Some alternative suggestions from those living with the condition.
I have seen many patients asking me for alternative ways to manage their OCD. Most of the time its over fears of being sedated by medication and it suppressing their drive or creativity. Others fear pharmaceuticals are slowly poisoning their body. I would love to recommend an alternative cure-all, but unfortunately because of the differing types of OCD, and how it affects the individual – and taking into account body chemistry, environment, and diet it can be a matter of trial and error until you find what works for you.
There is no cure for OCD or Intrusive thoughts. In fact, OCD is the least understood mental illness today and one of the top ten most disabling worldwide conditions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In terms of treating OCD with psychotropic drugs and CBT therapy, most individuals will only experience mild improvements. Those of us who suffer from OCD have spent years trying to understand and control our thoughts. These thoughts make us feel like we are spiraling out of control and can send us into the deepest of depression. We will try anything in an attempt to regain control of our minds, most of which fail miserably. Luckily, there are two newly studied noninvasive treatments available for those of us who have suffered from this lifelong daily battle.
I’ve seen training in physical actions in combination with a chain of thoughts (almost like a tick or trigger) pull a patient from an attack. This coping mechanism is fairly successful with physical forms of OCD like excessive cleaning.
Practices, like shaking off the thoughts, physically shaking your head, or jumping up and down to jolt your system and move your though processes onto another track have also seen success in mild cases of OCD with my patients. In combination with the visualization of placing the unwanted thought in a balloon and letting it float away, or dropping it in a bucket of water and watching it dissolve. It’s all about training your brain with coping mechanisms that work for you.
Another form of treatment which writer Carrie Routledge practices involves Kundalini meditation which she touts as the most effective treatment for OCD. The few studies that have been done with OCD patients and this meditative technique have shown up to a 71% improvement rate in OCD symptoms. Some OCD sufferers claimed to have had their symptoms completely alleviated through this practice.
The practice of Kundalini meditation for intrusive thoughts is very specific. It requires one to sit upright in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Inhale hold the breath in, and exhale deeply to release. Being careful to only breathe through the nose and keep your eyes closed as if you are looking through your third eye or a central point on the horizon. Use your right thumb tip to cover the right nostril while you rest your elbow along your body. You will keep your left nostril uncovered for the entire practice. It looks like this: Take a deep breath in through the left nostril and count to five, hold the breath in for five, let the breath out for five, and hold the breath out for five. With practice, you will eventually work up to breathing in for 15, holding for 15, releasing for 15, and holding for 15. Begin with a practice of 11 minutes per day and gradually work up to 31 minutes.
Yoga experts claim this meditative technique can completely alleviate all OCD symptoms after 90 days of daily practice (using the 15-second per breath phase).
Some of my patients have tried this method with varied success. Issues like age and flexibility, or trouble in clearing thoughts to enter a meditative state play against effective use of Kundalini mediation as a practical treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is a newer form of psychotherapy that releases psychological stress and is largely used for PTSD and trauma. Although scientists currently are unable to determine a cause for OCD, they have found that trauma and OCD commonly occur together. Many psychiatrists are beginning to find most OCD treatments remain unsuccessful if a patient’s past trauma has not been addressed.
EMDR is a noninvasive, interactive treatment developed in the 1990s in which the patient is asked to retrieve difficult memories while the therapist directs the patient in a type of sensory input. During the treatment, you will briefly relive the traumatic experience while the therapist directs your eye movements or may use massage tappers that you hold in your hands. This is called bilateral stimulation. After the session, the subject may feel drained and irritable. It is important to plan sessions when you can relax or sleep afterward for this reason. Gradually, you will find that your distressing memories take less of a hold on your life, and the disturbance level decreases dramatically. Current studies are finding that the use of EMDR is extremely effective in the treatment of OCD. Patients are showing significant symptom reduction at the 4-6 month follow-up.
As mentioned above, the WHO ranks OCD as one of the top ten most disruptive disabilities worldwide. It currently affects 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children. Most people with OCD, especially children, will suffer in silence out of fear, shame, and guilt. Fortunately, with new research and findings, our prognosis for helping people who struggle with OCD is more promising than ever before. It’s heartbreaking to meet patients who suffer this condition desperate for a solution, but thankfully with more and more alternative therapies, coping mechanisms and research into treatment, I remain hopeful. Not only for a cure, but also a cause.
What OCD treatments are you aware of that have actually worked without side effects impacting everyday life?
Kate Grainger, Frederick Subritzky & Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.