In my last article on my hypochondria and obsessive compulsive disorder, I talked about my first visit to the psychiatrist and expressed doubts because my psychiatrist seemed to have an overwhelming strong personality.
The initial visit was more like the introduction to what could be the long road ahead. The second visit was the beginning of the therapy. Dr. Romero and I met in a different building, in a rather comfortable room, equipped with a small blackboard.
She began writing on the board, explaining the details of cognitive behavior therapy, as well as what goes on in the mind of someone suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One of the first things she wrote on the board was “automatic response.” For example, when I see a freckle or a discoloration somewhere I have to immediately examine it, rather than question if it is really worth examining. That thought leading to the examination is the automatic response. The compulsion consists of the actual examining.
Dr. Romero told me that one of the objectives of the therapy is for the patient to stop having those automatic responses. She compared the automatic responses to an automatic car and she said that she wanted me to pretend to be driving a stick shift (which I do). This is easier said than done, but that’s the idea. I have always tried to be rational and over and over again I explained to her that I could not understand the reason why I developed OCD in connection with the hypochondria.
She said a certain part of the OCDer’s brain is over stimulated. She compared it to a fire alarm going off when there is no fire. Cognitive behavior therapy will eventually cool down that part of the brain. The more fuel you give that part of the brain, the more the alarm sounds. This made perfect sense to me, because my experiences with this disorder are so in line with the symbols of the fire alarm and the necessity of denying it fuel, or cooling it, so some form of peace would be achieved. I realized during that second visit that I really have all the symptoms of OCD. No doubt about it.