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                        Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:  Can Hypnosis Help?

              By C. Devin Hastings






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"He who fears he will suffer, already suffers from his fear."
--Michel de Montaigne

OCD. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Only 3 words. An incredibly subtle understatement for such an emotionally painful condition that more than 3 million Americans experience everyday.

3 letters to describe a medical situation that is both humiliating and, at times, deadly. Yes, OCD can definitely be deadly.

Sometimes itís a slow, almost imperceptible path of destruction and sometimes it leads to suicide. A very dear friend of mine died from the ultimate outcome of obsessive behavior.

What is tragic is that her condition was not diagnosed as such and therefore was left untreated. Had her symptoms been recognized, it would have been much more likely that her death would have been avoided.


What is OCD?

It is a disorder which causes a person to have intrusive or insistent thoughts of such a nature as to have a significantly disruptive effect on their life.


These thoughts can manifest in mild to moderate behavioral disturbances or they can cause a person to do things repeatedly such as rituals guarding against danger, extreme cleansing, re-checking locks, stove burners and such.


Constant counting is another symptom of OCD. Although the symptoms and behaviors associated with OCD are wide and varied the primary thing they have in common is they are generally unwanted behaviors and/or thoughts that occur with above normal frequency.


Most people with OCD also have difficulty with daily activities. These difficulties can manifest as tardiness, perfectionism, procrastination, indecision, discouragement and family difficulties.


This is not unusual as around 80% of all OCD sufferers have been diagnosed as significantly depressed during some period of their lives.

Other symptoms of OCD includes "having" to do things a certain number of times such as going to your car and then back to your house door 3 times to make sure it is "really" locked.

With the exception of opera and rock & roll songs, if you find yourself subject to nonsensical words or phrases repeating themselves in your head, this may be a sign of OCD.

Another sign of OCD is the hoarding of truly useless objects (such as lint--no joking!) in the event they may be needed some day. This hoarding occurs because many sufferers imagine the guilt they would feel if they threw something away only to need it someday.

Probably the most commonly known characteristic of OCD is an excessive fear of contamination. This comes in many forms such as an extreme fear of touching something that may have been "contaminated" by saliva or blood.

Here are some interesting facts:

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a condition that afflicts somewhere around 1 in every 50 people.


In general, the average person with OCD will develop this condition before the age of 25.


It is relatively rare (about 15% of all cases) for someone over 35 to suddenly develop symptoms of OCD.


Also, according to some experts, OCD is more prevalent than diabetes and, like diabetes, a large number of cases are left undiagnosed and untreated.


For those who do receive treatment, they have typically suffered with the OCD for 7 years before getting help.


Do people ever recover from OCD?

Well, according to traditional thinking, a personís obsessions and compulsions will persist throughout their life. This same thinking estimates that around 60 to 80 percent of people with OCD can expect marked symptom improvement with a combination of medical and behavioral treatments.


These conventional treatments have so far yielded a significant improvement response within 4 to 6 weeks. In most cases, patients have needed follow-up monitoring and treatment to sustain their improvements.

Standard treatment of OCD includes the use of SSRIís (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and others.

This drug regimen is typically combined with the most common behavioral treatment method called Exposure and Ritual Prevention (ERP). This approach differs only slightly from Desensitization Through Reciprocal Inhibition.

What can hypnosis do for the OCD sufferer?

A great deal. One thing that is certain is that the more hypnosis is recognized by the medical establishment as a truly legitimate healing modality, the more OCD sufferers will benefit.


This is obvious because most of the recent, significant breakthroughs in OCD treatment have been centered around Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. C.B.T. is a form of talk therapy that can be blended very nicely with hypnosis.


Also! since OCD is recognized as an anxiety disorder, it stands to reason that the medically proven effects of hypnosis on anxiety can be applied with a good chance of success to OCD. This success can be observed in degree rather than in a "pass/fail" measurement.

Through my personal and professional experience I am certain that hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) will play an even greater role in the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

I state this because it is only a question of time before more evidence comes to light concerning the emotional etiology of OCD. My observations and convictions do not agree with the established opinion of most "experts" who believe that the psychological experience of insight has nothing to do with the treatment of OCD.

Many OCD experts believe that sexual abuse, bad parenting, childhood neglect, abuse, early loss and other related trauma have nothing to do with OCD.

As it would be too lengthy to go into mine or my clients' personal experiences and resolutions, suffice it to say that these experts are evincing a very narrow perspective.

To anyone reading this who subscribes to the Emotional-Newtonian, Flat Earth Society, Pharmaceutical Mouth Piece, point of view that OCD is purely bio-chemical in nature and not at all psychogenic in origin I pose this question: Why do widely published experts (Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. for example) believe that OCD can be conquered with just talk?

This widely noted expert states that an OCD sufferer can actually change their brain chemistry through a cognitive-behavioral process. And without professional assistance!

Doesnít this point of view beg the question that if an OCD sufferer has abnormal brain chemistry that can be altered with healthy talk therapy, then perhaps the condition was a result of abnormal cognitive-behavioral processes such as sexual abuse, bad parenting, neglect and so on?

Another very interesting fact to note is that it is well known that stress can either exacerbate or trigger the onset of OCD symptoms. This seems to point at the fact that it is a distorted cognitive process preceding the appearance of abnormal brain chemistry.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the contributions of hypnosis and NLP (combined with appropriate drug therapy when necessary) to the successful treatment of OCD will be very welcomed by those who suffer.

As a final note: Whenever a hypnotist is dealing with any situation that is medical in nature, he or she must always obtain a fully informed doctor's referral before attempting any hypnotic intervention.  CDH


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