Managing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an illness that affects many Malaysian, and more than that many will have experienced it at some time in their lives.

It was already 11pm and Raju told his wife, “Let’s go to bed”. While his wife walk to their bedroom to settle in, Raju went to the back of his kitchen to make sure the iron grill was locked.

Raju’s wife suddenly woke up, as she had dozed off while waiting for Raju to come to bed. She look at the clock by the bed and it was now close to 11:45pm.

“Where is Raju?” She gets up and walks to the back, towards her kitchen. There she sees Raju busy locking the door, then unlocking it and locking it again, and again, or again.

This is a true story of one of my OCD clients. If you saw Raju doing that repetitive “checking if the” grill was properly lock, you would conclude that this guy is crazy. But crazy he is not.

There was another client, a pretty actress who came to me for her OCD of constantly having to wash her hands for cleanliness. She said, she had to keep wash her hand during filming and a great disruption to the movie set production.

OCD can also be quite destructive and troubling, especially for a client who got obsessed and paranoid that his deity was being sexually assaulted. It was horrifying for him has these thoughts and images keep appearing in his mind and being a pious person, it was very troubling and left him in constant guilt feeling.

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an illness that affects many Malaysian, and more than that many will have experienced it at some time in their lives.

“Make sure you lock the door properly, here let me check if you did it correctly” or “The floor is so dirty and I need to mop and clean it at least twice each day” can be really annoying if you are with an OCD sufferer at home.

This condition and symptom can ranges from merely annoying to an emotionally crippling condition which, if left ignored and untreated, can affect a person’s relationships, work and family life and lead to depression and other problems. OCD creates unnecessary stress and resource wastage to the sufferer and its surrounding.

The core of the OCD is an obsession with something, such as cleanliness. In the world of hypnosis, the old definition was “checking”.

Constant checking and reaffirming whether something is done right or some condition is not threatening is the core of OCD. This anxiety generated by this obsession in OCD is dealt with by the associated compulsion, typically a repetitive ritual, such as continually washing the hands, often until they are raw.

This morning an elderly woman came with her husband about her OCD. The husband told me that living with his wife, caused his to be tolerant everyday with her OCD behavior and he felt so stressed.

His wife is paranoid about body cleanliness. Even when he touches her, she feels very uncomfortable that she needs to have a bath right away. He says, at times she spent about four hours have a shower.

She told me, when she is under the shower, she feels like she is filthy, and fear that the dirt will not come out. She told me that at times, she scrub her skin until her skin hurts. She had been such since she was in her teens.

To the onlooker, this behaviour can be quite comical and quite nonsense but, OCD sufferers are powerless to stop their compulsive behaviors, and may have elaborate “rules” as to how they must be done.

They will repeat them over and over until they feel they have got it right. However, unlike the obsessive compulsions to drink or shop, OCD compulsions do not give the sufferer pleasure, but only a measure of relief.

This is a good indication, for a hypnotic viewpoint that OCD is fuel by some hidden trauma or conditioned memory.

The mind is filled with thoughts “If I fail to do something or forget to do something a negative will happen to me”.

This thought is often fed from some subconscious connection of a past event in life. As an example, the person may have been told something when they were a child. “If you don’t do such you will get such”.

Because of this a fear develops and becomes rooted deep in the subconscious mind. It did not matter if there was any basis or actual fact that supports the reason. Because of lack of real life experience to test the statement the thought is accepted as factual.

The symptoms and behaviour of people with OCD

Let’s also understand the medical views of OCD. It is now generally accepted by the medical profession that the cause may be an imbalance of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin.

This is a chemical messenger in the brain that is involved with controlling mood states and is believed to be able to regulate repetitive behaviours.

People with OCD symptoms take many forms, such as: contaminating obsessions where they focus on concern with dirt or germs, or excessive concern with chemical or environmental contamination.

Some have counting compulsions, having to count up to certain numbers, Then there are the ones with checking compulsions – checking doors, locks, stoves, brakes etc. The obsession with hoarding or collecting compulsions that makes their home becomes a warehouse of junk.

The more concerning OCD symptoms of repeating rituals, such as going in and out of doors; constant aggressive obsessions, like fear of harming people, imagining horrific images, or doing something embarrassing, or thoughts of terrible events like death, fire etc.

OCD can be in a common form that you may not be aware of its presence.  Even severe workaholics are sufferers. OCDs are sometimes accompanied by depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder and many other anxiety disorders.

This is because their OCD creates such behaviors that changes and inhibits their life styles and life quality on the long run.

Children also frequently suffer of OCD, but it can affect a person of any age. OCDs can come and go at any stage of a person’s life, disappear for a period of time and then return in a different form.

They range from mildly interfering to extremely incapacitating, lasting more than an hour a day.

Sufferers are aware that their behaviour is irrational and disruptive, but they have great difficulty in controlling it.

Dealing on a daily basis with someone with OCD can put a severe strain on families and relationships, so it is important to work with them as well as the sufferer.

Sensitivity is important, because sometimes these rituals are the only way the person has to communicate.

The second step is medication. Modern drugs can produce dramatic results and OCDs are normally treated by a class of drugs known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs.)

SRIs such as Anafranil must be prescribed by a doctor because of their powerful effects on the brain and the body’s chemistry. Once you are on SRIs, it is dangerous to change the dosage or stop them on your own, even though you may experience unpleasant of side effects.

I have always worked with my OCD clients in integrative with their doctor. These clients are told to see their doctor for advice in terms of their medication even when they felt their OCD symptoms have become better.

I always refer them back to their doctor to report their feedback on how their condition had improved and what need to be done about the medication they are taking.

Hypnotherapy for treatment of OCD

The list of ways OCD starts can go on for several hours of reading. Treatment options are widely varied, and each has specific results.

Medication is effective but sometimes only masks the problem. It does nothing to address the underlying root cause, which resides at the subconscious level.

There are a number of therapies that are useful and cognitive behavioral psychologists have the longest track record. Group therapy led by an experienced facilitator is also effective.

Hypnotherapy can greatly assist suffers of OCD because it quickly gets to the roots of the obsession and helps to reframe it. It is also useful in helping the individuals regulate their own body chemistry, thus helping them avoid or get weaned from dependence on SRIs. The results of the side effects of medication can vary.

Typically insurance companies encourage this method of treatment because it is the least expensive in their eyes.

Hypnosis deals directly with the subconscious mind. If the root cause are unknown at a conscious level then, hypnotic technique known as regression can be very helpful in identifying any past events that had set their OCD in motion.

Once the cause is identified hypnosis becomes a powerful tool to set things right.

In order to find out the underlying cause of my OCD client’s disorder, I normally regress them in hypnosis back to a single trauma that turned out to have been the primary cause.

Over some sessions, I would be able to teach their unconscious mind how to change and then overcome this obsession. Testing is also an important process. I normally test these changes by taking them through a process of desensitization.

While OCD is essentially defined as a anxiety disorder, it can be treated with hypnotherapy with good results.

Julian Leicester is a London trained subconscious specialist with Hypno-Station. He is Malaysia’s most renowned clinical hypnotherapist, media personality, columnist, event host and book author. He can be contacted at