OCD Recovered with CBT, and creating an OCD character

Lucy Wallis writes for the BBC about Catherine Benfield's journey out of OCD.  She recovered with CBT, helped by creating Olive her personification of her OCD.  

In the CBT treatment of OCD, we often encourage the externalisation of the disorder.

Understanding OCD in CBT Treatment

OCD is made up of our:

  • learned experiences - often benign past events where we learn the meaning of our thoughts 
  • beliefs and assumptions - excessive responsibility (the hallmark of OCD)
  • process of thinking - magical thinking, thought-action-fusion, etc.  
  • negative automatic thought - in OCD the repetitive intrusive "what if..."
  • emotions - anxiety, and occasionally disgust
  • behaviours - obsessive rituals, avoidance, safety-seeking behaviours
  • neutralization - covert mental rituals in obsessive rumination (sometimes referred to as "Pure O") 

Treatment of OCD with CBT

The CBT therapist explores the OCD cycle collaboratively to build a conceptualisation (what maintains OCD). The conceptualisation leads to a CBT treatment plan; in ODC can be psychoeducation, Exposure and Response Prevention, Behavioural Experiments, or Cognitive Exposure.

OCD is experienced as a fusion of thoughts, feelings (emotions and physical) and behaviours.  The personification of OCD by externalising the OCD elements helps to interrupt the maintaining cycle, the treatment.  Often we can describe the OCD as a 'the bully'. Giving OCD a name externalises the experience and brings a level of objectivity.     

Catherine Benfield takes this to another level.  Living in imagery she did not want an OCD "evil face" so she created a character "that I could show love and compassion," she says.  After all, OCD is trying to protect us.  It just got a bit lost on the OCD way.  

Read the full story here

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