What do Hoarding, OCD and Quitting Smoking have in common?
Cathy Simmons, Hypnotherapist, London
I was drawn to this article in Psychology Today, because of it’s title, “Why it’s hard to let go of clutter” as someone who finds it, shall we say, less than easy to throw anything out.
Things that have been in boxes unopened since I moved in, suddenly become things that might “really come in handy one day”, as soon as the prospect of throwing then away looms.
In my therapy practise I specialise in helping people stop smoking, so am always on the lookout for more insights and the latest findings about the neurology of smoking and addictions – so I was fascinated to find that the same areas of the brain are involved with smoking, OCD and hoarding!
Structures called the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula are areas of the brain involved in conflict and pain, and, for a smoker wanting to quit, these are the culprits responsible for those overwhelming feelings of “something is wrong – got to have a cigarette”. The more you want to stop, the stronger the urge.
What is so interesting to me is that these areas are also involved in creating the anxiety and that feeling of “something is not right” involved in OCD and, indeed the anxiety caused to hoarders by the thought of throwing something away.
For me, this opens out even more possibilities for therapy. By having an understanding of this mechanism it is already possible to break the cycle that would otherwise lead to the cravings associated with quitting smoking, so that it is completely possible to stop smoking without the cravings. By utilising the same approach, we could also have new tools for helping to relieve the compulsions that can be so debilitating to those who live with them…
… and maybe it is about time I threw out those boxes!
By Cathy Simmons
For a really interesting read about what leads to the build up of compulsions and what may also possibly be behind hoarding have a look at the article
Secrets for self-control without suffering
by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
Why It’s Hard to Let Go of Clutter
A new brain imaging study finds that letting go is literally painful. – Psychology Today
A new study finds that for many, letting go is literally painful.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine recruited both non-hoarders and hoarders, and then asked them to sort through items like junk mail and old newspapers. Some of the items belonged to the experimenter, and some actually belonged to the participant. Participants had to decide what to keep and what to toss. While this was happening, researchers tracked their brain activity.
Unlike non-hoarders, hoarders showed increased activity in two regions of the brain when confronted with their own junk. Those two areas: the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula. And the more a hoarder reported feeling “not right” about throwing something out, the stronger this pattern of activation was.
When I read this very specific finding, I had an instant feeling of recognition. I know that neural signature. Both are these regions of the brain are associated with conflict and pain — and you see the same pattern of brain activation in other forms of psychological pain.
Contact: Hypnotherapy Glasgow, Linda Alexander on 07875 493 358 and 0141 632 1440