Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a specific type of anxiety disorder. It is a combination of unwanted and recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive actions (compulsions) which cause distress and interfere with functioning. There is a cycle of sorts for individuals with OCD. First there is a distressing, automatic thought that just pops into their consciousness. The only way that the person has found to reduce the anxiety which always accompanies the thought is by performing the ritual action, the compulsion. This action reduces the anxiety for a very short time, but because it works in the short term, the person uses it over and over leading to more ritualistic behaviors, thereby worsening the disorder.

Obsessive fears tend to have themes such as:

  • Contamination
  • Needing precise order
  • Inability to tolerate uncertainty

Examples of obsessive thoughts:

  • Fears of being contaminated by germs
  • Intense stress and irritability when objects are not in order
  • Fears that you didn’t lock the door or didn’t turn off the stove
  • Panic that you can’t get off the plane

Compulsive behaviors also tend to have themes such as:

  • Strictly following routines
  • Counting
  • Checking
  • Washing / cleaning

Examples of ritualistic compulsions include:

  • Checking doors/stove repeatedly
  • Counting certain patterns
  • Hand-washing until skin is raw and broken open
  • Repeating a word or phrase

Treatment Options


EEG research in people with OCD has shown an overactive loop between three brain areas – the orbital prefrontal cortex, the caudate nucleus and the cingulate.  This over-activity results in heightened automatic thinking, a feeling that “something is wrong”, checking and rechecking behavior, and focusing on the feelings of distress.  Neurofeedback training helps to reduce this over-activity while decreasing very high Beta waves.


Evidence-based treatment approaches for the treatment of anxiety in its various forms is offered at Bloomington Neurofeedback.  Cognitive Behavioral therapy as well as other anxiety-targeted approaches such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is used.  Relaxation training and Mindfulness work are also part of therapy.

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