Monday, 17 October 2011

OCD self-help technique - Part 1

So, in my previous post, I said that I would write out the obsessive compulsive disorder self-help techniques that I have been trying out for the past few weeks before I begin my first therapy sessions.

My OCD rituals can be triggered by many things during the course of one day, from intrusive thoughts to something simpler like the bathroom tap, and, if you are anything like me, you may suffer from many different 'triggers' too. You may also find, as I do, that these triggers vary in their significance, or urgency, to perform your particular compulsive ritual(s).

My previous post titled 'Listing my own personal OCD symptoms' covers the order of severity of some of my obsessions and compulsions.

A few weeks back I discovered a website called OCD-UK (I am from the United Kingdom) while I was first trying to tackle my OCD related issues and on there, a section called 'The Four Steps' which is designed specifically for OCD self-help therapy.

This is a method pioneered and popularised by an American psychiatrist and researcher called Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. The four steps to tackling OCD behaviour are labelled as follows:

· Relabel;
· Reattribute;
· Refocus;
· Revalue.

You may have heard from many sources a popular phrase when describing OCD that it is 'a chemical imbalance in the brain' that results in obsessive compulsive behaviour: Dr. Schwartz's methods use cognitive behavioural therapy to help an individual control their own mind's brain chemistry.

I found the website's article and subsequent descriptions of the methods to be quite a confusing maze of scientific terminology and difficult to read phrasing so I have broken it down, as I understand it, into easier to understand explanations.

I do, however, recommend that you research and read Dr. Schwartz's findings yourselves.

Relabel - Recognise when you are suffering from OCD behaviours and make a conscious effort to relabel each obsession as an obsession and each compulsion as a compulsion as they happen. For instance, if you suffer from a fear of contamination and subsequently wash your hands multiple times, relabel out loud (or in your head) your obsession is a fear of contamination and your compulsion is to wash your hands multiple times.

This is to recognise your symptoms for what they actually are: Symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder. To state them aloud or in your head is the act of relabelling them and reducing them down to their fundamental state which is just a component of the condition of OCD.

Remember that obsessions and compulsions result from a biological cause in the brain, a chemical imbalance, and will not disappear as soon as relabelling is performed. The important thing to do here is to assertively and definitively recognise and relabel OCD symptoms as and when they happen. 

Reattribute - This part of the four-step self-help therapy focuses on acquiring scientific knowledge and understanding of OCD to see how it affects your biology and brain chemistry. This should enable you to see it as a condition and that it is something that affects you, and, as a result, your symptoms can be reattributed to be caused by the condition and reduces their significance in controlling your actions.

Please read Dr. Schwartz's biological explanations of OCD brain chemistry under the heading 'Reattribute' here (for U.K.) or here (for U.S.).

By acknowledging that your OCD symptoms stem from biological causes and understanding how these biological causes promote OCD related behaviours, the thoughts, feelings, obsessions and compulsions, the sufferer can then identify that the condition is purely that, a condition, and that the symptoms are a result of that condition.

Acknowledge and understand where the thoughts, feelings, obsessions and compulsions are coming from, why they are happening and reattribute them accordingly by saying the following statement: It's not me, it is my OCD. It's not me, it is my brain.

Part two is here.

I mean no breach of copyright, if indeed I have, and all credit goes to Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and the source of my OCD education, OCD-UK at their website -

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