November 25, 2011

Soothing Anxiety with a Tale

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Obsessive compulsive disorder patients may benefit from reading

(dailyRx News) Many mothers read fairy tales to calm their child to sleep, and now doctors recommend storytelling to pacify anxiety.

People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have impulsive prepossessions causing neurotic habits to develop. These obsessions cause such overwhelming anxiety the compulsions become a necessary way for the individual to deal with their internal struggle.
A doctor / author recommends reading stories with essential lessons to ameliorate their pain.

"Speak with your doctor to determine the right treatment for you."

Oxford University Press released a book this week entitled, "OCD Treatment Through Storytelling" by Dr. Allen Weg. The book goes through a series of stories therapeutically written to sooth anxiety and to gently deliver important lessons which OCD patients are known to struggle with.

One story involved a boy so excited to go out with a girl he fails to ask her what movie they bought tickets for. Next thing he knows, the fainthearted child is watching a horror movie. He's affrighted, but proud. She loves the move, so they end up watching it six times until he's downright bored by it. Weg calls this process desensitization and believes exposure therapy to be necessary for relinquishing back a carefree existence. 

Weg explains: "all we're really doing is identifying those things you're really afraid of and developing a system where you do exposure therapy repeatedly over a period of time, starting with small levels and then building the intensity of that exposure until you can do the very things that are the most uncomfortable for you to do thereby freeing you from the OCD." 

The doctor also highlights additional benefits to storytelling treatment, admitting that by watching and listening the to the stories, a shorthand develops and communication between the doctor and the anxiety-ridden patient improves drastically. Weg explains to patients: "You more fully trust that I really understand what your anxieties are all about, and I feel more confident that you understand and are invested in the therapy. This is how storytelling in the treatment of OCD works." 

dailyRx.com contributing expert Barbara Long, M.D., Ph.D., prefers more traditional treatment, referencing a study published in the journal American Family Physician. This study's authors, Dr. Mark Eddy and Dr. Gordon note: "It is important to recognize that compulsive rituals are not limited to overt behaviors. The patient who appears to be free of compulsive rituals may be performing covert rituals, such as mentally repeating or visualizing phrases, prayers or images."

Long recommends Eddy and Gordon's study to understand the effects of obsessive compulsive disorder and appropriate treatment, noting "the best of which combines a type of antidepressant therapy and counseling."

For more information regarding OCD and its treatment, speak with a medical professional to determine the right method of treatment for you.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
November 18, 2011

Last Updated:
November 18, 2011