043: OCD — The Hidden Emotion Technique

Using the Hidden Emotion Technique With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

In this podcast, David and Fabrice answer questions on OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) submitted by three listeners. Is it an organic illness? Are drugs necessary in the treatment? What’s the best book to read if you want to heal yourself? What’s the prognosis?

Drs. Nye and Burns begin by explaining OCD and answering the questions. David emphasizes the importance of using four treatment models when working with OCD—the cognitive model, the motivational model, the exposure model, and the hidden emotion model if you are hoping for a rapid and complete elimination of symptoms. Treatment that focus on only one treatment method, such as exposure and response prevention, may have only limited success.

He describes his treatment of a medical student named Ralph with classic OCD. Ralph was frequently plagued by the fear he was dying of AIDS; then he’d get so anxious that he’d go to the emergency room and insist on having a blood test for HIV. These always came out negative, and this brought temporary relief, but within a few days Ralph would be worrying about AIDS again and feeling the overwhelming compulsion to get yet another blood test.

The case was especially curious because Ralph was engaged and faithful to his fiancé, so there was no rational reason for him to think he had become infected with the HIV virus. However, he’d tell himself, “Maybe I drew blood on a patient with AIDS and then pricked myself with the needle, and then forgot. And how can I know that this didn’t happen?” This are extremely typical of the kind of obsessions that plague OCD patients. Ralph would torture himself with these thoughts until he succumbed to the urge to get another blood test for AIDS.

Although years of conventional psychotherapy had failed this patient, the Hidden Emotion Technique led to an incredible recovery in just a few minutes during a therapy session. You will find this true story inspiring and amazing! And David provides an even more amazing 40-year follow up report!

In the next Feeling Good Podcast, David and Fabrice will describe more examples of patients with severe OCD who experienced dramatic relief because of David’s Hidden Emotion Technique. This technique can be helpful for all anxiety disorders, and not just OCD. However, David emphasizes that this is just one of many techniques he uses in the treatment of anxious patients. He cautions therapists against thinking three is just ONE best technique for any anxiety disorder, including OCD.

See link to podcast #027: Scared Stiff — The Hidden Emotion Model.


10 thoughts on “043: OCD — The Hidden Emotion Technique

  1. This is another amazing podcast. David, you are so gifted. As a kid, I had religious OCD/Scrupulosity that developed into anxiety and phobias. I know first hand how painful it is.

    You might be interested to know that a lot of Western Civilization was influenced by people with OCD. Martin Luther, who started the protestant reformation, was afraid of eternal damnation, and I think used to panic during thunder storms because he was afraid God was angry and was going to punish him. I wonder if that influenced his theology of salvation through grace and not works.

    Ignatius of Loyola, who started the Jesuit order in the Catholic church, used to be afraid of stepping on two twigs if they were shaped like a cross.

    I love when you said, ” I may forget a name or a face, but I never forget a soul.” That is so beautiful!

    • Thanks, Rob, for another terrific email! When I lived in Philadelphia, I went to teach in St. Louis four or five times. I would usually do a presentation for the general public as well as a workshop for mental health professionals. They were sponsored by a Jesuit group there. I always really enjoyed working with the Jesuits, who seemed very peaceful and non-judgmental. Their center was next to a river there, but I can’t recall the name. I stayed in their dormitory, too, which I also enjoyed due to the simplicity and humbleness of the setting. David

  2. I enjoy your podcasts very much. They are very good reminders of the techniques learned from your workshops. Thank you for sharing them on a regular basis.

  3. Hi David,
    I have been struggling with OCD related to a real event that happened. How would any treatment help with this? I’m ALWAYS on edge and panicky.

    • Well, since I written many books and many podcasts on just this topic, why not start with one of them, like the Feeling Good podcasts, totally free, or my book, When Panic Attacks, check it out on Amazon. d

  4. Dr. David Burns
    You are simply terrific and I am listening to your podcast starting from 001 for the third time.
    My question: You said Hidden Emotions is buried in the yesterday or today and never in the past. What do you mean by that? We know that people have OCD for 5 years or 10 years or more. Usually different issues get resolved during long period of time as new kept coming up. Did you mean the patient get hooked on to OCD and hidden emotions gets changing. But how come his symptoms (intrusive thought and compulsion) remains the same.

    Dr. Rizwan
    High Commissioner of Pakistan for Mauritius

    • Thank you, Syed. I really appreciate thoughtful questions like yours. I have only three brief points. 1. Remember that Hidden Emotion phenomenon is not ALWAYS lurking behind the anxiety of someone with OCD or any type of anxiety, but it is extremely common. 2. The Hidden Emotion phenomenon, or process, is usually a life-long process, where people tend to hide (from themselves and others) certain kinds of “forbidden” feelings. So the things they are sweeping under the carpet will change from day to day, or from week to week, but the anxiety remains and kind of morphs, sometimes, from one thing to another. That is why, perhaps, some people are prone to having lots of different kinds of anxiety at different times, or at the same time, during their lives. So you are right, the hidden emotions can constantly change, like all emotions. 3. You are also right that there is a strong “addictive” component in OCD. The compulsion (like washing your hands repeatedly, or checking the locks over and over, or some counting ritual) temporarily gives you a feeling of safety, and relief, so you get addicted to doing that compulsive ritual. But the relief is short-lived, so you get anxious again and then have a strong drive to do the compulsion again. When you stop the compulsion (this is called “Response Prevention,”) you will have a temporary “withdrawal,” much like drug withdrawal, and you will experience several days of INCREASED anxiety. But if you stick with it, the urge to do the compulsion will diminish and often disappear completely. Sometimes more methods will be needed for the obsessive thoughts which may remain and continue to make you anxious. Thanks again! David

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