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His Wife Has Had OCD for 60 Years….

20 Jan

Dear Belleruth,

My wife has had OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) since at least 1963, along with deep depression. Though she will be in a program at UCLA and is under doctor's care, and I don't expect immediate "cures," is there anything else that might be helpful for her? And, honestly, I'm not all that hopeful about holistic medicine, but I feel we have to try all avenues.

Thank you.
Jose M.

Dear Jose,

I'm guessing that some segments of the program your wife will be participating in at UCLA will provide selected mind-body training in relaxation, along with medication (probably from the class of drugs called SSRI's, such as Zoloft, Prozac, etc), cognitive-behavioral techniques, psycho-education and possibly group support – all of which can be extremely helpful over time.

You are wise to gear yourself not to expect a "silver bullet" that yields an instant cure – lasting positive changes tend to be incremental over time, not quick fixes. But if she sticks with the program, I think it's fair to say you both will see results.

If the UCLA program is very cutting edge, you can even expect to find one or more of the "Alphabet Therapies" – EMDR, EFT, SE or PET, to name a few, along with the other tools. These are imagery-based, short-term methods that can be very helpful in alleviating some of your wife's symptoms.

The truth is, any sort of mind-body self-regulation tool – guided imagery, meditation, breathwork, self-hypnosis – is going to help your wife manage and contain her anxiety, and this will help her to modulate her OCD as well.

The best approach is multi-modal, using many of these methods, and attacking the condition from many angles. Unless something extraordinary happens, it's safe to say that you can expect to see some improvement in the near future, and it should continue to get better over time. It's possible your wife will be quite improved, and maybe even symptom free.

So good for both of you. Stay with it. We also have some guided imagery specifically designed for OCD, that's named, not surprisingly, Help for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She may want to add that to her toolkit.

Again, expect change to be incremental. She just needs to listen regularly – once or twice a day is fine – for a few weeks. It doesn't matter if she falls asleep while she's listening. It will still sink in.

Now, I'm not sure what brought you to the point of seeking help after all these years – something must have changed – but it makes me want to offer one warning: her improvement will create some major changes in your relationship if she's been suffering from this for 60 years.

You are to be commended for being such a supportive and involved spouse, but it's possible that some phases of her treatment might require you to step back and let her do some heavy lifting without your guidance. Your job will be to step back and adjust to the changes – a significant challenge in and of itself. Even if the changes are long hoped for, positive ones, they will still take some getting used to!

My best wishes to you both.

All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.