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  • Writer's pictureAlice Pinion

All about how hypnotherapy and talking therapy can help alleviate obsessions and compulsions and OCD

Obsessions, Compulsions and OCD

The main difference between an obsession and a compulsion is there's no relief gained from repeatedly performing the obsessional action or thoughts. In fact anxiety is increased by the obsessional behaviours, whereas compulsions offer short term relief - like a mini reward that makes you feel a bit better (e.g. smoking, over-eating, nail biting are all oral compulsions). There's a wide range of intensity of the initial obsession or intrusive thought. A mild obsession may cause simple tension but at the other end of the spectrum there could be a profound belief that life can't carry on whilst the imbalance remains.

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterised by recurrent intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety, coupled with compulsive repetitive behaviours that are aimed at reducing this anxiety. Obsessional thoughts that persistently enter the persons mind as ideas, images or impulses are frequently frightening or disgusting - even to person thinking them - but their frustration is they have no control over their intrusion. Sufferers rely on specific compulsions to escape their obsessive thoughts, even thought they know the relief is only temporary and intrusive thoughts will soon come back. Some people also use their compulsions to avoid situations that may trigger their obsessions.

There are various common obsessions and ritual compulsive behaviours that plague the OCD sufferer, including:

  • Contamination obsessions - including but not exclusively repeated excessive hand washing

  • Symmetry obsessions - lining up, ordering by size, or piling things up

  • Repeating actions - checking taps, switches, doors, cookers, locks etc. - often a certain number of times

  • Touching obsessions - touching an object a certain number of times before leaving a room for example

  • Tidying obsessions - ultra neatness, deep cleaning, rearranging objects

  • Counting obsessions - problems with odd numbers, doing, saying or thinking something in multiples of 7 for example

  • Hoarding obsessions - never throwing anything away

  • Preoccupation with sexual, religious or aggressive impulses

  • Counting obsessions - e.g. counting objects or footsteps etc.

  • Repeated throat clearing etc.

Although OCD sufferers can appear somewhat paranoid they DO recognise their behaviours as irrational, silly or over the top and this can frustrate them even more. It's an extremely common problem with as many as 1 in 50 reported to suffer according to figures from the USA. Symptoms can be socially isolating, at best time consuming and often result in severe emotional stress and limitations in relationships, career and social development.

Everybody has moments of displaying behaviours that can be confused with obsessions, such as being a perfectionist, meticulous, or being fixated on someone. However, people with OCD may attach extraordinary significance to the thoughts and really can't stop them no matter how much they try.

Secondary Symptoms may develop as obsessive thoughts drive a need to relieve tension and the constant effort to control these intrusive urges and thoughts. Compulsive actions act as a way of controlling, or blocking these thoughts and the person may become dependent upon doing the rituals that then develop and take over as a way of life.

Common compulsive actions include :

  • Hair pulling (trichotillomania) - often leading to baldness

  • Eyelash and/or eyebrow plucking

  • Face and/or hand picking

  • Scratching, biting, head banging - all forms of self harming

  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) - sufferers repeatedly check a perceived defect in their appearance or camouflage the body part via clothes, piercings, tattoos etc.

  • Compulsive Stealing (kleptomania) - failure to resist impulses to steal objects that aren't needed

  • Compulsive sexual behaviour - uncontrollable sexual thoughts or behaviour

  • Compulsive shopping - excessive and unnecessary shopping for items often not even opened

  • Pathological gambling - out of control gambling

  • Pathological lying - lying for no reason or for attention

  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder - violent outbursts of rage that can result in serious assaults and destruction to property

  • Pyromania - the uncontrollable urge to start fires, often to release tension

Accompanying problems and symptoms can often develop:

  • Low self esteem, low confidence

  • Depression

  • Severe long term Insomnia

  • Problems with sex

  • Anxiety, panic attacks etc

  • Social Phobia, lack of confidence

  • Psychosomatic symptoms - migraines, IBS etc.

Many of my clients have often fought for years to manage their obsessions, or compulsive behaviours and related symptoms via other routes, including anti-depressants, counseling, other talking therapies etc. but their problems still persist. Hypnotherapy coupled with tailored cognitive work offers an effective approach by actually offering more control over thoughts, feelings and actions than ever before.

Support, understanding and empathy are all integral when working with Alice who has over 18 years experience in helping people overcome these common mental malfunctions.

Want help yourself? Arrange a free initial phone or video call consultation where you can confidentially and thoroughly discuss your problems. Just call Alice on 07906 059022 or email

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