Looking at a New Method that Could Help Treat OCD

Everyone responds differently to stimuli and influences. That’s why the world of mental health is continuously working on new treatments. Not every method works for everyone. As such, medical professionals innovate and create new techniques for those who feel like there are no options. Research is continually going on to improve our understanding of various illnesses. One of the most significant innovations lately is the Rubber Hand Illusion, a new treatment for OCD. OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a condition that causes the sufferer to obsess over control and perfection. For many, this includes a crippling fear of germs or dirt. It is an incredibly troublesome condition to live with, as it controls your mind with intrusive thoughts and obsessions. This new method is an exciting new way for doctors to treat the illness. 

First, what is the Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI)? In 1998, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh detailed an experiment that would claim the name. The trial had 10 people sit down with their left hands resting on an armrest and blocked by a screen. The rubber hand was placed in such a way that it appeared to be the subject’s own hand. Participants were then asked to focus on the rubber hand. Then, the doctors used two small paintbrushes to stroke the rubber arm and the real arm simultaneously. After ten minutes, the participants reported being able to feel the rubber arm as their own. This premise has exciting implications for those struggling with OCD.

Exposure Therapy is a tool often used in OCD treatment. This therapy forces patients to come into contact with their fears or obsessions. For someone who fears doorknobs because of germs, the “exposure” would be having them touch a doorknob without washing their hands afterward. As you can imagine, this is a pretty stressful technique for OCD patients. While it does have therapeutic value, it can be too stressful for a lot of people. For these patients, RHI represents a new, and less confrontational, approach to treatment. Through the RHI, a person will start to believe that the rubber arm is their arm. When the rubber arm is exposed to the object of the patient’s fear, they will respond with the same disgust as if it were their own arm. Research into exposure therapy shows that continued exposure and contamination can lead to a decrease in anxiety, disgust, and the urge to wash after 30 minutes. Through the RHI, professionals can minimize the stress of exposure therapy by eliminating the use of real hands and limbs. Patients will also feel at ease since they will know that the process is fake. While this technique does not eliminate stress, it can help decrease it, which is beneficial for many people seeking treatment. It is important to note that while the findings so far have been reliable, there is more research that needs to be done. Even so, it is good news for those of us looking to treat our OCD. 

It is always wonderful to see innovation and breakthroughs like this. These treatments tear down barriers and create optimism and hope for those who still suffer. While mental health is still under-recognized, we can take comfort in knowing that experts are working to make treatment more comfortable. More and more options and doors are open to us, making it easier to live with mental illness. That is a fantastic thing, and it is beautiful to see the passion behind the work..

     If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 or [email protected]