Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Therapy
Obsessive compulsive disorder therapy explained
Many of us have certain habits, but when a habit turns into an act that you can’t control and affects your life, it can be a problem. Habits might include nail-biting, hair-pulling, thumb-sucking or scratching. Habits can be controlled, but they can also become addictions or obsessive compulsive disorders. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affects adults and children. Symptoms can be visible or invisible through thoughts. Behaviour can be conscious and unconscious, obsessive and compulsive with continuous repetition.
It is upsetting for the individual and often people are not sure where to turn for help or even that a counsellor or a psychotherapist can help. OCD sufferers have a range of problems depending on the individual and the disorder or disorders. The disorder may be linked to other problems too. Some examples of obsessive and compulsive behaviour are noted below:
- Arranging and re-arranging items
- Washing and cleaning of self and possessions
- Checking and re-checking thoughts and activities
- Repeating thoughts and words in the mind
- Repeating thoughts and words out loud
- Repeating behaviour
- Using special numbers
- Avoiding certain people, activities, places, numbers
- Thoughts of harm coming to people
- Obsessive fears
Our approach to OCD
In our experience with treating OCD, we find the most effective treatment is Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is because CBT aims to fix the underlying issue rather than its symptoms. However, every client is different, and after discussing the options with you we may suggest an alternative therapy or combination of therapies. Combining therapies together is known as integrative counselling, and is used to make sure that the client gets the therapy that works best for them. If you would like to find out if we could help you, we invite you to contact us.
An obsessive compulsive disorder case study
Sarah remembered being about 14 years old when she began to seriously worry about germs and her health, and the safety of those around her. She also found that she needed things to be perfect – perfect neatness in her house, perfect hair, perfect college homework, and this was beginning to be a real strain on Sarah and her family. Her mother persuaded her to see her GP at the age of 18, and she was referred for cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
Sarah understood how her OCD had developed and was keen to stop the obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviours, which were getting worse all the time. She had gradually been increasing the behaviours that made her feel safe, for example washing her hands, avoiding physical contact with people, straightening the curtains, but this meant her life was getting extremely complicated and more frightening.
The type of techniques that we used in the therapy process were:
Thought Records – Sarah initially found it difficult to know what she was thinking, since she reacted mostly to the way she was feeling. By taking the time to record any thoughts associated with the feelings of discomfort, Sarah was able to recognise thoughts and thinking patterns that were generating or maintaining her anxiety.
In Session and Homework: Exposure and Response Prevention – Sarah exposed herself to the situations that caused her anxiety, for example touching a light switch where she would usually respond by washing her hands, she would instead experience the anxiety without responding. She learnt that although the anxiety was initially very uncomfortable, she could cope with it and it would subside. She also realised that her predictions that something terrible would happen if she did not wash her hands, were not accurate.
Sarah had 9 hours of CBT in total, including some follow-up appointments. Six months after therapy ended, Sarah felt she had overcome her OCD, was generally less anxious, said she felt “free”. She had applied to go to university, which had seemed unimaginable before the therapy.
Just dropping you an email to let you know how things have been my with nail-biting since our session. It’s been pretty incredible so far. I haven’t really bitten my nails at all. I have almost started a few times (though in a very incidental, rather than intense way) but each time just as my finger has drifted to my mouth I just instantly and without thinking lower my hand! More than this though I have noticed a few interesting things that are maybe contributing or a part of this. Firstly, I am very disinterested in my nails in a way I was never before, I never really think of them or look at them and that has felt really good. Secondly, I have felt slightly more protective (for want of a better word) over my fingers I have been washing them a lot and generally. They feel a bit smoother and cleaner, more sensitive and less the sort of things I would want to bite or get dirty or treat badly. It has been a very light and easy change I haven’t had any strong urges that suddenly disappear or any strong conscious feelings toward not biting. I just haven’t wanted to in any way. I have been so surprised by this and I really have been amazed at what’s happened. I have been biting my nails every day for 15 years and then for the last four days I just haven’t. Quite extraordinary.