We live in an age of information overload. This means that when we are trying to learn about something, it can feel overwhelming and we can struggle to know where to start. Often, this prevents us from starting and we end up no wiser! Add into the mix that not all information is created equal in either quality or accuracy, and we also have the risk of fake news and bad information. It can all get very confusing.
Thankfully there are experts available who we can turn to for sound advice – providing we know who they are! It is estimated that 1 in 50 people suffer with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Research also shows that this is considerably under-reported because many people don't seek treatment, often due to to the fears of stigma. The key to breaking stigma is building awareness and understanding and I find reading is a great way to learn. To mark OCD awareness week, here is an overview of three books about OCD that, as a therapist, I regard highly.
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop, by David Adam.
This is a book based on lived experience and it is written with both honesty and humour which makes the book informative and engaging. The author shares examples of his own obsessions throughout his life and the lengths he has gone to in attempt to man age the distress of his OCD. Woven between his own narrative are case studies, a history of the psychiatric approach to OCD and more recent research.
This was a book we read as part of the Brighter Minds Book Club so you can read a full book review here.
Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, David Veale and Rob Wilson.
This is a self-help book written by clinical experts in OCD. Their book provides a detailed overview of OCD to help the reader understand what can feel like a confusing and complex problem. The second part of the book uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) principles and exercises to walk the reader through a series of exercises to help overcome their obsessions and compulsions.
CBT is the recommended treatment for OCD and this book outlines the key treatment approaches so the reader can learn the skills to try and manage and overcome their symptoms. I also find this book can be a helpful aid to use alongside therapy.
Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts, by Christine Purdon and David Clark.
At a glance, you may think this is the same as the previous book. OCD can present in different forms and with different themes. One of these is obsessional thinking. With some forms of OCD, the response to these intrusive thoughts is overt and observable – such as checking or seeking verbal reassurance from others. With obsessive thinking, the response to the intrusive thoughts involves more mental processes. Examples of this include mental arguing where an intrusive thought pop us and the response is to try and rationalise it away. This can result in feeling stuck in a tug of war between the intrusive thought and the rationale thinking.
Another response may be mental neutralising, where an intrusive thought is responded to by an attempt to replace it with another thought to try and cancel it out. This may a certain phrase, affirmation or even song. Replaying events in your mind to try and gain reassurance that unwanted situations haven’t occurred, or pre-empting possible risks to avoid and mitigate are other examples of obsessive thinking in OCD.
This book aims to help the reader understand these unhelpful thought processes and offers guidance through a series of CBT exercises to help break these patterns of thinking to reduce anxiety and overcome a fear of unwanted and intrusive thoughts.