Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an illness that affects
1 in 50 adult Americans, and twice that many will have experienced
it at some time in their lives. It ranges from merely annoying to
an emotionally crippling condition which, if left untreated, can
affect a persons relationships, work and family life and lead
to depression and other problems.
The core of the OCD is an obsession with something, such as cleanliness.
The anxiety generated by this obsession is dealt with by the associated
compulsion, typically a repetitive ritual, such as continually washing
ones hands, often until they are raw. Sufferers are powerless
to stop their compulsive behaviors, and may have elaborate rules
as to how they must be done. They will repeat them over and over
until they feel they have got it right. However, unlike the compulsions
to drink or shop, OCD compulsions do not give the sufferer pleasure,
but only a measure of relief.
It is now accepted by the medical profession that the cause may
be an imbalance of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin.
This is a chemical messenger in the brain that is involved with
controlling mood states and is believed to be able to regulate repetitive
OCD's take many forms, such as: contaminating obsessions,
concern with dirt or germs, or excessive concern with chemical or
environmental contamination; counting compulsions, having
to count up to certain numbers; checking compulsions, checking
doors, locks, stoves, brakes etc; hoarding or collecting compulsions;
repeating rituals, going in and out of doors; aggressive
obsessions, like fear of harming people, horrific images, doing
something embarrassing, terrible events like death, fire etc.; even
severe workaholics are sufferers. OCDs are sometimes accompanied
by depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, attention deficit
disorder and many other anxiety disorders.
Children are frequently suffers of OCD, but it can affect a person
of any age. OCDs can come and go at any stage of a persons
life, disappear for a period of time and then return in a different
form. They range from mildly interfering to extremely incapacitating,
lasting more than an hour a day. Sufferers are aware that their
behavior is irrational and disruptive, but they have great difficulty
in controlling it. Dealing on a daily basis with someone with OCD
can put a severe strain on families and relationships, so it is
important to work with them as well as the sufferer. Sensitivity
is important, because sometimes these rituals are the only way the
person has to communicate.
OCD is usually treated by a triple approach: education, medication
and therapy. In treating OCD, self-education is the priority, and
I recommend finding out as much as possible about this disorder.
The first stop, if you have Internet access is the excellent web
site of the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation, http://www.ocfoundation.org,
or call or write to them at OCF, 337 Notch Hill Road, North Branford,
CT 06471, Tel: 203-315-2190, Fax: 203-315-2196. The foundation has
an excellent and comprehensive bookstore online, and will also send
you a printed catalogue if you contact them.
The second step is medication. Modern drugs can produce dramatic
results and OCDs are normally treated by a class of drugs known
as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs.) SRIs such as Anafranil
must be prescribed by a doctor because of their powerful effects
on the brain and bodys chemistry. Once you are on SRIs, it
is dangerous to change the dosage or stop them on your own, even
though you may experience unpleasant of side effects.
There are a number of therapies that are useful and cognitive behavioral
psychologists have the longest track record. Group therapy led by
an experienced facilitator is also effective. Hypnotherapy can greatly
assist suffers of OCD because it quickly gets to the roots of the
obsession. and helps to reframe it. It is also useful in helping
the individual regulate his own body chemistry, thus helping them
avoid or get weaned from dependence on SRIs.
A few years ago a 19-year-old college student came to my practice
in London who had formed an obsession for a pretty girl student
in his class. He had a compulsive need to watch her all the time
and had been stalking her until the College authorities warned that
he would be expelled. This obsession for the girl occupied most
of his day, although he admitted that he was not in love with her.
He had become deeply depressed and the College doctor prescribed
Prozac, but the side effects made him even more depressed.
I needed to find out the underlying cause of his disorder, and
I was able to regress him in hypnosis back to a single trauma that
turned out to have been the primary cause. Over a period of four
months I was able to teach his unconscious mind how to change and
then overcome his obsession. I then tested these changes by taking
him through a process of desensitization. In the process he found
he no longer wanted Prozac, and gradually he weaned himself off
this drug. He went back to attending lectures, writing essays and
leading a normal student life
and his exam results were excellent!
Geoffrey Knight is a clinical hypnotherapist
and Director of the Knightsbridge Institute for Hypnotherapy and
NLP. He is a Member of the Oregon Hypnotherapy Association. He can be reached
at (503) 246-7300. Address: 2387 NW Kearney St, Portland, OR 97210.