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Anxiety Clinic - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD Treatment in Stoke on Trent & Newcastle under Lyme

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD as it's commonly abbreviated to, is an anxiety driven psychological disorder. In truth, there are actually two types of OCD - the first consists purely of intrusive thoughts, whereas the second (which is the one widely reported in the media) is a combination of intrusive thoughts, obsessing over said thoughts and performing compulsive behaviours or rituals. On this page we'll discuss both types of OCD, how OCD is maintained, how OCD shares commonality with other disorders, why OCD sufferers often view OCD as keeping them safe rather than it being the debilitating disorder it actually is and perhaps most importantly of all - how to successfully overcome OCD.


Obsessive Thoughts - Pure OCD

The first type of OCD we're going to discuss is what's known as 'pure OCD'. This type of OCD rarely receives any airtime with respect to the media and can go undiagnosed by health care professionals. Thus clients with pure OCD can feel very alone and isolated from society.

Pure OCD consists of relentless unsolicited thoughts repeatedly coming to the attention of the sufferer. The thoughts are often out of character with respect to the sufferers personality and morals. It's common for a sufferer to have thoughts of violence, sexual deviancy, malice, abuse and otherwise unsavory nature.

The sufferers emotional response to these thoughts is almost exclusively negative and intense. Even though such thoughts are blatantly out of character with respect to how the sufferer behaves in reality - they can create creeping doubt, which in turn festers to the point of the sufferer questioning who they are and deep down, what are they 'really' like? Of course dwelling upon such unpleasant thoughts creates further painful emotional states and an underlying feeling that something is very wrong.

We'll continue with the mechanics of how and why the pure OCD process continues to run shortly...

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - Ritual Behaviour...

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The other type of OCD is the more commonly reported version. Typical examples are of sufferers who wash their hands a hundred times a day, refuse to step on cracks in the pavement, avoid pigeons like the plague or have to take actions in multiples of certain numbers.

The attention of the media (and to a degree that of health professionals too) tends to be focused on the ritual or compulsive behaviours the sufferer engages in. However, in truth the behaviours (bizarre as they may seem to many an observer) are merely a symptom of OCD. With that said, the compulsive behaviours are an instrumental part of OCD's ability to function. What we mean is that OCD runs (and self-perpetuates) as a cycle and the compulsive behaviours are an important part of maintaining that cycle.

OCD is a cycle primarily driven by fear and anxiety. As fear and anxiety are both emotional states it would make sense that OCD is an emotionally driven disorder. It is important to understand this as it greatly affects the approach required to overcome OCD as a disorder. We'll explain specifically how emotions 'power' and maintain the OCD cycle in the next section.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - How The Cycle Works...

How do you explain OCD to someone who doesn't have it?

Imagine there's a red button in front of you and you know (beyond any doubt) that pressing the red button will make everything OK. Then you get an overpowering thought that if you don't press that button something terrible is going to happen. You may die, your best friend my die, someone you love may get cancer, the world may end or any other terrible thing. As you dwell on these thoughts you feel increasingly anxious. The more anxious you feel the more you focus on the thoughts... which in turn increases how anxious you feel inside. The only way to make things right and safe again is to press the button. You reach the point where you can no longer bear the pressure, the responsibility or the anxiety - you press the button and the feelings subside.

This is one cycle of OCD.

The red button in this case represents the compulsive behaviour, whereas the thoughts (although we gave several examples) can in some cases be very focused on a single area (for example on contamination).

Thus it would seem from our example that the motivator of the OCD cycle begins in the mind as a thought (or collection of thoughts). The thought(s) stimulate intense emotional responses (feelings of fear and anxiety) which are the fuel that gives the process momentum and power. The compulsive behaviour (hitting the red button / washing hands / counting to seven) provides the release from the anxiety and effectively closes that particular OCD cycle.

However, what causes the OCD cycle to repeat?

There's actually a two part answer to this question. The first part of the answer can be found in our ability to learn skills at an unconscious (subconscious) level. Essentially the mind learns that when a given compulsive behaviour is performed - fear and anxiety are released. However the mind associates the behaviour not only with the release of the negative emotions but also with the PERCEPTION that undertaking the compulsive behaviour results in SAFETY.

Let's say for example your obsessive thoughts are - if you tread on a crack in the pavement your best friend will die in an accident. The thought makes you feel anxious which in turn influences you to avoid every crack in the pavement on your journey home. Having avoided all the cracks your anxiety subsides. Later that evening your best friend arrives at your house in perfect health. The subconscious part of your mind then associates you avoiding the cracks in the pavement with your friend avoiding being killed in an accident. Essentially your OCD (which is driven by fear and anxiety) becomes reinforced as serving you (by apparently keeping you and your loved ones safe) through compulsive behaviours (which in the cold light of reality make no difference to anyones safety or well being).

Now if contamination is your obsession you may argue that washing your hands, spraying germicides, disinfecting, changing clothes, etc will keep you safe. In reality the skin on your hands is naturally resilient to germs. However, scrubbing your hands repeatedly can create hairline fissures in the skin which allow germs to enter the bloodstream. Spraying germicides can indeed kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria... but hold on... are you really spraying a chemical so noxious that it kills 99.9% of organic life? Are you inhaling that stuff into your lungs? Imagine what that chemical will do to your vulnerable fleshy insides when tiny droplets come to rest in your lungs! The fear of contamination is often symptomatic of a fear of illness or even death - so again... is spraying noxious chemicals in your home really a good idea?

OK - the cracks in the pavement example was written from the perspective of the subconscious (automated) part of the mind - the part that runs OCD. The contamination example was written from the conscious (analytical) part of the mind. Which do you think will serve you better in reality?

If you have any doubt at all with respect to overcoming OCD - it's always down to the same thing. Your mind has come to believe at some level that OCD keeps you and/or your loved ones safe.

As humans we have in built safety systems that work perfectly well without needing OCD. If you have any doubt at all with respect to 'giving up' OCD... you have all the more reason to do it!

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Why Do The Intrusive OCD Thoughts Keep Coming?

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Earlier we asked what caused OCD to repeat and discussed the first of a two part answer. In this section we'll cover the second part of the answer...

Have you ever noticed how tough it can be to recall information (memories) of things that seemed dull, uneventful or monotonous? For example, if you bump into someone you find mind numbingly boring and they talk to you for ten minutes - do you think you'd remember what they said?

Now let's say you bump into your old flame from school. They look great, they're funny and charming as they always were and you spend ten minutes laughing and reminiscing about old times. What are the odds you could replay that conversation almost word for word in your head?

So - what's the difference? What makes one more memorable than the other?

The mind has a very simple way of assessing what is important and what isn't. If it elicits an medium to strong emotional response - it's important and the mind will probably readily retain the information. If there is very low or zero emotional response the mind will more than likely bury the information in the recesses of your mind or delete it completely. This system works for situations, events, conversations, experiences... and interestingly... thoughts!

Have you ever woken from (or perhaps even remembered) a dream where you felt terrified, amorous, lost, anxious or some other emotion? Odds are that you were lying in bed asleep when this happened so it would suggest that emotions are just as possible in your head as they are in day to day reality. Also you can experience high intensity emotions within your thoughts or dreams (both being the processing of information).

Let's say for arguments sake that your mind has a sort of filing system. The thoughts and events in your life with no emotional response get filed in the bin. The events and thoughts with low and medium intensity emotional responses get filed in the bottom and middle drawers respectively. The events and thoughts with high intensity emotional responses get filed in the top drawer. Thus the filing system stores information in a sort of hierarchy of importance... with the most important stuff right at the top.

Now let's consider the mind to be a sort of thinking machine or thought generator. It's the minds job to generate thoughts for your attention. If you're in any doubt about the mind being a thought generator just try sitting for a couple of minutes and have no thoughts - good luck with that. So the mind generates thoughts - but which thoughts should it bring to your attention? Surely it would makes sense of bring the important thoughts from the top drawer to your attention - right?

Essentially this means that your mind recycles the thoughts which had an intense emotional response attached to them. Which thoughts in your life carry the highest emotional charge? - The OCD thoughts right? Is it any wonder they keep popping into your head?

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How To Stop The Intrusive OCD Thoughts...

We've already established that the reason your OCD continues is because your mind repeatedly recycles certain thoughts... which in turn causes the OCD to re-run. However the reason the thoughts are recycled is because of the intense emotional charge attached to them. If there was no emotional charge associated with the thoughts the mind would consider them to be unimportant and discard them in the bin. Hence the OCD cycle would break down and stop.

We discussed earlier that OCD was initiated by thought processes - either a single thought or a combination of thoughts. However, OCD is reliant upon an intense emotional response to the thought process in order to fuel itself. No emotional response - no fuel. Thus severing the emotional response from the thought is key for disrupting two elements essential for the running and re-running of the OCD cycle.

So the theory sounds great BUT the problem you have is that you can't help feeling anxious when you get these thoughts. If you could simply decide not to care about the thoughts, you wouldn't suffer with OCD and you wouldn't be reading this page. So it would make sense that you need some help, information and techniques from the outside... and this is where we come in.

We have the technology to separate unpleasant emotions from persistent thoughts. We can teach you how to do it for yourself. This does involve effort on your part and nobody else is going to do it for you. The techniques are very straightforward, easy to learn and apply but as OCD is essentially a habit you'll need persistence to overcome it.

If you're happy to sit back and feel sorry for yourself, moan and groan about how there's no help on the OCD forums and endlessly search for a magic pill to make things right - we can't help you. We only work with people who have had enough of OCD and can put their hand on their heart and say "I'll do whatever it takes to beat this thing!". If this is you, read the next section.

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How To Successfully Recover From OCD

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If you've read this far you're probably serious about recovery - which is a good start. At the Anxiety Clinic we use leading edge technology which directly addresses the 'stuck' emotional processes that are responsible for your OCD. You've already learned it is these ongoing processes which keep the OCD running - it's nothing to do with cracks in pavements, hand washing or pigeons!

Our technology doesn't use counselling or drugs, rather it's a recovery programme that you can follow from home. You'll need to attend appointments with a specialised Consultant although this can be done in person (if you live within a reasonable distance of our Clinic) or online if you live further afield.

Our Consultants are all specialists in the field of psychological disorders and understand your problem. We can give you the tools, techniques and perspectives you require to get your life back. However, you need to be prepared to help yourself and put into practice the guidance and instructions we give you. If you're willing to do this, we can help you to recover.

Here's a link for further information on Face to Face Consultations at our Clinic in Staffordshire.

Here's a link for further information on Online/Telephone Consultations if you genuinely can't get to our Clinic in person.

If you would prefer to discuss your requirements with a Consultant you can reach us on 01782 855585.

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