The community of scientists studying Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been split into two factions by a bitter feud over the exact cause of the illness. On one side is a group who believe that obsessive-compulsive behaviour is caused by abnormalities in the brain. (Many researchers now believe in this biological hypothesis of OCD).
On the other side is a group who believe that obsessive-compulsive behaviour is a psychological disorder.
This group believes that OCD is caused when people believe that they are personally responsible for the obsessional thoughts they experience. This exaggerated sense of responsibility makes sufferers more anxious, keeping the distressing thought in their mind. They try to avoid this feeling of responsibility by performing compulsions. This kind of OCD responds well to hypnotherapy when the sufferer co-operates and uses the strategies taught by Georgina. Hypnotherapy Can Help! (Ask Georgina about her Liberation! Technique – first click on here)
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious anxiety-related condition that affects as many as three in a hundred people – from young children to older adults – regardless of gender and social or cultural background. Sufferers often go undiagnosed for many years, partly because of a lack of understanding of the condition, and partly because of the intense feelings of embarrassment, guilt and sometimes even shame associated with what is often called the ‘secret illness’.
To some degree OCD-type symptoms are probably experienced at one time or another by most people, especially in times of stress. However, the illness can have a totally devastating effect on work, social life and personal relationships. The World Health Organisation (WHO) even ranks OCD as the tenth most disabling illness of any kind, in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.
OCD can take many forms, but, in general, sufferers experience repetitive, intrusive and unwelcome thoughts, image, impulses and doubts which they find hard to ignore. These thoughts form the obsessional part of ‘Obsessive-Compulsive’ and they usually (but not always) cause the person to perform repetitive compulsions in a vain attempt to relieve themselves of the obsessions and neutralise the fear. Some sufferers will have the obsessions but no outward compulsions – a form of OCD.
Common obsessions include contamination and germs, causing harm to oneself or to others, upsetting sexual, violent or blasphemous thoughts, the ordering or arrangement of objects, and worries about throwing things away.
Sufferers try to fight these thoughts with mental or physical rituals, the compulsions, which involve repeatedly performing actions such as washing, cleaning, checking, counting, hoarding or partaking in endless rumination. Avoidance of feared situations is also common; however, this often results in further worrying and preoccupation with the obsessional thoughts.
Most sufferers know that their thoughts and behaviour are irrational and senseless, but feel incapable of stopping them. This has a significant impact on their confidence and self-esteem and as a result, their careers, relationships and lifestyles.
To sufferers and non-sufferers alike, thoughts and fears related to OCD can seem profoundly shocking. It must be stressed, however, that they are just thoughts – not fantasies or impulses which will be acted upon.
It would be fair to say that most individuals, at some stage in their lives, have come into contact with the phenomenon of obsessional or intrusive thinking and/or succumbed to the seemingly nonsensical need to perform an odd, and often unrelated, behaviour pattern in order to avert a real or imagined danger (e.g. touching a certain item of furniture before going to bed in order to ‘ward off’ a nightmare, or checking several times that the door and windows are locked before leaving the house when going on holiday). However, the key difference which segregates these little ‘quirks’ from the disorder is when the distressing and unwanted experience of obsessions and/or compulsions impacts, to a significant level, upon a person’s everyday functioning – this represents a principal component in the clinical diagnosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
What’s the difference between Obsessions and Compulsions?
Obsessions are recurring thoughts, beliefs or ideas that dominate a person’s mind. They affect both men and women from all ages and often occur in people that are already something of a perfectionist or who are anxious to get everything to be just right. The obsessional person broods or ruminates about the task or thought in their mind, that they need to perform some act (or thought), which is usually about the deferment of punishment for some real or imagined guilt that they feel. The thoughts come more and more often, until the person becomes preoccupied with them. The difficulty is, that unlike the compulsive, the obsessive feels no reward at all for performing his task (or thought); he/she feels no relief, no satisfaction, nothing at all. So, minutes (or hours) later, the brooding and ruminating returns.
There is often the dominating thought that if the task (e.g. counting / checking things) isn’t carried out… then something ‘bad’ or unpleasant is going to happen. Obsessionals find it difficult to let go of things or stop worrying / brooding and their worries may transfer from one thing to the next in quick succession.
As far as a professional hypno-analyst is concerned OCD is really an obsessional neurosis.
Obsessions and obsessional behaviour can include:
- Counting rituals
- Checking things repeatedly e.g. locks, windows, doors, ovens etc.
- Elaborate absurd rituals e.g. if you bump one side of your body you have to hit the other side to ‘even things up’
- Constant negative thoughts or worry
- Chronic Insomnia
- Worry about dirt or contamination
- Repeated hand washing
- Being obsessive about health or disease or bodily symptoms (that transfer from one thing to the next quite rapidly
- Obsessive jealousy or worry about partner
Compulsions are feelings that something must be done by the sufferer, a strong feeling about something, such as to keep vacuuming their home, washing the floors, sorting out drawers, etc. They do this and feel an immediate sense of satisfaction for doing so. When the task is complete, the thought process “I must clean my house” disappears….and the person feels much better, turning a negative situation (untidy house) into a positive, satisfying one (tidy house).
With compulsive behaviour the person does feel some reward…they get some satisfaction and ‘escape from life’ for a while. The more stress (and anxiety) the person feels, the stronger their compulsions, and the more they will carry out their compulsive behaviour, often resulting in feelings of guilt (‘I shouldn’t have done that, I’ll stop tomorrow’).
Compulsive behaviour can include:
- Drinking and alcoholism
- Smoking or nail biting
- Comfort eating / over eating
- Gambling or drug addictions Impulse control problems e.g. cutting, burning or scratching oneself.