Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
What is OCD?
Researchers have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but brain differences, genetic influences, and environmental factors are being studied. Brain scans of people with OCD have shown that they have different patterns of brain activity than people without OCD and that different functioning of circuitry within a certain part of the brain, the striatum, may cause the disorder. Differences in other parts of the brain and an imbalance of brain chemicals, especially serotonin and dopamine, may also contribute to OCD.
OCD has three main parts:
- the thoughts that make you anxious (obsessions);
- the anxiety you feel;
- the things you do to reduce your anxiety (compulsions).
In the 1990s, Dr Jeffrey Schwartz made the discovery that a four-step cognitive behavioural therapy he pioneered is capable of changing the activity in a specific brain circuit of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. After publishing his findings in scientific journals in the mid-1990s, Dr. Schwartz used his discovery (which is becoming a widely utilised treatment for OCD and has been corroborated by other research teams) as the basis for his book Brain Lock which leads readers through the four-step Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy that he devised to treat OCD.
Dr. Schwartz's breakthrough in OCD provided the hard evidence that the mind can control the brain's chemistry, and that it can do so through the classic Buddhist idea of mindfulness. Mindfulness is another area that many sufferers are turning to in an attempt to use it to help them break free from OCD.
The four steps Dr Schwartz developed were:
However since he came up with the CBT version he has changed his views somewhat, now suggesting that it's anxiety alone that drives the OCD.
How Hypnotherapy can help with OCD
Hypnotherapy helps enormously with reducing the anxiety that drives OCD. Using CBT focuses too much on the problem so we look at when the problem is less and help find ways of reducing the triggers that set it off.
Body Dismorphic Disorder
This is related to OCD and usually relates to a physical activity such as skin picking or at it's worst, having nose jobs one after the other because the brain is not recognising when to stop the obsessing about the body part.
BDD Case Study
Susan is 26, lives at home with her parents and came to see me with BDD - she was an obsessive skin picker and she would spend over an hour each morning trying to get her make up right to hide her perceived flawed skin, this was a problem as she was often late for work as a result and her job was on the line.
Using a mix of solutions focused hypnotherapy to reduce the anxiety and to focus onto what she did want, CBT to be able to determine her goals and make a plan of action on reducing her rituals, she was able to change certain routines slowly but effectively over a period of about 6 months.
She decided that going to the bathroom first - she would not be able to spend the time she would normally in front of the mirror washing.
Step 2 was changing the position of the mirror in her bedroom, something so simple was to make a big difference as she found she didn't look into it every time she went in and out of her room.
Step 3 was to be mindful about when the urges came, she was able to recognise what they were and refocused on something else. She enjoyed knitting and jewellery making so when the urge got too much she would make another necklace.
After repeatedly side tracking herself she found the urges deminished.
In the end she was able to control her urges and used hypnotherapy to help her lose weight, and she also moved out of her parents house, took up swimming and was able to socially interact much more. Her job was now safe and she felt she had really understood and cracked the problem.