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”. Walking away but… “Did I really turn it off?” Going back to check, and checking another 10 times before walking away again….Thinking “I really have to leave the house NOW to get to my appointment…but I’d better check again” ……and just as you get to the front door “I’d better check one more time – I can’t see that the switch is off from here…” and getting more and more anxious about being late for the appointment, getting into a vicious circle of anxiety, and checking, anxiety, 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.
The compulsive activities of OCD 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, as well as the stress which can make OCD flare up and interfere with life even more than it does normally.
I also use integrated cognitive behavioural therapy (iCBT), which 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.
Did you know that 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. Clients say 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
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.
Stress can exacerbate OCD, so hypnotherapy can also be used to decrease this, meaning that the OCD doesn’t interfere so much with normal life.
Talking to the conscious AND subconscious minds
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.
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!).
I may also ask clients 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 above of re-checking that the iron is switched off, “Betty” would have done the checking and rechecking while in a “worry trance” as described above, and would have probably not remembered 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).
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, see them from a different perspective, and the unhelpful belief can often change or disappear.
As therapy depends on both client and therapist, I cannot guarantee results for every client. You may be able to get rid of ‘the OCD pest’ completely, but you may also find that you can keep it under much better control even though it does not completely disappear.
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.