What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has two main components: obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are quite different to the ordinary, everyday worries that we all experience in our day-to-day life. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts, images or urges that repeatedly appear in your mind and cause significant fear and anxiety.
Common obsessions include:
1. Fear of contamination by dirt, germs and viruses
2. Worries of having not locked the door or turned off the oven
3. A need for perfection and order
4. Forbidden thoughts, such as thinking about abusing a child
Compulsions are actions or thoughts you feel compelled to repeat, often as a response to an obsession aimed at reducing the associated anxiety. For example, you may excessively wash your hands as a response to an obsessional fear about germs. You may feel the need to repeatedly touch every light switch in the house 3 times to prevent harm coming to a loved one.
You are unlikely to experience any pleasure or fulfilment when carrying it out and yet still find yourself doing it over and over again.
How does obsessive compulsive disorder affect your life?
OCD will cause you serious anxiety and distress. Some people feel so ashamed of their symptoms that they keep them secret. Attempting to suppress intrusive thoughts and compulsions can also lead to depression, or fears that you're crazy. However, obsessional thoughts are an anxiety disorder, as are phobias and panic attacks. They are significantly different to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, as you know the intrusive thoughts are your own rather than feeling they are coming from outside of yourself.
OCD can be so debilitating that it effects your work, relationships, social life and quality of life.
How Can I Suppress My Obsessions and Compulsions?
Managing your OCD is most likely to cause further anxiety and distress. The more you try to ignore your intrusive thoughts or compulsions the more severe they are likely to become. Just like if someone said to you "don't think of a pink elephant", it's most likely to be the first thing you think of. Trying to stop your OCD symptoms is like trying to stop blinking. You can try, but eventually the unthinking, subconscious part of the mind will override your attempts and your normal instinctive and emotional responses will take over automatically once again.
Treatment For OCD
Firstly, you will learn about the cycle of OCD and what keeps it going. We will then look at what has led to it developing. OCD is a maladaptive response to stress and there is usually a genetic bias. We will then identify the theme of your obsessions and enable you to get some emotional distance from the content of your disturbing thoughts. If there is a compulsive behaviour attached then we can expose you to the triggers under hypnosis and then later in reality to desensitise you to them.
Techniques from Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can also be used to enable you to step back from the content of the disturbing thoughts.