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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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I have a very dear friend who, under relatively minor (e.g.

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I have a very dear friend who, under relatively minor (e.g. possibly running late for a film) or major (e.g. being in a rather untidy, but beautiful, home) will repeat the rather obvious fact, i.e. risk of running late, home needs tidying up, in batches of between seven & fifteen times per batch. This can go on until we left for the film (made it comfortably each time) or all day (untidy home). This can be extremely frustrating, distracting and counter productive. Could I ask what sort of condition this is? Evern after I've discussed this with her, she doesn't appear to be aware that she's doing it. What (or who) could help?

It is impossible to diagnose at a distance, but given what you have said, it seems likely that she may be suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

There is a lot of useful information about the disorder here.

This is a very difficult situation, and to be honest, there is no simple solution.

Until someone with a problem accepts that there is a problem, they won’t do anything about solving it. That’s the first hurdle. The second is convincing them that help is available, and that the should accept it.

Sustained gentle persuasion is at least part of the answer. Just being there to listen, and letting the person know that you are there for them may let them build up enough trust inside themselves to begin to deal with it.

You may not to be able to solve their problem, or for that matter understand how they feel, but just listening and letting them talk can be really helpful.

Getting people to open up can be difficult. It has to be done sensitively so that the person does not feel put down or alienated. A gentle approach like ‘It must be difficult feeling as you do. Perhaps we could talk about it? is often the best start.

Choose your time and place carefully if possible so that the person feels as safe and as comfortable as possible.

Try to make sure that the person feels that you are on their side, and try to use ‘open questions’ – ones that don’t allow a simple “Yes” or “No” answer.

If your friend can be persuaded to accept help, then I’m going to suggest that she would benefit from some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also causes the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.

These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.

If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,

the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.

Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.

Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.

Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.

Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:

If she cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:

Also, there is a book called ”Feeling good - the new mood therapy” by Dr. David Burns. It has a hand book which gives you practical exercises to work through and further instructions on how to better use CBT. I really do recommend it.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies By Rhena Branch, Rob Willson is also pretty good.

Best wishes, NormanM

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