaviors. This process reduces anxiety over time and breaks the cycle of OCD.

Implementing ERP for Existential OCD

  1. Identifying Triggers: The first step in ERP is pinpointing specific existential thoughts triggering your anxiety. This could include fears about the meaning of life, death, or other existential themes.
  2. Creating a Hierarchy: Develop a hierarchy of these fears, ranking them from least to most anxiety-provoking. This structured approach allows for gradual exposure.
  3. Exposure Practice: Begin with less challenging thoughts, gradually working up the hierarchy. This might involve writing about these fears or speaking about them in a controlled environment. It is important to resist the rituals that go along with existential OCD, as well, such as compulsive rumination and reassurance seeking.

The Role of ACT in Managing Existential OCD

ACT is another evidence-based approach complementing ERP. It focuses on accepting your thoughts and feelings rather than fighting them, while committing to actions that align with your values. This approach is particularly effective for existential OCD as it teaches you to embrace life’s uncertainties.

Integrating ACT with ERP

  • Acceptance: Learn to accept the presence of existential thoughts without judgment.
  • Commitment: Engage in life-affirming activities that align with your personal values, despite the presence of OCD thoughts.

The OCD and Anxiety Recovery Blueprint: Your Path to Managing Existential OCD

Sound easier said than done? Absolutely. For those seeking comprehensive guidance, my digital course, The OCD and Anxiety Recovery Blueprint, offers in-depth strategies and support. When you get the full Blueprint, you also get an additional 17 subtype specific videos including one subtype video on existential OCD. This course is specifically tailored to empower you with the tools needed for tackling existential OCD through ERP and ACT methodologies.


Existential OCD can be a daunting journey, but with the right strategies, it’s possible to regain control. Exposure and response prevention, combined with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, offers a robust framework for managing these profound anxieties. I invite you to explore my digital course, The OCD and Anxiety Recovery Blueprint, to start on your path to recovery.

Resources for Your OCD and Anxiety Recovery

To learn more about OCD and anxiety recovery strategies and resources, visit my website at Here you can find additional support and guidance.

Want more content like this? Check out some of my related podcasts and The OCD and Anxiety Recovery Blueprint below.

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind that Jenna is not your therapist. She does not provide you with individualized recommendations or advice. The information provided is intended as educational information only. Jenna cannot tell you what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, or give recommendations based on your unique situations or circumstances. Nothing on this page or Site should be construed as therapeutic recommendation or personalized advice. 

If you are in need of such services, please consult with a physician or other medical provider right away to determine the best course of action for you. We are not responsible for your use of this page, this website, or the contents within. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU READ OR ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEBSITE AND CONTENT. For more information, please read the Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Disclaimer. Your continued use of this platform, this page, and the contents within constitutes as your agreement with this agreement.

© 2023 Jenna Overbaugh, LLC, All Rights Reserved


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