The OCD Cycle

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My Obsession with Phone Cables

In the days when we had phones fixed to walls with those twisty cables joining the handset to the phone, I used to feel quite uncomfortable when the twisty cable got twisted round itself in a bit of a tangle. My wife used to laugh at me for taking the phone of the hook and untwisting the cable. It’s not that it gave me any pleasure having a nice neat phone cable, its just that I felt uncomfortable when it was twisted round itself.

Now, most people I know have some little obsession like that. I had a neighbour who would obsessively wash his car every week – whether or not it needed it. And I know plenty of people who fell they must check their social media accounts as soon as they get up in the morning. You might start to consider, what little obsessions you have.

As I say to my friends … everyone’s a little bit OCD.

These little habits we have are not really OCD – because they don’t have a significant impact on our lives. And we actually can stop doing them, even if we don’t want to. It’s when it gets so bad that it starts to interfere with our lives – that’s when we need to do something about it.

The OCD Cycle

Diagram showing the OCD cycle, described in the following paragraphs

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The typical pattern for OCD is called the OCD cycle. It often starts off with some sort of trigger – may be a thought, or something that happens around you. That trigger starts off the OCD cycle.

  1. Something triggers an obsessive thought that goes round and round in your head – usually a worry or very negative thought – this is the obsessive part of the cycle.
  2. The negative thinking creates anxiety; which starts to dominate your brain and re-enforces the negative thinking. The anxiety gradually increases.
  3. You feel compelled to take some specific action. If you think about logically, the compulsion will not resolve the situation, but at this point you are not thinking logically – you just want to get rid of the anxiety. This is the compulsive stage.
  4. The compulsion gives you temporary relief. So just for a short time, the anxiety reduces … until the next time.

A Couple of Examples

OCD can grow so as to completely dominate people’s lives. Here are some examples I have met (with names changed of course) …

John’s OCD was triggered when he was due to leave his flat. He worried obsessively about the house being broken into while he was out. This caused him a huge amount of anxiety that took over his logical thinking patterns. He would compulsively go round each room in his flat checking that the windows were closed and locked – shaking each one vigorously, and then when he had finished he would go round and check them all again, just in case he had missed one. This gave him a temporary relief from the anxiety, but when the OCD really kicked in, he would check a third and fourth time, and eventually stopped leaving his flat altogether.

Jane’s OCD was triggered whenever she ate anything. She worried that the food she ate might have sugar in it and she was certain that any amount of sugar was bad for her. This worry caused her massive anxiety whenever she was about to eat any food. She started checking every label of everything before she ate it – obsessively checking the contents for sugar, and refusing to eat anything that had any sugar – even in trace amounts. Reading all the labels gave here temporary relief from anxiety until she had to eat again. She massively restricted what she would eat, and stopped eating out, or eating anything that anyone else offered her unless she could read the ingredients label first.

How Do You Know If You Have OCD?

Many people with OCD do not recognise that they have a problem – it is so much part of their lives that it has become normal. So ask yourself these questions:

Do you often have worried thoughts going round and round in your head – always worrying about the same thing?
Do you have a something you do to prevent the thing that you are worrying about from happening?
Do you feel compelled to do it – with an almost irresistible urge?
Do other people tell you that what you are doing is over the top?
Do you notice other people in the same situation doing something other than what you would do?

What Can You Do About It?

If you have OCD, or recognise OCD traits in one of your family and friends, you can do something about it. Doctors can prescribe medication – usually SSRI drugs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors). These are also prescribed for anxiety and depression. The purpose of the SSRI medication is to break the cycle at the anxiety stage. If you can reduce the anxiety, then you may not feel the compulsion.

The other forms of treatment for OCD are therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will normally gradually increase your tolerance for the trigger, so that the obsessive thoughts become more in control.

Hypnotherapy is all about allowing the unconscious part of our brain (sometimes referred to as the subconscious) to find new patterns of behaviour. When you are in a very relaxed frame of mind in a trance, the unconscious part of your mind can rewire itself, and deal with the build up of stress that has occurred and not yet been dealt with. This can allow the brain to find its own way to break the OCD cycle in a very relaxed and calm way.

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Tim Maude

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