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Woman suffering from Sensorimotor (Somatic) OCD

Sensorimotor OCD

Woman suffering from Sensorimotor (Somatic) OCD

Mind Over Matter: Confronting the Challenges of Somatic OCD

Sensorimotor OCD, also referred to as Somatic OCD, involves hyper-awareness of automatic bodily processes, such as breathing, blinking, or swallowing. Individuals with this subtype of OCD become excessively focused on these involuntary activities, leading to significant anxiety and disruption in their ability to engage in daily activities. The constant attention to bodily sensations that are typically unnoticed forces them into a cycle of monitoring and control that can be mentally exhausting.

What is Sensorimotor / Somatic OCD?

This disorder pushes individuals to continually check and control their natural body functions, which are normally regulated without conscious effort. This heightened state of awareness can lead to a paradoxical effect where the more they try to control these processes, the more uncontrollable they seem. As a result, simple actions like breathing deeply or swallowing can become sources of intense focus and distress, significantly affecting a person’s quality of life.

Living with Sensorimotor OCD can be particularly challenging because it transforms the background noise of one’s physiological functioning into a forefront issue that cannot be easily ignored. This often results in a significant increase in stress and anxiety, as sufferers cannot escape their own body’s automatic processes. Over time, this persistent anxiety can lead to broader impacts on mental health, including the development of additional OCD symptoms or other anxiety disorders.

Symptoms & Diagnosis of Sensorimotor OCD


  • Persistent awareness and monitoring of involuntary bodily functions such as breathing or blinking.
  • Excessive concern and distress over the control and sensation of these bodily processes.
  • Compulsions to “correct” or “control” these automatic functions in a specific way to alleviate anxiety

Diagnostic Criteria

  • Intrusive and persistent preoccupation with one or more perceived abnormalities in bodily sensations.
  • Engaging in repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to the preoccupation, aimed at reducing distress or preventing a dreaded event related to these sensations.
  • The obsessions or compulsions cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Impact on Daily Life & Emotional Well-being

Living with Sensorimotor OCD can severely disrupt daily functioning. Constantly focusing on and trying to control bodily processes distracts from work, social activities, and hobbies. This intense awareness can cause significant anxiety and mental exhaustion, diminishing life satisfaction and emotional well-being. Additionally, the frustration from not being able to shift attention away from these sensations often leads to social withdrawal and depression, as sufferers might feel misunderstood or unable to share their experiences.

Treatment Options for Sensorimotor OCD

The treatment of Sensorimotor OCD typically involves Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), particularly focusing on techniques such as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). These approaches help individuals gradually face their fears related to bodily sensations and learn to tolerate the discomfort without performing compulsive behaviors:

Treatment Techniques

  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): Involves controlled exposure to the anxiety of experiencing and paying attention to bodily sensations without engaging in any mental or physical rituals to reduce the anxiety.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): Teaches individuals to observe their bodily sensations non-judgmentally, helping them break the cycle of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors by fostering a state of acceptance.

Coping Strategies & Self-help Tips

  • Structured Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation methods like progressive muscle relaxation to help manage the stress associated with hyper-awareness of bodily sensations.
  • Scheduled Worry Times: Allocate specific times to focus on bodily sensations, which helps contain the preoccupation within manageable periods.
  • Engage in Regular Physical Activity: Exercise can help reduce overall anxiety levels and improve focus on external tasks.
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Regular mindfulness practice can enhance your ability to let thoughts and sensations pass without excessive focus or judgment.

Bethesda Therapy’s Commitment to Specialized Sensorimotor OCD Treatment

Local Resources in Maryland, DC, & Virginia

Bethesda Therapy provides specialized care for Sensorimotor OCD, offering access to experienced therapists who understand the unique challenges of this subtype. Our support groups and educational workshops also create a supportive community for sharing strategies and experiences.

Focused Treatment for Sensorimotor OCD

We tailor our treatment approaches specifically to address the intrusive awareness of bodily sensations that characterizes Sensorimotor OCD, aiming to improve clients’ control over their attention and reduce anxiety.

Supporting Your Journey to Recovery

Our commitment is to foster an environment that supports effective management of Sensorimotor OCD symptoms. We ensure each client receives the understanding and compassionate care they need to progress on their recovery journey.

Adhering to the Best Practices in OCD Treatment

Our treatment plans are based on the latest research and established best practices in OCD therapy, dedicated to delivering the highest quality of care to help our clients lead more focused and less anxious lives.

Getting Started with Bethesda Therapy

We understand that seeking help can be a big step, but remember, you’re not alone. We’re here to support and guide you on your journey towards a more manageable life. Scheduling a consultation with us is straightforward and the first step towards recovery. Reach out to us either by phoneemail or our website form to book your appointment. Be assured, your confidentiality is our top priority, and we’re committed to providing you with the highest level of care. Take that first step today – we look forward to assisting you.

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What Colleagues Say About Us

Beautiful Mountains

Rose Bleiweis


Melissa is determined, hard-working, and provides a range of therapeutic interventions. She is committed to professional development to further her clinical skills.

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Jen Lodico


Melissa’s skillset was empowering to work with. She is professional and supportive. Melissa is a fantastic therapist who I cannot recommend enough!
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Beth Cocker


Melissa Murphy is a wonderful therapist. She is kind, non-judgmental and empathetic. She truly understands her client’s needs and takes into account the whole-person. I do not hesitate to refer clients to Melissa and enjoy collaborating with her on cases. She is an excellent therapist with expertise in anxiety, depression, and OCD.

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