Written by:
Emma Naughton
Published on:
December 23, 2021

Hypnotherapy for OCD

What is OCD?

If you have been diagnosed with OCD or your symptoms have led you to believe you may be suffering with OCD you are probably aware of what an intrusive thought is.

Many people will experience intrusive thoughts throughout their lives and most of the time they are completely normal and do not become an issue. When these false and inappropriate beliefs become obsessional, they start to interfere with life to the point that they prevent normal activities, and inappropriate behaviours or coping strategies emerge in order to suppress or remove the thought and any of the negative associations with it.

We often get obsessional and intrusive thoughts when our anxiety levels are increased, usually these thoughts are very intense and overwhelming while that perceived threat is still present but they will become less obsessional when the situation has changed and we might move on and forget about it.

When you suffer from OCD the thoughts can become so extreme that they start to generalise to normal and everyday activities. The original thought has now become a constant underlying belief that something terrible will happen and these thoughts hold you hostage leaving you completely unable to do simple tasks out of fear. When this happens, coping behaviours are usually adopted to try and distract from or to prevent the perceived threat.Coping behaviours generally involve checking, this can vary but usually it will affect day to day activities. For example, when OCD is around safety and security checking the doors are locked, or windows shut, or that the car is locked or the handbrake on would become a constant task. Often re-checking over and over with the doubt that you had checked properly in the first instance, or that something may have changed either during or since the first check.

There is often a very real sense of extreme fear or dread associated with the thought and the checking behaviour. The feeling is often very intense in that if you don’t check, or check thoroughly enough, something bad will happen, and that you will be responsible for that. 

Symptoms of OCD will vary between people, with some thoughts and obsessions focused on germs and contamination, sometimes on safety and others wellbeing, and sometimes on the belief that you may harm yourself or others.

 Some of the biggest misunderstandings of OCD is that people are very clean and tidy and organised. This is often not the case, with people fearing throwing things away in case something bad might happen and can lead to hoarding behaviour.

What causes OCD?

It is not known what specifically causes OCD, but it has been recognised as an extreme anxiety disorder. It might be a series of traumatic events or one specific trauma that initially triggers OCD.

Genetics can contribute to the likelihood you will get OCD as if someone in your immediate family has it you are more likely to have it. There are some suggestions that it is learnt from childhood observations, if your caregivers had OCD or extreme anxiety it can be a leant coping mechanism.

Pregnancy and having a baby is often cause for perinatal OCD symptoms.

Serotonin levels are also shown to be lower in those suffering from OCD, which may be the cause or effect of OCD. We requireSerotonin to prevent us feeling depressed or anxious, so it is important to manage this in order to manage OCD. Solution focused hypnotherapy is a good way to learn how to increase your serotonin levels but if you are finding things very hard to deal with then SSRIs can help which would need to be prescribed by a GP.

How does Anxiety effect OCD?

It is normal to have the odd worry about something. Anxiety can be present in our everyday life and providing it is appropriate to the situation and dealt with at the time then it can be a helpful motivator. We might feel anxious about doing something for the first time, and get butterflies in our stomach.

All these little anxious thoughts can gradually build up over time and if they are not rationalised or expelled then they can cumulate in feeling overwhelmed, and a constant underlying worry. We may get physical symptoms and experience panic attacks.

We know that this can trigger OCD or certainly make the obsessional thoughts and behaviours worse.

Our original and emotional brain is conditioned to be obsessive, in early days that would have been a good strategy to protect us from danger and keep us safe. Checking and being on high alert would have been appropriate to the situation. These days it is very rare that we would need to check our surroundings continually to avoid danger, there aren’t too many Sabretooth Tigers prowling the streets looking for lunch. It is this part of our brain that is in control with OCD and not our rational brain that tells us its ok to relax and stop checking.

 

My experience having been diagnosed with OCD.

It may surprise you to learn that I have OCD!

I have always had checking behaviours and wasn’t aware of this for many years, I just felt like it was a part of me, something I did. I knew I suffered with intrusive thoughts – although I had no awareness that is what they were.

Looking back, I can associate my worst periods of OCD with traumatic events and high anxiety levels. I went to hypnotherapy after receiving my diagnosis of OCD as I had tried CBT and the ERP route was suggested but personally, I found I wasn’t ready to go down that route. The thought of exposing myself to the things that I feared made my anxiety too much to cope with. I was relieved to discover that Solution Focused Hypnotherapy meant I didn’t have to critique my worst ‘habits’ and go over the reasons for why I felt these irrational fears. I didn’t even have to discuss them at all. It was such a relaxing experience I didn’t see how it could possibly help me with these rituals which had taken over my life, it was far too easy!

However, I realised over time that I had stopped many of my checking behaviours and that I was feeling much calmer and in control of my thoughts, so much so that without realising I was cooking meals again and going to bed and falling asleep without the constant checking!!

What does OCD look like for me?

It can change and adapt, sometimes it was more subtle and manageable and manifest itself in little and insignificant rituals like having to check I hadn’t accidentally dropped my keys down the drain I just walked past, or posting a letter - it can take me a while to physically post a letter as I have to do a few checks first that its stamped and stuck down ok and that I am not accidentally posting something else with the letter. I found that the general physical symptoms of anxiety would create additional rituals like needing a drink by my side at all times and excessive swallowing or counting to try and keep panic at bay. Other times when I was feeling very anxious it would affect my life in a more obvious way, although I always did very well to hide it from people. I might end up avoiding situations as I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide or control my checking or tapping. I would be too distracted by the thoughts in my head and the need to try and stop them and the potential consequences of not checking.

As I had health anxiety I would often fear I had made someone sick, or that simply by being around me I had contaminated them. Even though I knew I wasn’t ill I would worry that I might have the germs and be a carrier of them, and then pass them on to others which would make them unwell.

Health anxiety can create obsessional checking, either in checking your own or others health repeatedly. Checking symptoms constantly. Counting is another common coping behaviour, I would find myself counting and re-counting in my head throughout the day, it could be the hours between tablets, not convinced that the first count was correct, this could go on for hours and become a reoccurring thought in my head all day.

OCD is the feeling of overwhelming panic that something utterly awful was about to happen and I would be completely responsible.

When my OCD is not managed, in that my anxiety is not under control I often find myself unable to perform simple tasks like cooking, down to the fear that I have accidentally poisoned someone, or that I forgot to cook the food. I would throw whole meals in the bin terrified that I might make someone very ill or worse. I would check everyone was feeling ok, and repeatedly ask the same questions, can you check the food, please check the food, is it cooked, is it hot, are you sure its cooked. Then I would google how do you know if chicken has gone off or cooked properly and symptoms of food poisoning or listeria. It is utterly draining not only for the person suffering but the person that has to check and then frustrating for both when the re-checking starts.

The thing with OCD is its not rational, you are able to do somethings that have risk but not others and theres no rhyme of reason to it.

OCD is not something that can be cured, I still have it and it is very much managed now, I have the tools I need to keep it under control. At the slightest hint my thoughts are becoming irrational, and my checking starts I know it's time to change something and listen to my hypnotherapy audio.

How does Solution Focused Hypnotherapy support OCD

As I mentioned hypnotherapy has been instrumental in managing and controlling my OCD. Other therapies such as CBT and ERP can be helpful in dealing with OCD but the key difference with SFH is there is no need to expose your worst fears and face them head on. Trance is a fantastic tool as it helps us to relax and switch our conscious and emotional brains off. It is impossible to be anxious or have these overwhelming irrational thoughts when you are in your subconscious mind. In fact sleep is often the only rest bite from the anxious thoughts when they have taken hold and consume your every waking hour. Trance mirrors REM sleep, where you have the opportunity to process thoughts without emotion, in a completely logical and helpful way.

The other way that Solution Focused Hypnotherapy supports OCD is in reducing anxiety, by taking back control of our ‘what ifs’, we start to trust our rational minds and the need to carry out the checking behaviours become less. The more we do this we start to break the reinforcement that we have to check to stay safe, and new behaviours take its place, new and healthy coping mechanisms like exercise, talking, creating, learning. All positive actions which stimulate serotonin and keep us in a positive mental advantage point.

As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I cannot diagnose you or offer you advice on whether you have OCD, you should see your GP and get referred to a Psychiatrist for an official diagnosis should you want or need to.

If you are interested in learning more about how SolutionFocused Hypnotherapy works then contact me today for a free consultation. All sessions can be face to face in Stamford, Lincolnshire or I also offer online hypnotherapy which is exactly the same format as in person.

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