As is the case with most “disorders” OCD is a coping skill rather than a disorder. The brain has developed certain connections based on experiences, in order to cope in the most effective way available. Different connections will produce different results.
Just as one person’s brain may have connected spiders with the fight-freeze-or-flight state, even though there is no real threat, another person’s brain may connect dirt with hands, and dirty hands with the fight-freeze-or-flight state. In both cases, there is no logical reason and the conscious mind is not involved.
In both cases, the brain is triggering a response in the body — automatically. And in both cases these connections can be changed.
What is OCD?
Obsessive compulsive behavior comprises two main parts, and it is the inability of the person to control these two parts that is recognized as OCD.
The word “obsession” is loosely used in many ways that do not indicate OCD.Obsession, as it applies to those with OCD involves a focus that interrupts daily life against the individual’s will.
In other words, someone who is obsessed with butterflies, or Beyonce, and collects memorabilia, ornaments and merchandise; or takes time off from work to attend related events; is not displaying OCD behavior — unless they dislike butterflies or Beyonce and are only focused on them because they fear something bad will happen if they take their focus off them.
Obsession can also occur in the form of unwanted thoughts and visions that the person is unable to push out of their mind — without the compulsive part of the condition. The obsession part of OCD is accompanied by extreme anxiety, and is driven by the subconscious belief that danger is imminent — usually in complete contrast to the person’s conscious understanding.
The compulsion is the method of coping with the obsession, and an attempt to relieve the anxiety. In other words, if the obsession is a fear of germs from touching surfaces, touching surfaces will result in extreme anxiety; compulsive hand-washing — perhaps in a certain way — will be the attempt to relieve the anxiety and cope with that obsession.
For some, numbers become their way of coping, with “good numbers” saving them from the intensity of their anxiety. The range of coping mechanisms in the form of compulsions is extensive, with each person developing their own.
The Role of the Conscious Mind
In most cases of OCD, the conscious mind is completely aware of the fact that logically, the obsession is unrealistic, and/ or that the compulsion will not solve the problem.
Most people who are displaying OCD behaviors know that the compulsion is a temporary and ineffective solution to the anxiety in the moment.
But, because the sensations of anxiety in the body are so strong, these powerful feelings make the danger seem real even when logic and reason say it’s not. This is why it is so difficult (and in many cases impossible) for an individual with OCD to resist the compulsions based on their conscious thinking, or anyone else’s conscious reasoning.
Behind the Scenes
So, what’s happening behind the scenes? When a person with OCD is triggered, their full focus is on the object of obsession. This focus causes the brain to trigger the body to go into an emergency fight-or-flight state.
The matching chemicals are pumped through the blood stream, and the conscious mind recognizes the sensations resulting from this as anxiety. Since the brain is wired with a connection between the obsession and the compulsion, the person feels an automatic drive to act out the compulsive behavior.
With the brain and body in a survival state, the top priority becomes performing this behavior. Regardless of how illogical or unreasonable the behavior may seem to the conscious mind, in the case of threat and survival, the subconscious and body override all conscious activity.
This is, naturally, an essential design for our survival. When the body is in fight-or-flight, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for cognitive thinking, shuts down, since it’s not necessary for running away or fighting. And this means that the ability to reason and use logic is dramatically reduced while the person is in the state of anxiety.
The drive to survive ensures that the compulsion is carried out.
What Causes OCD?
When brain images of individuals with OCD are compared to those without the condition, scientists have been able to identify certain areas of the brain that are different. In the traditional medical world, this is generally seen as the cause.
The OCD brain is different; and this is what is causing the behavior. However, if we take a few steps back, we can not only look at the cause of the differences in the brain, but also find the solution.
Since the structure of the brain is not only able to change, but actually changes constantly, it is possible to restructure the OCD brain to work differently.
Like everything, the patterns of OCD are caused by data in the subconscious. The connections in the brain between the obsession and the stress fight-freeze-or-flight state have been created as part of the learning and interpretation of life experiences.
The uniqueness of the combination of each person’s life experiences means that each person’s subconscious creates a different foundation of information — proof and evidence — of who they are, how the world works, and how to best survive and thrive in their environment.
At some point, the combination of experiences (filtered through data from previous experiences) resulted in the subconscious linking the obsession to a threat to that person’s existence.
In the same way, some people have a connection between spiders and threat. The spider cannot hurt them, and usually they are completely aware of that fact, but the body goes into fight-freeze-or-flight despite that conscious knowledge.
The reason is, the subconscious has created the link, and it is the subconscious that is in control of the fight-or-flight state, not the conscious mind. The “health and safety officer” overrides everything else — including logic and reason from the conscious mind.
At some point, the person had one or more experiences (again, filtered through existing data) that led to an interpretation by the subconscious that the compulsion relieves (or will relieve) the anxiety caused by the obsession. The drive of the compulsion then becomes the priority for survival — just as powerful a drive as running away from a predator.
What is the cause of the obsession and compulsion? Those neural connections in the neocortex of the brain — created by the subconscious.
In the medical world, OCD is usually treated using ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) therapy or medication. However, both of these options are aimed at addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause.
ERP is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and involves exposing yourself to the obsession with the conviction to not carry out the compulsive behavior. In other words, it is an attempt to condition the body and brain through repetitive conscious choice that contradicts the subconscious, automatic behaviors.
It is extremely difficult for most people with OCD since it is the equivalent of standing in front of a lion, and being told to pet it. Every cell in the body and brain are screaming “run” — even though the conscious mind may be listening to the person standing next to you saying “It won’t bite.”
Having said this, many people do experience success from ERP therapy,although the results are not consistent.
Instead of addressing the symptoms, the most effective way to change OCD behavior is to change the original cause. Changing the original data held in the subconscious results in the subconscious prompting different connections in the brain — and in turn, the brain will trigger different responses in the body.
Pat has an obsession locking the front door among other things. When she locks the front door, if she does not try the handle three times before letting it go, she goes into a state of extreme anxiety.
As she locks the door, she can feel her body going into the state of stress and anxiety; and when she’s tried to just leave the door after locking it, in the past,she has felt that anxiety shoot up in intensity to the point where she felt she could literally drop dead if she didn’t return and try the handle three times.
Once or twice she accidentally tried it four times. On these occasions she’s had to unlock the door again, open it, close it, lock it once more, and then try the handle exactly three times, in order to relieve the feeling of anxiety.
She knows it makes no logical sense. She knows consciously that nothing bad can happen because she tried the handle a different number of times — or not at all — but the feelings of anxiety and compulsion are so powerful (because they’re designed for survival) that she cannot override that compulsion with logic or reason.
Pat has no idea how she developed this OCD, or what is causing it; but, fortunately, with FasterEFT she doesn’t need to know what the original cause is in order to change it.
Pat sets aside some time, takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and imagines closing and locking her front door. She notices the feeling of anxiety — she notices where in her body she feels it, how strong it is, and what it feels like.
She thinks back to her past, to see if she can remember feeling that same feeling before. It will probably have nothing to do with locking a door, but it will be the same feeling. If she can remember feeling it before, she will use theFasterEFT Technique to clear and flip that memory.
If she can’t remember ever feeling it in the past, she will use FasterEFT on the feeling itself. She will simply notice it — notice how she knows it’s there — and then use FasterEFT to tap it down and flip it.
Then, from now on, whenever she notices that same feeling — whether it’s to do with locking the door or anything else — she will use FasterEFT in the moment to clear and flip it.
She will use Mental Tapping if she can’t tap physically in the moment.
What’s Happening Inside Pat?
By using FasterEFT to change those original records (whatever they may be)Pat will literally rewire the neocortex of her brain, so that act of locking the door is no longer linked to danger or a threat to her life — her brain will therefore no longer be prompted to trigger the fight-freeze-or-flight response.
And this means she will no longer have the compulsion to relieve that anxiety with the ritual of trying the door handle three times — because the anxiety will no longer be there.
This means that Pat will not need to expose herself to the stress and trauma of ERP therapy or take medication; she will not need to try to resist the compulsion while feeling the anxiety; and she will experience a change in how she responds automatically.
Changing the source means the resulting behavior changes automatically and naturally without force, pressure or medication.
For more information on what happens in your brain when you use FasterEFT visit: FasterEFT and Your Brain.
For detailed guidance on using FasterEFT read: The FasterEFT Technique — Step-by-Step.
To hear Robert G. Smith (founder of FasterEFT) explain how the mind works, and to see FasterEFT in action, watch the videos in the FasterEFT YouTube Channel.
Originally published at fastereft.com on July 8, 2016.