044: Can OCD Be Cured?

Can OCD Be Cured? — More Examples of the Hidden Emotion Technique

In this podcast, David describes his treatment of a physician with OCD who was tortured by the fear that he would impulsively throw his newborn baby over the railing of his second-floor apartment. He also describes a psychologist with OCD who washed her hands more than 50 times a day for fear of contamination. In addition, she spent hours every day making sure that nothing in her house was arranged in groups of three—including furniture, table settings, decorative objects, magazines on tables, and so forth. Arrangements in groups of 2 were okay, as were groups of 4, 5 or more objects. Why was she so obsessed?

What were the hidden emotions that fueled these obsessions and compulsions? David and Fabrice will give you the chance to pause the recording on three occasions to jot down your hypotheses before they give you the answers. It won’t be important to get it “right,” but it is highly desirable to take a stab at it.

This podcast will be of interest to you if you or a loved one is struggling with OCD, or any form of anxiety, including phobias, panic attacks, chronic worrying, and so forth. That’s because the hidden emotion phenomenon, or excessive “niceness,” may be a the root of your fears as well. Bringing those feelings to conscious awareness will often lead to sudden relief, or even a complete elimination of your symptoms.

In the next Feeling Good Podcast, David and Fabrice will describe dramatic examples of exposure and response prevention in the treatment of OCD, including a woman who was tortured by the fear that she’d received the wrong baby at the hospital after her first child was born. What causes these bizarre symptoms, and what’s the most effective treatment? Stayed tuned and you’ll find out!


9 thoughts on “044: Can OCD Be Cured?

  1. David, as the therapist works with the client to investigate possible issues/emotions causing the OCD that the client is repressing, is there a risk that the therapist may inadvertently push the patient in a certain direction? For example, if the therapist asks, “Are you having an issue with your spouse,” could the patient jump to the conclusion that his/her spouse must be the underlying issue because the therapist brought it up?

    As a write this, I guess if the patient is pushed in the wrong direction, the symptoms won’t go away.

    • Rob, as usual, you are so right. There are all kinds of errors therapists can make with these or any therapeutic techniques, and imposing our ideas is certainly common and rather offensive! So, yes, this can happen for sure.

      In my experience, the way I do it is pretty tentative, and pretty much all of my ideas get shot down by the patient, until he or she finally stumbles across the feeling or problem that is being repressed or avoided. I put out hypotheses, “could it be this” or “could it be that,” and the patient says, “no, that doesn’t resonate.” Then, after a few misses, and a few sessions later, the patient will often say, “Oh, there is this thing I forgot to tell you about.” And then, Bingo, you’ve suddenly got it!

      Appreciate your careful listening and thoughtful comments!

      Your buddy, David

  2. The hidden emotion technique is so powerful. I’ve had several people in some Facebook anxiety groups I am in post about their anxiety attacks. When I asked them if there is possibly an issue or life event that is bothering them that they may not be dealing with, they always say something like “now that you mention it.” Without acknowledging the hidden emotion, so much time and energy is spent trying to treat the symptom and not the cause.

    You’re a great teacher David! Even a layperson like me can apply your tools!

    • Thanks, Rob. I’m working on my new book. Maybe I can twist you arm to look at a couple chapters when I’m a bit further down the line? Would love to get your wise feedback! david

  3. I would be honored David. I couldn’t be more honored if Tom Brady asked me for feedback on his game plan.

  4. Pingback: Can OCD Be Cured? Three New Podcasts by David Burns, MD Explain How He Treats It | goodnewsintherapy

  5. Good morning Dr. Burns, I believe I am going through existential OCD. I am having trouble trying to resolve it. I have your book ‘Feeling Good’ and just wanted to know if you can guide me in what approach would you use to help with this issue. In your opinion is existential OCD even a diagnoses? Thank you for your time Dr. Burns.

    • Thanks for the great question! I am not familiar with “existential” OCD but some people are certainly more prone to feeling anxiety than others. I am hopeful that Feeling Good or my book on anxiety, When Panic Attacks, will be helpful to you. Sometimes, face to face treatment can also be extremely helpful! There are also many podcasts on the treatment of anxiety, including OCD, and you can easily find these podcasts on my website, using the search function in the right hand panel of every page. All the best, david

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