We all go through times when thoughts tend to overwhelm us, but what if these thoughts and images were so intrusive in nature that it manifests into physical symptoms such as trouble falling asleep, an inability to relax, difficulty concentrating, and low self-image with somatic complaints of headache? Well, that’s what 20-year-old Natasha* was going through when she came to us. What seemed to aggravate the situation was the fact that she believed these thoughts were true and lacked proper awareness. Natasha* went through various medical examinations that did not indicate any physical basis for her concerns. Not getting any respite for her condition, she came to The Mind Research Foundation in order to seek some clarity as to what was going on with her.

The initial therapy sessions with Natasha* started with forming a mutual bond with her and understanding the nature of her thoughts and how her experiences in her childhood have shaped her as a person. Post this, it was identified that Natasha* had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Natasha* was initially psycho-educated about the disorders and the importance of medications and therapy to help her manage these. Even though she opposed medications, she was open to therapy and it was initiated by giving her a thought log to write about her automatic thoughts and behavior. After she was able to pinpoint the automatic thoughts, emotions, and behavior she had, it was discovered that Natasha* went through intrusive thoughts of being the ‘victim of an acid attack’ and a ‘victim of a geyser blast’ that will blemish or damage her face due to which she constantly seek reassurance from her parents regarding her low self-image. Natasha* repeatedly experienced thoughts that if she paid attention to her appearance only, then God would punish her by making her the victim of an acid attack or geyser blast.

After listening to and thoroughly understanding her thought patterns, our psychologist began by teaching her formal mindfulness techniques in order to promote relaxation in her. As for the repeated intrusive thoughts, she was again psycho-educated about thought-action fusion which is the tendency of individuals to assume that certain thoughts increase the likelihood of catastrophic events. It was further taught and normalized to her that the occurrence of intrusive thoughts is irrelevant to taking any further action against them and that being hyperaware is not really helpful for her negative thoughts. As the sessions progressed, Natasha* was able to restructure her thoughts to more helpful ones which hence reduced her seeking reassurance from her parents.

Now, Natasha* is doing much better and there is more than a considerable amount of improvement in her negative and intrusive thoughts and reassurance-seeking behavior

(*name changed for anonymity)