Complementary or alternative therapies


When making decisions about what treatments to pursue, ask yourself

Where did I find this information?

Is this a source that I can trust?

What might be there intentions (i.e. sell a product for the sole purpose of making money rather than assisting a person, etc)

Is there any valid research that supports this method (i.e. data published by a reputable organisation)

What do I want to achieve through this treatment (or tool or diet, etc.)?

Can it do me any harm? (Please note: Sometimes the answer to this question isn’t obvious. It is especially important to do your own research and consult a doctor if you are going to ingest any medication, herb, vitamin or alter your diet. Even seemingly benign substances, such as St.John’s Wort, can have harmful effects if ingested in too great a quantity or in combination with certain other conditions or medications.)

On what basis do I believe that this treatment will help me (i.e. is it supposed to reduce the symptoms, etc.)? Is this enough for me to use this treatment?

What is the likelihood of this method being useful compared to other options (this is where research and discussions with other professionals may be of assistance)?

Can I afford the money, time or emotional energy involved in pursuing this idea?
How to evaluate Health Information on the Internet
Visit FDA evaluation guidelines – here

OCD: Complementary Therapies & Alternative Treatments

While the current therapy of choice for OCD is medication and behavioural and/or cognitive therapy there is a place for other forms of treatment. Several research studies have shown that psychosocial support is of benefit. Support groups where members can meet, discuss and help each other are particularly important in the case of OCD where people frequently suffer in silence and isolation for many years. A support group helps to heal isolation, alienation and loneliness which is very much part of the experience of OCD.  

Life Style Changes

People suffering with OCD may need to make important lifestyle changes to be able to manage their OCD. It may mean reducing one’s stress levels by changing one’s job (if it is too stressful), or attending to relationship issues, as well as developing nurturing skills towards oneself and others. Research evidence has emerged which shows that the healing power of intimacy, of having a close connection with family, friends and community for all kinds of anxiety disorders (Ornish, 1998). Healing involves far more than techniques or strategies. It frequently involves a significant shift in ones attitude to life and concrete changes in how one lives ones life.

Caring for the body

A holistic way of dealing with anxiety would pay attention to taking care of ones physical body realising that when one is feeling physically unwell, fatigued or under conditions of stress or trauma that one is more likely to be prone to negative or irrational thinking than when one is feeling relaxed and healthy. Methods of achieving relaxation include abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided visualisation meditation and yoga. Meditation or ‘mindful awareness’ in particular has been found to be of value in dealing with OCD(Schwartz, 1996). In his book Brain Lock (1996), Dr Schwartz has developed a four step programme which utilises the notion of detachment or mindfulness for the treatment of OCD. During mindfulness meditation one views all one’s experience as novel, one learns to detach and to become an impartial witness to one’s own thoughts and feelings. This method is particularly valuable in the case of obsessive thoughts.

Energy Balance

A holistic approach of dealing with anxiety in general and specifically with OCD promotes the notion of mind- body integration. The idea of energy balance is the basis of many Eastern and Chinese medical systems. According to these systems all disease can be traced back to a block in energy systems. Different methods can be employed, which helps to release blocked energy sources. These methods include Yoga, Tai Chi (a form of moving meditation), acupuncture and various types of massage.


Regular physical exercise has been shown to be of benefit in reducing anxiety and depression and may have a place to play in the management of OCD (Cooper 1985, Bourne 1998). Exercise has a direct impact on several physiological factors that underlie anxiety. It reduces skeletal muscle tension, it increases the metabolism of excess adrenaline and thyroxin in the blood, and discharges pent up frustrations, which can aggravate phobic or panic states (Bourne, 1998;56 ). Finally it has been established that regular exercise can raise serotonin levels (which is what anti-depressants do).


Over the past 20 years more research is confirming the relationship between anxiety and diet. Caffeine in particular has been found to be responsible for aggravating anxiety and triggering panic attacks. It is also important to reduce the amount of sugar consumed and eat a well balanced diet high in fibre and vegetables and low in fats. Recent scientific evidence is emerging that suggests that people suffering from anxiety disorders should decrease there level of carbohydrates in proportion to fats and protein (Sears, 1995). It may also be important to supplement the diet with vitamins, particularly vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium and calcium that are rapidly depleted when a person is under stress.

Herbal Medicine

Herbs have been used for hundreds of years to bring about a state of relaxation. Some of the natural remedies used for anxiety and depression include kava kava, valerian root, ginkgo biloba and St Johns Wort. Research is beginning to emerge which suggests that St John’s Wort may be useful in the treatment of OCD. A word of caution, please check with your physician before taking herbal medicines as they should not be taken in conjunction with antidepressants. Other complementary therapies that may be useful include homeopathy and craniosacral therapy.

Counselling and Psychotherapy

The therapy of choice in the treatment of OCD is behavioural therapy and/or cognitive therapy. For many people this is very effective, and long-term “insight” psychotherapy is neither necessary or effective. However for some people who are not making progress using this approach it may be helpful to explore past traumas, unresolved or current stressors, self defeating attitudes and behaviours. A wide range of therapeutic model are available which include body orientated therapies, relationship- centred psychotherapy, gestalt therapy and a host of other therapeutic approaches. In recent years Dr Jeffrey Schwartz at the UCLA school of medicine in the United States has developed a self-directed cognitive-behavioural therapy called the Four Steps Self Treatment Method, which is proving to be of benefit in the treatment of OCD (Brain lock, 1996).

The Linden Method

Professor Paul Salkovskis’ critique of the linden method can be found here.


A broad view of dealing with OCD is presented in this section. This perspective is not intended as an alternative or substitute to orthodox Western Medicine but may be useful in providing a range of complementary therapies, which take into account the whole person . ‘Holistic care addresses the person who has the disease rather than the disease the person has’ (Benor, 2000:6).

Trich: Complementary Therapies & Alternative Treatments

There have been reports from people with Trich that suggests dietary changes, exercise, hypnosis and some other treatments may be helpful. Unfortunately there has not been conclusive research to support these suggestions as of yet.

Tips for managing Trichotillomania.

The document below contains a collection of ideas from people who have TTM/Trich on how to substitute the sensory stimulation and emotional soothing that the pulling provides for you. Feel free to share your tips with OCD Ireland of what works for you.

Support Groups For Trichotillomania

An important option is support groups, such as OCD Ireland. Since people who have Trich experience a lot of shame, embarrassment and isolation, groups provide an important and effective method of support. In these groups, people discuss their own personal experiences and successes as well as new information regarding Trich. Regardless of what treatment anyone undertakes it is important to have a good and understanding support system behind him or her. In other words, family members and friends would be encouraged to read up on Trich and its treatment. This way, rather than perhaps being angry or upset that the individual continues to wash his/her hands, the family member will be able to make more positive suggestions and they will also have more positive coping mechanisms for themselves.

John Kender Diet

John Kender, a lecturer in Columbia University, America, devised this diet. He created this to help him manage his own Trich. This diet, otherwise known as the JK Diet, suggests an avoidance from certain foods such as peanuts, caffeine and sugar. Unfortunately this has been no research as this time about the effectiveness of this diet but there are some people who have made positive reports about this alternative treatment.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Complementary Therapies

Very little research is available with respect to complimentary therapy for BDD, however some useful information can be found at the BDD Foundation.


OCD Ireland acknowledges the use of complimentary/alternative therapies for the treatment of OCD, BDD and/or TTM, however we request the reader acknowledge that for the majority of treatments presented above, the research evidence is unsubstantiated with respect to their efficacy. Any information obtained above should be viewed as non-directive and should not be considered Medical/Psychological advice or treatment. Furthermore we recommend seeking a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner prior to commencing any form of alternative therapy. OCD Ireland is not responsible for any emotional, psychological, or physical injury to any person or persons resulting from the direct or indirect utilisation of any of the public information listed above.