How to Beat the OCD Bully

Do you suffer from obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours such as handwashing and checking things? In this article, we’ll look at how hypnotherapy can help you beat the OCD bully and regain a sense of control in your life – without having to carry out repetitive rituals. 

When you view OCD as a trance state, it makes sense to use the power of hypnosis to help modify your thoughts and rituals – and deal with the underlying anxiety that often drives obsessive compulsive disorder.

Let’s look at how this all works and how hypnotherapy can help you beat the OCD bully.

how to beat the OCD bully: the trance of obsessive compulsive disorder and how to break free
Image: Roxy Aln

OCD – the survival brain in overdrive

Let’s start off with something that might sound a little strange: OCD – all those fearful thoughts and repetitive behaviours – serves a positive purpose: to keep you and others safe. 

There really is a positive intention driving all those rituals, whether it’s handwashing, checking the oven is turned off or all the doors are locked.

The ‘survival’ brain is working overtime, never going off duty for long, always keeping an eye open for any potential threat. It doesn’t take much for the alarm to go off yet again and before you know it you’re caught up in that never-ending loop. 

How many times have you done it today?

So, this is the first thing to understand about OCD. It is part of nature’s survival mechanism simply gone awry. The good news is that the right treatment can help bring it back into alignment. 

Current treatments for OCD

Are you currently taking medication to treat your OCD? Has it made a difference? With the medical model still holding sway, many people are prescribed medication for OCD, usually a type of drug that’s mainly used for treating depression (1).

The premise for this is based on the idea that OCD (and depression) is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. We now know that this is not the case: the chemical imbalance is a consequence of depression, not the cause of it (2). But the medicines are still dished out.

(Just to say, I’m not opposed to medication; it can help but we shouldn’t be so reliant on it when other treatments might be more suitable).

And when it comes to psychotherapy, the main treatment up to now has been Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which might include ‘Exposure and Response Prevention’ (ERP). 

With CBT, the main focus is on trying to change your thinking. And with ERP the idea is that you need to confront your fears and commit to not carrying out the behaviours and instead make a different choice. 

Both are easier said than done and here’s why…

How the OCD bully controls you

Because OCD is driven by the survival brain it easily overrides your conscious thinking processes. Positive thinking or ‘reframing’ is unlikely to have much impact when you’re locked in such a trance state.

And let’s be clear, when you are in the grip of an obsessive thought or compulsive behaviour, you are hypnotised

You are ‘locked in’, controlled by what I call ‘the OCD bully’, forcing you to do this or that for a certain number of times to prevent some disaster from happening. 

In effect, you are being blackmailed or bullied by your emotional brain which says: “Do this or else…”

And this is where CBT and ERP can miss the trick. You see, the brain processes emotions before thoughts.

RELATED CONTENT: The fatal flaw in CBT: why changing your thinking won’t make you feel better

What this means is that before those obsessive thoughts get a firm grip on your attention mechanism, your emotional brain would already have ramped up your anxiety levels, preparing you for action. Once you’re in that loop it’s almost inevitable that you’ll perform the ritual. 

But it is the anxiety that needs to be dealt with, not the thoughts themselves. This is where hypnotherapy for OCD can – and should – be a vital part of your treatment plan. 

Hypnotherapy for OCD

Of course, there are many reasons why your emotional brain has responded in this way. Perhaps there is untreated trauma or negative conditioning from your past which now serves as a template.

In other words, if a current situation has any resemblance to what happened before, we can all too easily find ourselves feeling like a kid again, overwhelmed by our emotions, caught up in some drama from decades ago. 

“What does this remind me of?” asks the survival brain. “When have I been in this situation before?”

It’s fair to say that your OCD probably has its roots way back in your history. As a means to cope with the feelings you developed obsessive thoughts and repetitive rituals.

So, rather than trying to change your thinking or forcing you to confront your fears (which only serves to ramp up your emotions even further), hypnosis accesses nature’s optimal learning state – the REM state. 

RELATED CONTENT: Find out more about how hypnotherapy works on my FAQ page

FAQS about hypnosis and hypnotherapy

It is in the REM state that you are able to reprogram old memories and change the emotional content so that the brain registers the memory pattern as ‘no longer necessary’. 

When these patterns are re-coded as unimportant, the brain will stop seeing current situations in such black and white, life-or-death terms, meaning that your anxiety levels are no longer being triggered in the same way. And lower anxiety means more control over your thought processes.

Meeting your emotional needs

So, rather than trying to change your thinking (which is difficult to do if you’re already under the spell of the emotional brain) or getting you to expose yourself to the fear but not carry out the ritual (which can actually increase your anxiety, making you want to perform the ritual even more), hypnotherapy aims to resolve the emotional conflict first.

And aside from emotional memory templates, there is something else that can raise your anxiety levels…

When current emotional needs are unmet we can feel more stressed, resulting in the primitive ‘survival brain’ taking centre stage once again (3). This is the last thing you want with OCD.

Contemplate these questions…

  • Do you feel safe and secure at home/work/school/uni?
  • Do you have an emotional connection to other people?
  • Do you feel in control of your life?
  • Do you feel you receive enough attention?
  • Does your life have meaning and purpose? 

And how about this question…

Did the pandemic make your OCD worse?

Covid-19 had a massive impact on our ability to meet emotional needs. We were left feeling more uncertain, insecure, and disconnected – all triggers that can make OCD much worse.

The virus itself played havoc for people who suffer from a form of OCD that involves cleanliness or fear of germs. To a degree, we all became obsessive about hand-washing and spraying surfaces with anti-bac.

But with the pandemic now consigned to history (hopefully) and by meeting emotional needs, the survival brain can return to a state of calm. At this point you’re able to challenge the OCD bully and see through the illusion of those emotionally-driven thoughts – and respond differently.

This is a key thing: it’s not just enough to calm the emotional brain and change your thinking. It’s about programming your mind to respond differently. This is where the power of hypnotherapy comes to the fore, laying down new templates in your subconscious mind so that it’s easier to break the rituals and tolerate life’s uncertainties…

RELATED CONTENT: Zen breathing: an ancient technique to calm your emotions

Beating the OCD bully by tolerating life’s uncertainties

Indeed, perhaps one of the biggest challenges to your overcoming OCD is in learning to tolerate uncertainty. To my mind, this should be a cornerstone of any psychotherapeutic approach to treating all mental health conditions.  

The fact is that life is intrinsically uncertain. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow.

RELATED CONTENT: The Hero’s Journey and the TEST model

This is where hypnotherapy can incorporate some of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to ground your awareness in the present moment rather than getting lost in ‘what if’ fantasies. Emptying one’s mind of all those fearful thoughts and being present in the here and now is a challenge for us all, not just sufferers of OCD. 

This might sound like a million miles away right now, but part of your recovery involves building up your resources and mental agility so that you can beat the OCD bully at its own game. 

And just like with addiction, when you can start to see through the false promises the OCD bully makes, the emotional intensity begins to fade. You detach yourself from it and, in so doing, those obsessive thoughts and the resulting rituals disappear as well. 

The next step to beat the OCD bully

I hope you’ve found this this page helpful. If you have any questions drop me an email.

Better still, book a Free Discovery Session where you can tell me more about your OCD and ask me about how hypnotherapy can help you break free. It would be a privilege to help you regain control of your mind.

For immediate help, check out the hypnosis download for OCD which can quickly lower emotional arousal, helping you to think more clearly.

hypnosis for OCD

Notes and further reading 

  1. For a comprehensive list of medications used to treat OCD take a look at this article from the Mayo Clinic.  
  2. More details about the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ and the use of medication in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders.
  3. For more on emotional needs and to assess how well your needs are being met check out my article on ‘Being fully human; how to meet your emotional and spiritual needs

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