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OCD or do you worry too much?

OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder.
It is everywhere.
I have a close friend that often feels she did not turn off the stove or did not lock the doors. And she cannot just ”snap out” of it. No one can.

I have a few obsessions too. Like looking for triple digits on street cars. Or pulling my hair when nervous (there is even a name for it – trichotilomania)! The worst case was when I started panicking I did not switch off the kettle when I left for work. That was not pleasant! Luckily, it was an isolated episode.

So, my heart goes out to those who live with such worry daily.

And guess what? It is all in the head. What has become known from the brain scans, is that three parts of the brain are involved in obsessions – orbital frontal cortex  (that is where the ‘mistake feeling’ is fired from), cingulate gyrus (triggers the anxiety that something bad is going to happen unless we correct the ‘mistake’) and caudate nucleus (normally allows our thoughts to change from one thought to the next, but it gets sticky and such change does not occur in OCD case).

Chapter 6, Brain Lock Unlocked of the book ”The Brain That Changes Itself”’ talks about it in great detail. It also offers suggestions on how to handle an incident of OCD. And that is what I wanted to share. I highly recommend to buy the book, it is Kindle version is less than ten bucks. Meanwhile, here is a teaser of what it talks about.

Once an incident of OCD is in full swing,  a person should acknowledge that she is having an OCD episode and pay a constant, effortful attention focusing on something pleasant, something besides the worry. It can be anything really – a hug from a close friend that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside, kind words someone spoke to you… The point here is to replace the worrisome feeling with pleasure. With such an approach a person is not getting rid of her OCD habit per se, but replacing it  – with a better one. Over time, new brain circuits will grow, competing with the old, obsessive ones.

So, I started doing it myself and I gotta say, I am looking for those triple digits less and less. That, and I no longer obsess over checking my text messages – I bet many people can relate to that one, yeah?

There is another book that I have read and found useful. It offers four steps to take control over your OCD – Brain Lock. It works too, although I do not fully agree with the author on OCD being strictly related to the chemical imbalance in the brain. I think we all have psychological side to that story.

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