What Dr. Luke has to say about Distracted Thinking and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Today Dr. Luke will continue to talk about the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but how in many ways it affects our thinking. 

Li Xiao was a 35 year old man who lived in a small town in the western part of China. He was a farmer. He enjoyed farming but farming was hard work for him and his wife. They had one son 8 years old. Li Xiao really like his farming work but he also knew that over the past year or so and especially the past few months he had a hard time focusing on his work. Even his wife and son commented on this. They said he appeared distracted. What was most bothering thought to Li Xiao was not the distracted thinking but some habits he had developed but could not stop. In fact the habits were only getting worse and not better regardless of what he tried.

Li Xiao was continually washing his hands as he was concerned about getting sick from the work he was doing and he was also constantly going back and checking to see if the work he had done was appropriate or not. He had not told anyone about this as he was concerned they would think him strange. Plus he was not interested at all in being embarrassed about this. He had enough things to worry about.

One day a friend came to Li Xiao’s house to visit and noticed that over one hour he washed his hands five or six times. Li Xiao’s friend asked him why.  He responded that he was concerned about getting sick from his work. This did not make sense to his friend, also a farmer. Li Xiao’s friend then asked him what he was concerned about as nothing had changed and he had been a farmer for years.  This question caused Li Xiao to talk to his friend about his concerns.  He mentioned his distracted thinking, constant checking on things and constant hand washing.  Li Xiao told his friend he did not know what to do.

His friend was a nice man and much older than Li Xiao, in fact about 55 years old. Li Xiao’s friend suggested they go to the hospital and talk with the doctor about this. At first Li Xiao thought he would be embarrassed in doing this but his friend convinced that he needed to find out what was going on. This convinced Li Xiao to go to the hospital which they did the next week.

After seeing the doctor and having blood tests done the doctor told Li Xiao that his symptoms were not serious in the sense of having permanent problems which would harm him. However, the doctors told Li Xiao that he did need to understand what was happening and work towards a solution or he would only get worse.

The doctor told Li Xiao and his friend that in addition to obsessive thinking, the individual with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder may also have compulsions.  A compulsion is a behavior which the individual feels compelled to do or forced to do, even when they consciously do not feel that the behavior is necessary or appropriate.  Many times, the individual will feel that they must perform the compulsive behavior or something bad may happen to them or to others that they love.  The person will usually know that the behavior does not, in actuality, prevent bad things from occurring, but the person feels forced to do the behavior anyway.  They understand that doing these behaviors is abnormal and, usually, feel that they are weird for having to do them.  Because of these feelings, they generally hide the symptoms from others and do not even tell their physicians about them.  Thus, they will usually go years without treatment.  Li Xiao was amazed. This described him exactly. How did the doctor know this?  The doctor told Li Xiao that many people have this disorder and they all have similar symptoms. However, few people come forward for help.

The doctor went onto tell Li Xiao that compulsive behaviors can come in several forms.  The person may do one type of compulsive behavior at one time in their life, stop that behavior spontaneously, and then began performing another type of compulsive behavior.  The various types of compulsive behaviors are as follows:

One of the more frequent compulsive behaviors is checking.  In this compulsion, the individual feels forced to check things repeatedly.  For example, the person may check blocks on their doors repeatedly each day.  They may feel that they have to checking each locking a certain number of times or, simply, that they must check it several times.  The individual feels uncertain as to whether the lock is actually locked and this uncertainty can only be relieved by checking repeatedly.  The person may feel compelled to check any number of things.  Other, checking behaviors are to check their stove to make sure that it is turned off or curling irons to make sure that they are disconnected. This was what Li Xiao was doing and in fact getting worse. He was glad to begin to see that he was not crazy and that other people had this and the doctor understood his problem.

The doctor went onto tell Li Xiao that a second to compulsion is called contamination fear.  In this compulsion, the person is afraid of terms, dirt or contamination.  Because of this fear, they will wash their hands repeatedly during the day.  They may wash their hands so frequently that their hands become drying and bleeding.  The fear of contamination may also cause the individual to wash other objects or to avoid touching things for fear of contamination. Again, Li Xiao was amazed. This sounded so much like him. It was as if the doctor had watched him and then told his findings about Li Xiao.

Another compulsion, the doctor told Li Xiao about is counting.  The individual with this symptom feels the need to count things.  They may count the number of steps going into a building or the number of pains in a window.  They may also count things like the number of words in a sentence or the number of trucks passing them on a highway.

A final category of compulsive behavior the doctor told Li Xiao about is called ordering.  This is when a person puts great importance on things being in a certain place or in a certain order.  They become very disturbed when things are moved out of their place.  They may spend a great deal of time moving things around to put him in the exact place or order that they feel is appropriate.

The doctor then told Li Xiao that some compulsive behaviors may fit into more than one category.  The individual may have a tendency to be a perfectionist about many things.  They may have a tendency to count behaviors while checking or while performing another ritual.  These behaviors may also fit into attempts to ward off the obsessions mentioned earlier. Li Xiao thought this fit him well.

The doctor then told Li Xiao and his friend that what was most important was that he begin to work on solutions to the problems he had. They had covered a lot of material. What was most important was that they pick areas to start working on. He wanted Li Xiao to go home and think about which areas were the most important and they would talk again about solutions. This seemed fine to Li Xiao. At least he was moving in the right direction.

The next day Li Xiao’s friend told Li Xiao that he also had someone else who he thought could help Li Xiao with his problems. That person was Jesus Christ. Li Xiao’s friend told him that he was the Savior of the world. Because he was this he could help us with our problems and give us purpose and meaning in life.  He showed Li Xiao a place in his Bible which said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4.18, 19).’  Li Xiao’s friend explained that Jesus had the spirit of God on Him and as such he could help him to be released from his sin and his problems. Li Xiao was very interested in this. 

But how could this happen?  Who and where was this person Jesus? Li Xiao’s friend told him that Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago in what is current day Israel.  His friend read in another place in the Bible, ‘it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5.31, 32).’  Li Xiao’s friend said that the main problem in the world is the sin in the world. That separates us from God and that separation is what destroys our lives and our peace with God. Li Xiao was very interested in this Jesus and what he could offer to his life.

Li Xiao and his friend had no more time to discuss Jesus Christ. As they parted Li Xiao’s friend gave him a Bible and showed him some places to read.  The following day they returned to the hospital to talk with the doctor.

As Li Xiao and his friend resumed their discussion with the doctor he told them it is very important to remember that the person who is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder understands that these behaviors are abnormal, may try to resist the behaviors or thoughts that seem to be unable to do so.  They do not simply choose to do these things and, therefore, they cannot simply choose to stop them.

The doctor told them that recent research supports the idea that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has a biological cause.  There appears to be a genetic basis since persons with close relatives who have obsessive compulsive disorder have a higher chance of getting the disorder themselves.  Sometimes, the fact that a person's relatives may have hidden the disorder makes finding such a family history difficult.

Li Xiao asked if there was any treatment for this disorder. Fortunately, the doctor said, there are effective treatments for this disorder.  Several medications that were originally designed for the treatment of depression have also been found to be very effective for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  When patients take these medications, they will frequently find the need to perform the compulsive behaviors reduced significantly.  They will also say that they did not have the obsessive thoughts or worrying thoughts nearly as frequently.  Because of the reduced symptoms, patients will experience a reduction in anxiety and will usually find that their lives are much more positive.

A second treatment that has been found to be very effective is counseling in counseling, the person is first helped to understand the nature of the obsessions and compulsion's.  Then, the person is helped to go through a series of exercises called exposure and response prevention.  In these exercises, the patient is helped to do the opposite of what the compulsion would usually lead them to do.  For example, a person who has a fear of contamination might be asked to purposefully dirty their hands and prevent themselves from washing them for a short period of time.  They would be talked to relax while performing these exercises.  Most patients who complete this treatment indicate that they experience a significant reduction in their symptoms.

Li Xiao was very encouraged by the news of the treatment options. After discussing them more with the doctor he decided to at present not take the medication and focus on the counseling options and exercises.  As Li Xiao and his friend left the doctors office Li Xiao asked his friend again about this person Jesus Christ.  Though Li Xiao did not know much about Jesus Christ he did know from what he read he needed help and wanted to accept Jesus Christ into his life to save him from his sin which he believed was at the root of all of his problems. Li Xiao’s friend showed him a place in the Bible which said, ‘for by grace you have been saved through faith, it is a gift from God so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2.8, 9).’ His friend explained that we trust in God’s work through Jesus Christ on the cross as he died on the cross for our sins. If we believe this and that he rose from the dead we will be saved. Li Xiao believed this.

Li Xiao’s friend asked him to pray this prayer after him. ‘Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I know that my sin has separated me from you. I believe that you died on the cross for me. I also believe that after you died three days later you rose from the dead. I ask that you forgive my sins and come into my life to give me a new life. Thank you for doing this. Amen.’

After Li Xiao accepted Jesus Christ into his life he had more and more peace and purpose. He learned how to control worry, anxiety and other problems through reading God’s Word. Slowly over time he had less and less problems with his obsessive thoughts.

You too can have the same new life in Jesus Christ if you will also ask him into your life as Li Xiao did.