‘It’s not me it’s my OCD’ – ways to alleviate and reduce the symptoms.
Posted by: Sue Atkins
I have been working with a family with two teenage girls displaying signs of anxiety manifesting itself in OCD symptoms.
I use a mixture of Neuro Linguistic Programming as well as Emotional Freedom Techniques (‘tapping’) that you have probably seen Paul McKenna use on his many TV appearances and training, to help alleviate and reduce the symptoms.
Like all repetitive behaviours, the compulsion may start to function like any other addiction. The OCD sufferer may feel they have to do increasingly more of their compulsive behaviour just to feel ‘normal’ – just as the addict may need to take increasingly more of a substance to get the same hit.
I think it’s helpful to see OCD as an attempt to stave off anxiety.
There is often a superstitious element to obsessive behaviour, with the sufferer feeling that their constant checking or counting or cleaning will somehow “stop something bad happening”. Often, it’s not at all clear what that ‘something’ might be.
OCD can be understood as a profound fear of not carrying out the activity (whether that’s a physical activity such as cleaning or a mental activity such as counting or checking). The fear of not giving in to the compulsion drives the compulsion.
OCD often can vary between being really bad, quite bad or barely noticeable. It tends to gets worse when background stress levels are high, so I always start by asking what’s going on in the parent or child’s life to get a good idea & general sense of how my client deals with stress in their lives & then I go back to what may have triggered the anxiety or trauma in the first place in their past.
Here are 7 ways how NLP & Emotional Freedom Technique can help alleviate & reduce OCD:
- Fostering Awareness
If you or a loved one has OCD, it’s not all that hard to recognise the behaviour as it manifests itself clearly enough with repetitive patterns of either thoughts or actions, or both. But not many people actually understand what really happens during a bout of OCD.
What makes NLP & EFT successful is that it provides a sense of control to sufferers of this disorder & helps them recognise their triggers & how the OCD works.
An OCD outburst begins as a pattern of thought, leading to feelings that develop into behaviours that the person feels that they have to indulge in to feel safe. It is an automatic, often unconscious response to what the mind considers to be a stressful situation.
OCD is another way of coping with stress, as it is an attempt to regain a semblance of control in a situation that imposes a perceived threat & it can take any form from washing hands compulsively, to checking locked windows to certain routine patterns of counting until you reach the traffic lights for example. Gaining awareness of what OCD means and how it gets triggered, will give the person a chance to control the behaviour before it starts controlling them.
- Controlling Imagination
This aims to help make the imagination into a ‘friend’ instead of an ‘enemy’ by guiding the way the person imagines things through the reinforcement of positive, over obsessive, thoughts. I help the sufferer imagine how much better their life can be when they stop the limiting thoughts and behaviours & I help them to imagine a time when they have moved past them to freedom to choose their thoughts and behaviours. I help them imagine a time in the very near future when they can help themselves to relax & breathe deeply and slowly & simply stop their repetitive thoughts and behaviours so that they can experience how much better their life can be free from them. I help them imagine themselves laughing, relaxed and at ease.
- Relearning a Behaviour
A compulsion is something that the person’s mind has picked up and learned along the way, maybe due to a traumatic, embarrassing or stressful event in their past. It has become anchored in their emotional response. So, it’s really empowering and helpful to know that anything that can be learned, can also be unlearned, and then relearned, with a more positive approach to a deeper level of thought and feeling. NLP language patterns & EFT tapping will retrain the subconscious mind to have a different response to stress and anxiety.
- The Cinema Rewind Technique
This simple but highly powerful fear-diminishing technique can be very effectively used for OCD sufferers to neutralise and calm the terrifying thought of not carrying out the compulsion & when my client is relaxed about not engaging in their compulsion, then the compulsion is as good as gone.
- Separating The OCD From Who They Are.
As with all emotional problems, OCD is not the person. OCD is more like a parasite that spoils a person’s life – and makes living much more difficult. The more separate, detached, removed, and even unfamiliar a state of mind becomes, the easier it is to detach from it.
So, I help the sufferer begin to talk about the OCD in a different way as language helps healing.
‘It’s not me it’s my OCD’ is a good mantra to start with.
Rather than talking in terms of: ‘So, you being OCD has made life quite difficult for you?’
we talk about: ‘So that OCD has made life quite difficult for you?’
and rather than saying ‘You can’t help yourself’
We can talk about ‘it’, as in ‘It is always trying to manipulate you’
It’s much easier to begin to stand up to something that feels separate from who you are & change it.
- Interrupt the pattern
Behaviours – especially compulsive behaviours – tend to become stereotypical. This means the behaviour tends toward becoming fixed in a narrow pattern with recognisable steps and repeated in order sequence.
I begin by listening to what their compulsive behaviours are, then I ‘scramble’ their repeated, compulsive behaviours by repeating them in the wrong order & by adding some small changes.
Someone who washes their hands 100 times after any given trigger ( for example coming into contact with door handles) I change to suggesting that they:
- still wash their hands but wait 30 seconds before doing so
- wash their hands 90 times, then stop
- recite the alphabet, then wash their hands ten more times.
In this way I am beginning to loosen the hold of the OCD by slowing it down whilst helping the sufferer take back more incremental control of their behaviour.
This subtly demonstrates to my client that this behaviour is not as ‘fixed’ and unchallengeable as it appears. It opens up doubt & a possibility of change. Changing it in small ways is a positive beginning to removing it.
This feels much less threatening than trying to get rid of it all in one go.
After ‘The Cinema Rewind Exercise’ has been used then clients will often feel much less compelled to continue with their previous compulsive behaviours anyway, and their activity starts to feel ‘pointless” when they are doing it, reducing its hold on them.
- The Hot Air Balloon Technique
This simple, relaxing exercise of imagining a hot air balloon floating down and taking away all their fears, anxieties & compulsions up into the sky and far away from the sufferer, is a profoundly easy, quick and enjoyable experience that adds to their feelings of relaxation and peace.
I also use the Six Step Reframing Technique as part of my toolkit. Feel free to contact me with your personal situation if you’d like me to help you, or your children, with changing your patterns of thinking to help you to develop different strategies to re programme your mind, allowing you the freedom to choose how you control your anxiety.
Telephone 01883 818329 or contact me on Sue@TheSueAtkins.com