Overcome OCD and Obsessive Thinking - in the time of Coronavirus

Written by Jane Pendry
If you, or someone you know, suffers from OCD or obsessive ruminating, it's likely that coronavirus, with the attendant barrage of press coverage, social media comment, and overwhelming pervasive presence, has made things worse.

Luckily, obsessive thinking, ruminating or rituals can be overcome painlessly and relatively quickly with Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, SFH.

By addressing what's happening in the subconscious mind, SFH helps sufferers to free themselves from distressing and pervasive obsessions and habits, and the accompanying generalised anxiety that underpins it.

What is an obsession?
An obsession is when unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images, or urges repeatedly enter a person's mind, causing anxiety, unease, or distress. When obsessions, ruminating, and repeated unhelpful rituals begin to dominate your life, it's time to seek help.

Photo by STIL on UnsplashBy resolving these issues, clients can get their lives back on track: improve work performance and relationships, create enjoyable social lives, and start new hobbies.

What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD describes a condition where a person is overwhelmed by obsessive thoughts or compulsive and repetitive activities. When obsessions develop into pervasive OCD, all aspects of life are affected. The impact, of course, will be unique in every case but it's likely that work, relationships, and friendships will be negatively impacted.

How does obsessive thinking affect people?
OCD, obsessive thinking, and ruminating, in varying degrees of severity, are very common. As our lives in the modern world become ever more stressful, our brains struggle to adapt to the increasing demands and challenges we face.

If you, or someone you know, struggles with unwanted and intrusive negative thoughts, checks the front door is locked over-and-over again, has repetitive habits that bring no relief to anxiety, or has an obsession with germs and cleanliness, then every day is profoundly stressful.

It's important to distinguish here between increased hand-washing in response to government advice related to the coronavirus, and obsessive hand-washing that is out of proportion and out of control.

We are all thinking more about our behaviour, and being more cautious. However, if you can't 'switch off', obsessively watch the news, or frequently ruminate on what could happen or might happen, you have developed an unhelpful habit.

When you manifest obvious damaging physical habits, eg your hands become red raw, or severely dry and cracked, or you start pulling your hair out, literally, you know you have a more serious problem.

One effect of OCD is the constant worry that something terrible is going to happen. It's exhausting.

Over time, family and friends struggle to understand or give support. The long-term result can be social isolation and emotional torment, leading to generalised anxiety and depression.

How does hypnotherapy work with OCD?
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is proven to help sufferers gently resolve these challenges by steadily changing perceptions embedded in the subconscious mind, and breaking the pattern of negative and repetitive thinking, and catastrophizing.

It's important to stress here that I, and other Solution Focused Hypnotherapists, do not diagnose. We respond to each client's assessment of their own issues, however they define them.

The roots of OCD are founded in our primitive mind. Our hunter-gatherer subconscious mind sees the world from the worst possible point of view. It's still primed to protect us from sabre-toothed tigers and warring tribes. It's tries to do that by telling us to run, fight, or hide.

In our modern times, our subconscious mind continues to try to protect us by obsessively trying to resolve things, order them, or create rituals we know make no sense. These negative patterns of thinking end up in our 'stress bucket', which over fills, and we can end up in a permanent state of stress and anxiety.

Once stress pushes us to become constantly anxious, we are living in our primitive minds. When that happens, we are not able to think or act rationally. Perhaps some ritual or pattern of behaviour coincided with a good outcome, so we form an association and repeat the behaviour, even though our rational mind understands this makes no sense. Then the pattern of behaviour is repeated, modified, and becomes essential to our perceived survival.

The good news is, if we had the imagination to create the problem in the first place, we have the imagination to reverse it.

How can solution-focused hypnotherapy help?
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a gentle process that works by changing subconscious thought patterns, forging new neural pathways that promote healthy ways of responding to stress, and creating positive patterns of thinking, acting, and reacting.

Using Solution Focused coaching and therapy methods, clients can envisage the behaviour and patterns of thinking they would prefer; and the various SFH methods are then tailored to help clients realise their preferred vision of the future.

In our initial consultation, Solution Focused Hypnotherapists will explain how the brain works and how it creates obsessive thinking in the first place (and how common and natural this). After a detailed assessment, we discuss how we will work together to resolve the defined problem. We also provide a free relaxation recording following the consultation, which is an important part of the therapeutic process.

Case studies
Helen had an understandable fear related to death after a personal tragedy. She was partly haunted by trauma; and partly caught in a pattern of obsessive thinking and ruminating linked to that trauma.

A series of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy sessions enabled Helen to reduce her anxiety to manageable levels, improve her sleep routines, and break the habits and obsessive thought processes that caused her to feel overwhelmingly anxious when her children left the house.

Sometimes obsessions are related to a specific issue. Harry (not his real name) was obsessing over something that had gone wrong in his relationship some time previously. He couldn't stop thinking and obsessing about past events.

For Harry, Solution Focused Brief Therapy helped him create preferred patterns of thinking which he embedded over time through hypnosis, while working to reduce his overall stress.

Harry explained, "I just couldn't move on, even though the original issue had been resolved. It was like a stuck record going round and round on the same track… I couldn't forget. Images of past events were intruding on my thoughts. I couldn't sleep. I felt more and more anxious. My Solution Focused Hypnotherapist helped me to break the pattern of thinking so I could put the issue firmly into the past and rebuild my relationship within three sessions. "

Margaret and Fran (again not their real names) are two more clients who had more typical OCD-type issues. Margaret had a number of rituals she had to perform that dominated her life; Fran was trapped by patterns of behaviour and thinking linked to her generalised anxiety and a fear of germs. Both these issues were deeply embedded over a number of years.

Both had sought solutions elsewhere for some years including CBT.

It took a few weeks to change the patterns of thinking, acting, and reacting, however Solution Focused Hypnotherapy enabled Margaret and Fran to reduce the ruminating and obsessing habits, get their sleep habits sorted, and get their lives back on track.

Margaret explains, "I went from obsessively checking I had locked the door, washing my hands until they were raw, and some strange meaningless rituals to 'keep me safe', to just getting on with my life. In just a couple of months, I stopped obsessively ruminating on what I'd done wrong or how I might be punished. I still check doors and ovens, but just once or twice, not ten times! "

Margaret added that she has a tendency to feel anxious and that tendency tipped into OCD-type behaviours when she got too stressed. She now listens to her de-stress recording and has hypnotherapy every month to keep her stress levels down and her ruminating is kept in check.

Solution-focused approaches
We know that understanding what has caused your OCD, will not resolve the issue.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy focuses on your responses and behaviour now and in the future. We are not concerned with analysing the root causes of how the problem was created. The process works by helping clients to imagine incremental improvements through guided solution focused discussions, and gently embedding new preferred behaviours deep in the subconscious through hypnosis.

The process starts by 'emptying your stress bucket' with deeply relaxing guided meditations, which are followed by suggestion-based hypnosis - no commands that the subconscious can resist - to gently ease the subconscious mind into healthier automatic responses.

The initial consultation
Fran had a serious and embedded problem linked to feelings of self-worth and childhood traumas. At the initial consultation, where we explored the nature of the problem and possible solutions, Fran explained: "I'll be honest, I wasn't sure Solution Focused Hypnotherapy would work for me. My anxiety, constant ruminating, and obsessing about what I did and what people said or didn't say felt like it was part of my personality and couldn't be changed. But it was starting to affect so much of my life I was prepared to try anything.

"My initial consultation included a presentation on the neuroscience of OCD and obsessive thinking, which made so much sense and was so reassuring. Now I understood why I was thinking in the way that I was. I took a leap of faith and committed to the process. I'm so glad I did. I've got my life back. "

Fran explains, "My obsessive ruminating was so bad it took me a month of therapy before I started to unwind and sleep well. Listening to my recording really helped me get to sleep. Once I'd broken the ruminating pattern at night, and was able to get to sleep and stay asleep, I started to make rapid progress with my ruminating habits and my obsessive thinking. "

Therapy sessions
At the beginning of each subsequent session clients are asked Solution Focused questions that move them to the part of the mind that creates solutions, and away from the problem focused anxious mind. Using scaling and detailed descriptions of the preferred future, in small steps, the client's mind starts to imagine a more secure and stable future.

The rehearsal room of the mind
The imagination is the rehearsal room of the mind. Hypnotic trance, as induced by a Solution Focused Practitioner, is a very natural state of mind. We go into trance several times a day: when we drive, watch television, or walk the dog.Solution Focused Hypnotherapy induces the deeply relaxed trance state so that new, healthier subconscious patterns can be embedded.

By focusing the mind on more positive thinking prior to entering the trance state, clients with OCD and similar issues are priming their subconscious mind to begin making positive changes, and to incrementally change the way they think, act, and interact. Clients go at their own pace, meaning the process is very unthreatening and gentle.

Diagnosis or recognition
You may or may not have an official diagnosis of OCD. You may just recognise traits or are concerned about a growing problem you want to tackle now.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapists are not qualified to diagnose you. If you'd like a formal diagnosis, then please see your doctor on the first instance. However, regardless of any formal diagnosis, a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist can help you with any issues related to obsessing, ruminating or compulsions as defined and recognised by you.

How many sessions are needed?
The number of sessions to resolve OCD or obsessive thinking and ruminating can vary. It depends how long the condition has persisted and the intensity of the problem. We would discuss the number of sessions which may be needed in the initial consultation.


OCD Action

Jane Pendry DSFH, HPD, BA Hons (London), PGCE (Cantab)Reg CNHC, AfSFH, ABNLP, ABH, IARTT
Sense-Ability Hypnotherapy & Coaching
35 Farm Close Road, Wheatley, Oxon OX33 1XJ
p: 07843 813 883
e: jane@sense-ability.co.uk
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