What does the OCD Treatment Plan define as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It causes a person to have intrusive thoughts of a frightening nature, which in turn may cause that person to do things repeatedly. For example, he or she might perform certain ‘rituals’ to guard against perceived danger, or might fear the consequence of thoughts (e.g. racist or sexual thoughts) and/or actions (e.g. when driving a car or bathing a child).
Almost everybody has fleeting thoughts of this nature, but most people are able to dismiss them out of hand. OCD is something entirely different.
People with OCD simply cannot dismiss such thoughts without support in the form of a treatment plan, and thus find themselves paying undue attention to them. Whilst the condition can adversely affect every aspect of a person’s life, many with OCD can appear to function normally in the eyes of others.
In fact, actors, professional sportsmen, company directors and engineers are frequently able to excel in high-powered careers, tolerating the condition in secret.
Does the OCD Treatment Plan consider Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorders the same thing?
Some conditions have qualities that are very similar to OCD but are often defined as residing outside the condition. Having said that, OCD itself could be said to be a ‘spectrum disorder’ so in some sense making a distinction is only of use in clarifying the experience to the person affected. This is also true of many so-called ‘anxiety disorders’. It would be right to say that many of these conditions are most successfully addressed in an OCD treatment plan that is grounded in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy strategies, tools and techniques. You may have heard of, or may be wondering about, the following:
Panic disorders: what are often described as ‘panic attacks’, followed by a chronic fear of having further panic attacks in the future. In a sense, the disorder becomes one of ‘being afraid of fear’ or ‘being anxious about anxiety’.
Social anxieties: often referred to as ‘social phobias’, these take shape in the form of an extreme fear of social situations and/or a hyper-awareness of oneself in social situations. As with many anxiety disorders, a person’s internal conversation or ‘self-talk’ can make the condition spiral to the extent that avoidance becomes the eventual antidote to the uncomfortable feelings.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder: often referred to as BDD, this is the obsessive preoccupation with a perceived but irrational defect in something about one’s own physical appearance. Many describe ‘tingling’ or other physical sensations, and have seen anybody from acupuncturists to neurologists before realising the true origins of their symptoms.
Trichotillomania: this condition, which is often quite observable by others and can thus be distressing, is the act of pulling out one’s own hair with a compulsive and repetitive feel to it.
Compulsive Skin Picking: sometimes referred to as CSP, this is when a person repetitively picks at one’s own skin to the extent that it is causing noticeable damage. Often this results in behaviours to try to cover up the areas in which the skin has been picked through clothing, etc.
Olfactory Reference System: known as ORS, this is an obsessive but irrational fear that one’s body smells in a way that is offensive to others. “Do I smell like wee?” or “Do my armpits stink?” are common and debilitating fears.
Hypochondriasis: those who suffer from this believe they harbour a serious disease or medical condition in a way that is both obsessive and unfounded. As with BDD, persons with this condition have consulted many in seeking an accurate understanding of their symptoms.
Some practitioners also consider conditions such as Tourette’s Syndrome and even some types of eating disorders to fall within the broad spectrum of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If you live outside the London (United Kingdom) area, you may feel it best to contact a specialist near you for an in-person consultation.
About the OCD Treatment Plan
The OCD Treatment Plan is grounded in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies, tools and techniques. Some of the people we work with are taking medication, and some are not. The OCD Treatment plan is equally successful in either instance. We observe that OCD is a condition in which low self-esteem often goes hand-in-hand with the actual systems. That stands to reason: if these debilitating thoughts and behaviour patterns rule your life to the extent that you have begun to avoid or find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships, it is our obligation to assist you as you grow back your self-esteem through the work we do together.
What may come as a surprise is that it may not be necessary to meet face to face. Increasingly, our clients work with us over the telephone with video, and actually prefer it – not least because it recognises both the difficulty of travelling and the cost-savings that can be achieved. Although you are quite welcome to see us in our Harley Street consulting rooms, it’s worth considering the relative merits of being in the comfortable surroundings of your own home or office.
Whether you prefer to meet in person or join the many who prefer to experience the OCD Treatment Plan by telephone, the format of our treatment sessions is the same: we typically arrange a given time on a given day of the week, and we would speak either weekly or fortnightly for 50 minutes’ duration. Each session typically ends with a between-sessions assignment that takes the form of a written exercise, a task or an experiment (which is often done with a supportive friend or family member). Email support is available between sessions to amplify and clarify the work.
Many ask the question: how many sessions would I need? This is a difficult question to answer because a good therapist is a powerful coach and facilitator – but without the right kind of determination and commitment, some people find recovery much slower.
That said, the playful and informal style of the OCD Treatment Plan means that confidence and self-belief grow stronger – often surprisingly rapidly. Nobody wants to experience the ‘Woody Allen’ style of therapy that lasts for decades. Everybody who participates in the OCD Treatment Plan is keen to start getting on with life once again, and our treatment plan is tailored around that realisation.
Symptoms Than Can be Addressed Through the OCD Treatment Plan
Thought- and behaviour-patterns associated with OCD vary widely. What they generally have in common is that such thoughts and behaviours are unwanted, yet occur with frustrating frequency; typically several times a day – or several times an hour. Prior to seeking support through an effective treatment plan, these patterns can progress to the stage of influencing the entirety of every waking day.
This is not an exhaustive list, but persons with OCD might struggle with any of the following, often in combination: checking things repeatedly (e.g. doors, locks, and gas or electrical appliances); the fear of endangering nearby persons whilst driving; having to do things repeatedly or in a certain order (such as in the shower or whilst travelling to work); counting footsteps or other repetitive actions; avoiding certain sequences of numbers (e.g. “666”); arranging everyday objects according to imaginary grids, symmetries, odd-numbered combinations, or suchlike; fear of being gay, being a paedophile, etc. with no evidence to support such a premise; music, words or images that cannot be eradicated from the person’s mind; hoarding of objects with no apparent value; and fear of contamination or of contaminating another person.
How the OCD Treatment Plan Works
OCD is believed to be associated with an overactive part of the brain. With a person who lives with OCD, this part, called the basal ganglia, has the effect of producing excess quantities of a chemical called dopamine. It appears that this phenomenon results in a lower-than-average production of another chemical known as serotonin. Whilst higher-than-average production of serotonin is considered to be relevant to conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), low levels of serotonin seem to factor into the various ways in which people experience OCD.
The other part of the brain affected by persons living with OCD is known as the cingulated gyrus. This part of the brain runs down the middle of our brains from front to back, and relates to our ability to be flexible, to shift our attention from one thing to another, and to adapt to changing circumstances. This ability to ‘go with the flow’ is essential to living with resilience and resourcefulness. People with OCD describe themselves as having got ‘stuck’ on a thought that they can’t seem to get out of their heads.
Many of the prescribed medications available to people living with OCD enhance the ability to ‘reuptake’ the chemical known as serotonin. The effect they might be said to have, is that of dampening the sense of worrying or doubting.
The OCD Treatment Plan focuses on what is a genuine surprise for many who have struggled with the condition: it’s not the things we worry about that are the problem, it’s the worrying in and of itself. We all have varying experiences, and we have them all day long. It’s how we ‘file’ these experiences in our heads that gives us the trouble. In that sense, the OCD Treatment Plan – quite literally – sets out to ‘retrain your brain’ so you don’t need to dampen feelings of worry or doubt.
If that sounds too simple and unscientific, perhaps the term ‘neourplasticity’ (variously referred to as brain plasticity, cortical plasticity or cortical re-mapping) suits you better. Atributed to Polish neuroscientist Jerzy Konorski, the concept of neuroplasticity refers to changes that occur in the organisation of our brains – quite literally – in the course of our life’s experiences. Learning new ways of thinking, and experimenting with different behaviour-patterns, is said to change the very ‘mapping’ of those connections in our brains.