top of page
EMDR-Zone Logo

Breaking the Chains of Obsession: EMDR's Approach to Managing OCD

Written by: EMDR-Zone Editorial Team

Content Warning: Please be advised, if you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 898. Free, private support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

The relentless cycle of intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors defines the life of those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Yet, there's hope on the horizon: EMDR therapy is gaining recognition as a potential game-changer, offering a new path to relief for many grappling with OCD.

Break free from the cycle of OCD. EMDR can help.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects a significant portion of the global population, bringing with it a unique set of challenges. The relentless cycle of obsessions and compulsions can be exhausting, often interfering with daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. This article aims to shed light on the intricacies of OCD, its manifestations, and the potential role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in providing relief.

At EMDR-Zone, we are committed to offering comprehensive online EMDR therapy sessions and supportive content, designed to assist individuals in navigating the complexities of OCD. Let's embark on an informative journey into the world of OCD and the transformative potential of EMDR therapy.

Understanding OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is more than just a quirk or a preference for orderliness. It's a complex mental health condition that can deeply affect an individual's daily life and overall well-being. At its core, OCD is characterized by:

  • Obsessions: These are persistent, unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that invade an individual's mind. They can be distressing and often hard to manage or dismiss. Common obsessions might revolve around fears of contamination, fears of harming oneself or others, fears of making a mistake, or needing things to be symmetrical or in a particular order.

  • Compulsions: In an attempt to suppress or neutralize the distress caused by obsessions, an individual with OCD feels compelled to perform certain actions or rituals. These compulsions, while providing temporary relief, often don't correlate with the obsession they're meant to address. For instance, someone worried about a loved one getting hurt might repeatedly check if the stove is off.

The relentless cycle of obsessions leading to compulsions can be exhausting. An individual might recognize that their thoughts and actions are not truly connected, but the urge to perform the compulsion is overpowering. This cycle can consume hours of a person's day and interfere with their personal, social, and professional life.

Symptoms of OCD

While the specific symptoms can vary widely from person to person, they generally include:

  • Time-consuming rituals: Individuals might spend a lot of time washing hands, checking things, or counting.

  • Avoidance: To prevent triggering obsessions, one might avoid certain places or situations.

  • Distress: Constantly battling intrusive thoughts can lead to significant emotional distress.

  • Impaired daily functioning: The need to perform compulsions can interfere with daily activities, work, and relationships.

  • Physical symptoms: In some cases, the compulsions, like excessive hand-washing, can lead to physical symptoms such as raw hands.

Understanding the depth and complexity of OCD is crucial for both those experiencing it and their loved ones. It's not just a matter of being "a little OCD"; it's a serious condition that requires understanding, compassion, and appropriate treatment.

Causes of OCD

OCD is a multifaceted condition, and while its exact origins remain a topic of ongoing research, several factors are believed to play a role in its development. Delving deeper into the potential causes:

  • Biological Factors: The brain is a complex organ, and any imbalances in its neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin, might contribute to OCD. Neuroimaging studies have shown differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of those with OCD, suggesting that certain brain circuits may function differently in people with this condition.

  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetics seem to play a role, albeit not a definitive one. While OCD tends to run in families, not everyone with a family history of OCD will develop the disorder. Twin and family studies have shown a hereditary aspect, but specific genes linked to OCD are still being identified.

  • Environmental Triggers: Certain environmental factors can act as catalysts for the onset of OCD, especially in those already genetically predisposed. Traumatic life events, infections linked to the development of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders, or exposure to certain types of streptococcal infections can potentially trigger OCD symptoms in some individuals.

  • Behavioral Factors: From a behavioral perspective, it's believed that people with OCD associate certain objects or situations with fear. They then use compulsions as a way to mitigate or neutralize that fear, even if the fear is irrational. Over time, the compulsive behaviors reinforce the association, creating a vicious cycle.

  • Cognitive Factors: Some theories suggest that individuals with OCD have a tendency towards overestimation of danger and an exaggerated sense of responsibility, which might contribute to both obsessions and compulsions. They might believe that they can prevent a specific feared event or situation by performing a compulsion.

Understanding the potential causes and contributing factors of OCD is crucial for developing effective treatments and interventions. While we may not have all the answers yet, ongoing research continues to shed light on this intricate disorder, offering hope for better diagnostic tools and therapies in the future.

EMDR's Role in Managing OCD