Science of How OCD Works (Dealing with Brain Lock)
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Science of How OCD Works (Dealing with Brain Lock)


my first encounter with obsessive-compulsive disorder was Nicolas Cage’s character in the movie matchstick men who apparently had a combination of OCD and Tourette’s syndrome the jerking motions and vocal outbursts were due to the Tourette’s and the obsessive cleaning and things like locking the door multiple times was due to the OCD though we only see these behaviors when he forgets his medication and otherwise he’s a smooth and successful conman now I personally don’t have OCD and frankly the term seems to be used lightly too often a lot of people don’t realize how serious OCD can be lightheartedly saying I’m so OCD because you like to keep your desk really tidy is almost like saying I’m so leukemia because your nose is running what I’m interested in is how the brain of somebody with OCD works so I can figure out how to deal with a much less dire but very annoying behavior of mine some mornings I’ll be five minutes away from my apartment and will suddenly think wait did I lock the door I know I just have to rush back and check or it will bother me for at least the next hour this happens maybe three times a week and every single time I go back to check the door was indeed locked luckily going back and checking like this is enough and I can get on with my day after that what I was curious what happens in my brain that makes me do this and how is it different from someone who has for example the compulsion to lock and relock the door 50 times just so they feel comfortable well there are three parts of the brain that come into play here a part of the frontal lobe called the orbital cortex is responsible for detecting when you think you’ve done something correctly and when you think you’ve made a mistake et roles a behavioral psychologist at Oxford University found that the cells in rhesus monkeys orbital cortex would fire when the monkey perform a task properly and was expecting some juice as a reward however when the monkeys perform the task properly as they were instructed but got salt water instead the orbital cortex lit up much more intensely and stayed lit up longer the conclusion was at the overall cortex is your brains error detection system in general the strong firing of the orbital cortex gives you a feeling but something is wrong after the orbital cortex fires it sends a signal to another area called the cingulate gyrus which will make you feel uneasy until you do something to correct the mistake then once the mistake is corrected a third area called the caudate nucleus activates and acts like an automatic gearshift allowing you to switch gears forget about it and get on with other activities in my case I thought something was wrong and felt anxious until I went back and checked on the door then my gear shift and I got on with my day brain scans of OCD patients show that all three of these brain areas are hyperactive this means the something is wrong feeling and the anxiety that comes with it are abnormally strong so even with incredibly trivial imperfections in something like say the fibers on a carpet the OCD afflicted person feels that a terrible mistake has been made and the consequences will be absolutely horrible this is why OCD can result in such irrational obsessions like if I don’t vacuum the carpet five times my parents will die as Norman Doidge explains in the brain that changes itself what happens in people with OCD is that their gearshifter the caudate nucleus becomes extremely sticky this means that even if the person does something to correct the mistake of their brain is detecting that feeling doesn’t go away the brain can’t shift to the next gear and they stay very anxious most people who have OCD are actually aware of the fact that their worries and behaviors are completely illogical but since the overlooked cortex and the cingulate gyrus are stuck in the on position they are strongly compelled to repeatedly attempt to correct the imaginary mistake UCLA research psychiatrist Jeffery Schwartz calls this situation brain lock and in his book titled brain lock he describes a very effective behavioral therapy for OCD to understand it let’s look at hand-washing a common OCD obsession in the behavioral therapy when an OCD patient has the urge to wash their hands again even though they’re already clean there are two first mindfully acknowledge that the urge to do this is simply a result of a full see circuit in their brain and that nothing bad will actually happen if they don’t wash their hands again they then have to manually shift their gear by right away doing some other constructive activity for as long as they can the urge to give in to a compulsion is usually overwhelming so dr. Schwartz recommends to start by waiting at least 15 minutes before giving into it and then expand that time day by day with consistent practice this manual gear shifting becomes an automatic habit to wear when the urge to do some compulsive behavior arises their immediate reaction is to first identify the compulsion as simply the result of brain lock and then move on to another activity brain scans of OCD patients who use this behavioural therapy show that after a while the problem causing hyperactive caudate nucleus in the brain had actually become less active compared to before therapy a dr. Schwartz says we can now say we have scientifically demonstrated that by changing your behavior you can change your brain I didn’t realize it at first but this is essentially the strategy I use back when I was quitting sugar whenever I got an urge to go buy some sweet garbage from the convenience store I stood up set a timer for 20 minutes and started reading something sometimes I would give in and buy the snack after the 20 minutes were up but I just made sure to increase the time on the timer each day pretty soon I was setting the timer for an hour and after a while the immediate message in my head transformed from I want sugar time to get some snacks – I want sugar time to stand up and read alright so back to my door double-checking issue as someone with a properly functioning caudate nucleus what’s the solution to keep me from wasting my time as Norman Doidge explains we often check and recheck things without really concentrating so he suggests to perform the first check with the utmost care if you’re moving so fast during your morning routine without paying attention and being distracted by something like an audiobook the problem solved circuit doesn’t get processed when locking the door the first time and the gear in the brain doesn’t turn by simply taking a moment to slow down and be aware of what I’m doing I check the coffee maker and head out the door I now no longer get the urge to go back and check again later getting my last 15 or 20 minutes a week back is nice but more importantly for me it’s nice to no longer be asking what the hell is wrong with me

100 thoughts on “Science of How OCD Works (Dealing with Brain Lock)

  1. That’s also I do with my ocd i doble check the doors and I move the door handle like 5 times to make sure it is locked

  2. OCD comes in different forms of repetitive behavior from washing your hands,excessive cleaning routines to repeatedly having a thought or a fixation on a specific number or word no matter the form it's still can take it's a huge chunk out of your daily life

  3. I grew out of this, I used to have this washings hands, and having to balance the amount of food im chewing on each side of my mouth

  4. As someone who's been diagnosed, it sucks, it really really sucks. It's like having a terrifying "what if" scenario play in your head over and over again and again. Right now I'm freaking out over artificial intelligence, before that was climate change, before that was free will vs determinism, before that was the fact that I'll die, and so on and so forth. It's like having that monster you used to be afraid of living under your bed, that primal fear that danger is nearby even though you can't see it but just know it's out there

  5. I non stop lock and unlock my phone, keep on checking for texts, non stop adjust chess pieces, is that OCD? Or is it something else?

  6. Living wid OCD is very tough. I didnt knw before dat i have OCD, i jst though dat somthing controls my mind nd i have to say dat " stop yar dnt thnk too much " but i cant stop them . We can see physical damage bt we cant see mental damage nd we hv to act lyk we are fine , we are normal lyk others. It really hrts a lot. Only those who have OCD they can understand the feelings.

  7. Hi I am from india.i had ocd for 4 years and that days are very pain ful and unexplained.but now I cure from this desease.i ate ashwagandha for just 2 month and I feel better many more.this comment is help for any ocd patient like me.thank God.(I don't know english.sorry for the grammatical mistakes)

  8. Every dag gone day, It does feel like you're trapped and you can't get out, I'm starting to overcome this with meditation, reading and positive affirmations

  9. I had severe OCD and got through it.

    Just stopped performing the rituals and (eventually) it went away.

    Added I wasn't in a terrible environment and felt like I had control.

  10. while i standing and need to turn to other directions i thinking if i moving right or not i mean not moving i mean i feel that i can't move unconsciously cuz i'm afraid that i'm not moving right and something can be happen to my body this is ocd right?

  11. my worst thing is I have to wiggle my ankles 50 times each before I can even think about sleeping. I don't even know if that's part of it but I feel like my skin is crawling if i don't do it.

  12. 6 mins spent on explaining what ocd is and One minute on the 'solution' This video was a doozie, Press cancel before you get stuck in a loop of frustration

  13. Wow. I always turn off and on the lights in my kitchen before I go to sleep thinking if I don't do it more than once someone will rob the house! I know it's so irrational, but I did it anyway. I would also check and recheck the stove multiple times to make sure it was off even though I knew it was off, but I couldn't go to sleep if I didn't check again. Crazy. I don't really do that anymore, but sometimes it just happens and I don't fight the urge.

  14. I've been suffering from OCD since I was a kid, it gets a lot worse for me at night. Some times I make sure the covers are correct on me for several hours before I finally go to bed. I'll end up being up until 3-4 in the morning. On top of that I also have PTSD so I'm already stressed out all the time and very easily frazzled. Everyone in my life gets frustrated at me because I can't do normal things like open doors, turn a sink off with my hands, or touch an item in a store. It's incredibly frustrating and I wish more people understood that OCD isn't choosing to be picky. I don't try to burden other people and if i could be normal I would. Wish more people could realize how shitty this stuff is to live with.

  15. Ocd is hell, if I didn't have dogs and a mom that would be sad I'd swim into lake Michigan so far I'd never come back
    For me it is paired with depression.
    I'm hoping to get ketamine therapy some day and hold out hope for that, as otherwise I'm lost and my life is a burning bridge in front of me.
    And no, as of recently I quit pot and don't want to be a slave to intoxication.

    I'd literally saw off a hand if it would make the short circuiting and obvious unwarranted pain end. I hate being so needy. I even do things I can't really enjoy just so I don't regret having not done them if this is ever fixed

  16. Repetiré thoughts are also OCD? Obsessive thoughts about somebody or something with no action involved. Like something I want to buy but not need.

  17. One time my wife pulled the doorknob so hard before she left for work that it fell apart on the inside and locked me in the house

  18. For a while I thought I had depression. I have disturbing thoughts and anxiety. Then I thought I had an eating disorder. I ate so unhealthy and I wasn’t happy. Then I realized I had OCD. It explained everything I have been feeling. Of course, I’m not glad I have OCD, just relieved to know what was causing this.

  19. From a TBI I’ve memory skips (still 6yrs l8r), did I lock the door, did I turn off the burner, did I set the emergency brake, did I turn on the alarm, and so many more…my solution—when I do things that can result in anxiety &/or the requirement to go back and check out of safety concerns, bc frequently I wasn’t turning off the burner, locking my door, etc, I’d create a silly story w an absurd visual, incorporating some alliteration that’d match the job. For example, an elephant’s trunk rang the emergency bell while lightening liquified the lock—translation: I set my e-brake and locked the car door! It’s been a year and althg I still haven’t set it in as habit, when I perform this trick it solidifies the memory that I took care of what needed to be tended to properly. Now if I could only remember to do this every time, but I’ve progressed from hardly incorporating, to a greater frequency, and visual cues help!

  20. i have the contamination part of ocd plus some checking when it comes to reading and such. i have to take a shower every time i come home from somewhere and i take about an hour in the shower. i have to wash my hands every time i touch something that hasn’t been cleaned by me. it truly sucks to have ocd and i wouldn’t wish this upon anybody. i haven’t gotten medication for it yet but im hoping to as soon as possible.

  21. plz help me ….. i guess if any who is reading this and can do something or any suggestions….
    i am suffering from 12 years …..
    and these 12 years is just i don't know why i am living i am just mentally emotionally physically destroyed…..this is one reason(ocd)

  22. When I get up I can't just get dressed like everyone else. I take a long time to put on each piece and finally get everything on. Then I (a lot of times) start over again. When I wash my hands I keep using soap then rinse and then use more soap then rinse but turn off the water but turn it back on then start over again. When I'm shopping, I walk across the floor and then turn around and back up from where I was to before and then start over again. Imagine starting most things over and over again. What a waste of time. The germs isn't the problem it's the redoing everything and having religious scruolocity that drives me crazy and makes me feel exhausted. I keep thinking to myself it's just a thought, it's like a cloud floating by it moves on and it means nothing but that compulsion is so bad I give in and redo things again. It makes me late for things if I don't watch it or I really reschedule. I ALWAYS schedule afternoon and evening appointments if I have any. I can't get there early. I've already worked a whole day before I even get started then beat myself up for not being there early like everybody else.

  23. I hate when people try to explain psychology issues with Biology. OCD is caused by a combination of "psychiatric" Behaviors. Such a Lack of compulsion control, self-doubt, and indecisiveness. When you explain a psychiatric disorder as biology. You make it seem like it's out of the person's control to change it. But when you explain it as "psychology" you free them from being a victim. I used to have extreme OCD until I realize this.
    Its a mental "disorder" so use your mental and "reorder" it.

  24. A lot of people confuse OCD with phobias. But actually OCD is a disorder of choice. Where there's no choice there's really no OCD. That's why I think OCD people have no problems in the military where choice is taken away from them.

    And I don't think checking something one may have done too hastily or without thinking is quite the same as OCD. That's a legitimate response. It becomes OCD only when one consciously does something and has to do it again. Most of us have prob taken cough medicine without thinking and minutes later wondered if one took the full 2 spoons or just one spoon or whatever the dosage was. I often wonder if I added the 2 tblspoons of olive oil in the broth since I'm doing all the actions by rote by then. Only the tablespoon in the bowl confirms the fact that I did put in the olive oil (I only use that spoon for the oil). Otherwise I would prob add another 2 spoonfuls just to be certain. But that's not really the same as OCD,

  25. As someone with OCD, seeing that knob on the staircase gave me such anxiety. I would have to touch it probably dozens of times before I moved on 🙁

  26. The door locking is me every day. Also double checking that I unplugged the iron, blow dryer, toaster, YOU NAME IT.

  27. I have OCD and I'm suffering from it from last 11 years
    I lost most of my childhood and whole teenage in washing my hands, spiting and doing other compulsive rituals
    But now I've recovered my brain a lot than before
    OCD wastes your time and energy in doing unnecessary things which further leads to mood swings , depression and anxiety
    OCD is a terrible disorder ! If you don't have it count it as your blessings

  28. I highly believe all of us to some extent it may not be severe, have mood disruption (manic depression) anxiety, adhd, add, ptsd, addictions to stimuli and habits and ODC. I have severe anxiety and this goes beautifully with my ocd. Me meditating helps a ton. You basically think about what you think and if it’s negative or not worth thinking it’s like you switch your mind to something else worthy. Similar to the professors technique. It all really comes together end of the day. The whole mental/physical/emotional health. Changing your thoughts (behavioral) will certainly change the outcome of situations. We must adapt!

  29. I had OCD since 8. It led to many instances of self medication, depression, etc. This passed month, I sucked up the courage to let the intrusive thoughts run, I let it run… You know how hard it is. I'm glad I did because I realized a few things. Inspire of your fears, it's not what you think. There's deeper meaning that will enlighten you. You'll realize the deep meaning and the thought isn't reality nor can it be reality.
    Also, you have to let the anxiety attenuate. Pay attention to the feeling and in a few minutes it will dissipate.

  30. As a person with OCD such as myself, I can totally relate to what is shown. Actually one of my coping skills that I created for myself is whenever I have a obsessive thought I pretend and visualize that I acted on that thought when in reality it never happened.

  31. i have ocd and i am suffering more then you could suffer in a solitary confinement for 30 years pray for me i still live a normal life though pain is the same but i have become stronger because of shivas yoga

  32. I check gas on job several times after each time I cook food because once I left the house with pot boiling and had to run back. It seems that I don't register "it's off" when I look the first time. The doctor is absolutely correct!!

  33. Who are you man…Damn!! You showed what i am.going through daily.. It is terrible, painful..yet unable to come out of it.

  34. I wonder if I have it because I do this thing where if I move something I have to put it back exactly how it was and I have to do that with everything and I just repeat it when I move something I can’t move anything and I feel like something bad will happen to me or I will lose the ability to do something

  35. I wish thinking the door was unlocked was the height of my ocd. This touching shit an even amount of times is doing my head in

  36. I’ve always called my OCD breakdowns “loops”. I would get anxious about a thing that needs changing and get stuck repeating the action over and over again. It would be aweful because sometimes it is as if I have no control of myself. In my head I am screaming that I need to stop, yet I can’t. It’s actually a relief when someone helps interrupt the behaviour for me. Even just talking to me can interrupt the cycle. I just get so caught up in what I am doing unconsciously that I can’t stop it on my own.

  37. Would it help if you say out loud to yourself When locking the door for example." I am locking the door now. Check" then when you are along the road, you know you have locked the door.

  38. I’ve had it my whole life. I was diagnosed at 14. People misunderstood it, thinking it’s a “quirky little ritual” but it’s hard to deal with. Feelings of guilt, obsession, and worry begin to control your life.

  39. I use to joke about OCD until I actually got diagnosed with OCD. For my OCD I have intrusive thoughts. Its horrible! I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy

  40. Are you a Medical Doctor or Neurologist?
    What is your profession? Please tell us about your Educational background.

  41. I have ocd but it’s mental rather than a ‘fear of germs’. If I don’t repeat a thought pattern or do something in a certain order, my brain convinces me of something terrible like “your heart will stop beating in your sleep” and it sends me into a loop of anxiety. I have tics and compulsions in order to prevent this. I’m not sure if this is ocd or psychosis

  42. Maybe you could investigate gut health in relation to mental illnesses too. I know you are a smart guy, bein' in Japan and all. I was in Japan too in the 90s. Envy you much.

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