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Cognitive Behavior Therapy Treating My OCD

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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.

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Hi Expwoman
Do I ever hear you. The redoubling of the efforts leaves you emotionally and physically drained, and all the while you're saying (or at least I am saying), What are you doing? I don't want to sound overly dramatic, but it's like your brain has decided to sabotage you.
Actually, today I was thinking about what you said in regard to OCD being a shape shifter. So true; it's like a runaway train just plowing through different things in its path.

March 11, 2010 - 12:36pm

I identify with the fire alarm image too--especially with the compulsive checking. An automatic thought really gets flaming when I do the compulsion and keep checking--my brain goes on "red alert" when I keep fueling it with actions. It's like my brain says, "Obviously if she's paying this much attention to a mole, it must be dangerous, and I shall redouble my efforts to get reassurance that it is ok."

March 11, 2010 - 12:10pm

Hi Diane,
I really appreciate your comments and I am so glad that you find my article useful.

March 10, 2010 - 2:03pm


Fascinating post. I have a ADD and many of the things you describe as the overstimulated response or the alarm bell going off when it doesn't need to are tools that I, too, can use. Thank you so much for writing about your journey. I look forward to more.

March 10, 2010 - 11:02am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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