Psychological Self-Help

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Obsessions and compulsions (books and sites)
About 2.4 million Americans are compelled to repeat useless and
distressing rituals, like hand washing, counting or lock checking, or
thoughts, like "I am going to die soon." The excessive, senseless,
uncontrollable behaviors are compulsions; the excessive, useless,
invasive thoughts are obsessions (worries, focus on your looks,
attraction to pornography, etc.). If the person tries hard to block these
acts or thoughts from happening, he/she will become very anxious,
often feeling as though something awful will happen. Compulsions and
obsessions seem to be both a result of anxiety and a means of briefly
reducing anxiety. These acts appear to start with magical thinking,
namely, the wishful idea that an action or thought by them will reduce
some risk or some unpleasant feeling. For instance, Howard Hughes,
the famous billionaire aircraft designer and movie producer, became
afraid of touching things because of possible contamination. So, being
afraid of germs, he became compulsively clean. Eventually, he avoided
almost everything, staying locked in his apartment for many years.
Even his eating utensils were eventually sterilized, the handles
wrapped in tissue, then wrapped with tape, and finally wrapped with
tissue paper again before he would touch them. What is truly amazing
is that he--with all his smarts and money--didn't get treatment.
Shame and hiding the problem are parts of the illness. 
If I believe the initial-but-wrong ideas, e.g. that a little dirt is
dangerous and that washing my hands can save me from some
dreaded disease, then washing my hands reduces my fear. Even
though the compulsive person knows, when he/she thinks about it,
that it is a foolish idea, he/she keeps on washing his/her hands (or
checking the locks) because he/she temporarily feels better. Due to
this negative reinforcement, the behavior grows stronger and stronger.
One compulsive hand washer, reported by Hodgson and Miller (1982),
was originally afraid of catching her brother's schizophrenia. She
started washing her hands after being near the brother, but the
compulsion spread (generalized) to many objects around the house so
that years later she was washing her hands several hours a day. She
knew the washing was irrational but felt relief and couldn't stop. First,
there is a repeated scary thought--an obsession--and, then, a ritual--a
compulsion--is used over and over to reduce the fear; thus, it is
different from a bad habit, like nail biting, which is not motivated by
great fear. 
Freudians see these symptoms differently; they believe
compulsions and obsessions have an underlying driving force which is
unconscious. Example: if a highly moral person were in a very
unhappy marriage, a primitive, angry part of him/her (the id or the
"child") may want to do away with the partner. Of course, being a
good person overall, the person is not about to kill the spouse.
Instead, the aggression is turned inward, with the unconscious logic
going like this: "My spouse is in danger of being killed. I am the
murderer; therefore, I must die." The result of this internal struggle is
a frightening, uncontrollable obsession--a conscious inner voice--that
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