People who experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) know the type of inner dialogue it creates:
“Did I turn off the iron?” “Yes, I think I did” “I’d better go back and check again” “I don’t want ‘that horrible thing‘ to happen, and if I check 10 times, then I’ll be safe” Checking multiple times and then walking away but… “Did I really turn it off?” She goes back to check, and checks another 10 times before she can walk away again….She is now thinking “I really have to leave NOW to get to my appointment…but I’d better check again” ……and just as she gets to the front door, she thinks “I’d better check one more time – I can’t see that the switch is off from here…” and so she gets more and more anxious about being late, but the anxiety drives her to check again and again….getting into a vicious circle of anxiety, and checking, checking, checking….“Betty” – a former client
The great news is that OCD can be helped by cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy. It may not be completely resolved, but that annoying OCD pest can be minimised and “put in its place” so it has a much smaller effect on our lives.
OCD is an anxiety disorder, and affects more than 500,000 people in Australia. It usually develops in late childhood or early teenage years and without proper treatment can become a chronic condition (1).
Most of us have occasionally had to double-check that something was locked or turned off, but OCD can involve obsessive – almost superstitious – thoughts that something terrible will happen unless we do / repeat certain activities. In time, the OCD may encourage us to repeat the compulsions more and more (i.e. check 20 times instead of 10 times).
As the name suggests, there are 2 kinds of symptoms:
- obsessions – an unwanted thought, image or urge that repeatedly comes into the mind, and creates anxiety that something terrible will happen
- compulsions – repetitive behaviours or rituals, that are difficult or impossible to resist doing, which are carried out to reduce the resulting anxiety (1). These can be hand washing, repeated checking that something is switched off or locked, hoarding things that we don’t need, doing tasks in a certain order or arranging items in a specific order.
The compulsive activities bring temporary relief from the obsessive thoughts and anxiety that something terrible will happen, but need to be repeated to guard against these terrible things from happening. Many people resent what OCD does to their lives, and find that it gets worse at times of stress, and then sometimes decreases, to flare up when they are under stress again.
Hypnotherapy and iCBT for OCD
Hypnotherapy for OCD targets the underlying fear that drives the compulsive behaviour.
But why use hypnotherapy and integrated cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT) to help with OCD?
1. OCD puts us in a trance
Hypnosis involves a narrowing of attention and absorption with a specific idea. There is also “time distortion” – time seeming to disappear very quickly (e.g. 20 minutes seems like 3 minutes).
This may seem very familiar to those of us bothered by the OCD pest. Many of my clients state that while they are doing the “compulsion” part of OCD (doing an activity, or checking & arranging items), that they are totally focussed on it, and time seems to fly past.
Treating OCD with hypnotherapy breaks the OCD trance
2. Hypnosis targets the subconscious mind
The obsessive feelings and imagined events, plus the compulsive rituals in OCD are in the subconscious mind, and the great news is that hypnotherapy can enable you to change these to something that better suits your life.
The subconscious mind is always working to protect us – in this case from the imagined terrible consequences of NOT doing the compulsive activity – but it does this from the perspective of a young child. By involving the subconscious, and communicating in a way that it understands, the obsessions and compulsions of OCD can be helped.
3. Therapy targets the conscious mind too
Specific worries, and other negative thoughts can exist in the conscious mind. These can be discussed and examined during therapy to see if there is any evidence to back them up (hint: there generally isn’t any evidence!).
iCBT involves discussion of the link between triggering events (such as coming into the house from outside), feelings (I’m unclean), and thoughts (I must repeatedly wash my hands and arms), and behaviours (compulsive hand and arm washing). iCBT enables clients to choose different thoughts and feelings in response to the trigger, and thus decrease the obsessive and compulsive activity.
I can also ask you to do set activities between sessions. One of these is to do the obsessive activity, but very deliberately and while concentrating on what is happening. To use the example of Betty re-checking that her iron is switched off, she would have done the checking and rechecking while being increasingly anxious, while in a “worry trance” as described above, and probably not remembering or concentrating on what she was doing. When she concentrates on checking that the iron is switched off, she will remember doing this due to the concentration, and thus may eventually be able to check only once or twice before moving on to other activities (such as leaving for her appointment).
4. Hypnosis decreases fear, anxiety, and stress
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are used to decrease many types of anxiety and stress (about exams, work, public speaking, etc.).
It can be used to decrease the anxiety and fear that stems from the perception of danger (or something terrible happening) if the compulsions are not done.
Once the fear and anxiety are removed, the obsessions and compulsive behaviour stops, as there is no need to continue.
Stress can exacerbate OCD, so hypnotherapy can also be used to decrease this, meaning that the OCD does not interfere with normal life.
Clients can be guided to imagine just doing an activity once (e.g. checking if something is switched off, washing hands when dirty). Normally this would create anxiety and fear, but they can imagine this easily while remaining calm while in a state of focus and deep relaxation in hypnosis. They can then practice this in reality (without the fear and anxiety) and realise that the feared terrible events do not occur.
5. Hypnosis helps with underlying core beliefs
Hypnotherapy can also help with any unhelpful underlying core beliefs, e.g. “I’m not good enough” (which translates to “I can’t be trusted to know the iron is switched off”, and thus repeated checks have to be done on the iron), or “I will infect my family with germs” (which means that I must wash my hands and arms repeatedly – e.g. 20 times – every time I enter the house from outside).
These core beliefs may originate from an event (or series of events) in our lives. Using hypnotherapy, clients can examine these events, which could have happened while a child or even in adulthood. When reviewed from an older and wiser perspective, they are seen differently, and the unhelpful belief can often change or disappear.
Will it work for me?
As therapy depends on both client and therapist, I cannot guarantee results. You may be able to get rid of ‘the OCD pest’ completely, but you may also find that OCD does not completely disappear but you can keep it under much better control.
Targeting the underlying fear and anxiety – and any stress in life – is a proven way to help OCD, and I have had great results with this using hypnotherapy.
If you have OCD, you know that it can interfere with your life at home and at work.
Confidential help is available. I am very happy to assist you improve your life, and enable yourself to enjoy daily activities.
Call me – Lisa – for a confidential, obligation-free chat on 0403 932311 today, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll answer any questions that you may have, and when you are ready we can book a session and get you on the path to greater enjoyment in life and mastering OCD.