Obsessive-compulsive disorder, generally abbreviated as OCD, is a complex psychological disorder that is expressed in two phases, as the name suggests: obsessions, on the one hand, and compulsions, on the other.
This mixture of elements means that normally those who develop their symptoms do not even know where to start when trying to combat this psychopathology, which is one indication that professional help is still needed to give it. a treatment.
Fortunately, there are currently some useful therapeutic tools available to fight OCD and bring the lives of those who suffer from it back to normal. In this article, we’ll talk about one of these intervention models: EMDR therapy applied to the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
OCD is a disorder in which a sort of vicious cycle occurs. First, a thought or mental image appears in the person’s consciousness (sometimes a memory, sometimes a whimsical exaggeration of the present, sometimes an imaginary situation about what might be happening) that disturbs them and generates a sudden high degree of discomfort. , usually in the form of distress or anxiety.
This mental content is what we call obsession, Because the person tries at all costs to expel it from his consciousness and, at the same time, this urgency causes his attention to be fixed on this thought or this image. As we will see, the nature of the compulsion is very important in understanding why EMDR therapy is used to treat OCD.
Second, the person with OCD begins to desperately look for ways to get rid of that discomfort as soon as possible, to remove that disturbing image or idea from their consciousness. And to end this experience, he performs some action that seems arbitrary, but the meaning is more or less attached to that mental content that makes him feel bad. This type of ritual is called coercion..
Let’s take an example: a person remembers that a week ago they were ridiculed in front of someone they love, and because of this, they can’t help but start thinking about it over and over again, remembering the event more and more. As this causes him anxiety and he cannot stop thinking about it, because he feels “contaminated” by this event, the person washes his hands several times, always following a pattern of movements which he cannot go out because he is in violation of this ego. the washing rule would not end the discomfort.
With time, the person learns that whenever they feel bad they will have to perform such a ritualAnd at the same time, this predisposition to give great importance to disturbing thoughts will cause them to appear frequently in your mind. For this reason, the problem worsens: not only does it waste a lot of your time as it is seen in the need to perform compulsions, but also your health is affected (especially your skin) and many interrupts. important tasks during day to day, because these small attacks last several minutes.
What is the treatment of OCD with EMDR based on?
As we have seen, OCD is a psychopathology related to a kind of superstitious thinking, according to which it is only possible to get rid of psychological discomfort by performing compulsions. However, it is a disorder that it can be developed in people we would normally consider rational in most areas of their lives: They just apply this kind of “magical thinking” to the way they deal with their compulsions.
And in the end, doing these rituals allows them to immediately feel relief; the problem is that in the medium and long term, fueling the vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions is a bigger problem than the discomfort of dealing with each of the obsessions.
With that in mind … how is EMDR therapy used? This type of psychological intervention, the acronym comes from the term “desensitization and reprocessing of eye movements”, is based on the idea that many disorders related to anxiety and distress are mainly due to incomplete or inappropriate treatment of the eye. some memories. like that, to resolve the patient’s discomfort, it is necessary to change the way their brain stores these mental contents, So that these are not expressed over and over again in a problematic way.
To achieve this, a series of brain stimulation exercises are performed with the aim of reintegrating into the person’s mind the contents that do not correspond well to the memory system without causing anxiety. One way to do this is to guide the patient’s gaze in certain directions, to achieve differentiated stimulation in each hemisphere of the brain.
At the same time, a context is created in which the patient evokes these contents which generally cause him anxiety or a crisis, so that these lose their harmful effect and are treated by the brain like any other memory. In many ways, EMDR therapy resembles systematic desensitization, in that a new framework is created in which to experience what normally disrupts or causes distress.
- Bloch, MH; Landeros-Weisenberger, A .; Rosario, MC; Pittenger, C .; Leckman, JF (2008). “Meta-analysis of the symptom structure of obsessive-compulsive disorder.” The American Journal of Psychiatry. 165 (12): pages 1532 to 1542.
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 (5th ed.). Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Grant, JE (2014). Clinical practice: obsessive-compulsive disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine. 371 (7): pages 646 to 653.
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- Shapiro, F .; Laliotis, D. (2015). EMDR therapy for trauma-related disorders. Evidence-based treatments for trauma-related psychological disorders: a practical guide for physicians. International Springer Editions. pages 205 to 228.