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299 of 308 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2001
I read Dr. Schwartz' book over 2 years ago while in the throes of a debilitating panic disorder fueled by OCD-like intrusive thoughts. Once the panic was under control (via meds) I started to search for a cognitive-behavioral treatment plan to control the obsessive thoughts. For years I tried to self-analyze the thoughts which amounted to pulling on one of those ropes which would further constrict the more you struggled. The panic disorder finally led me to a specialist who diagnosed both the panic and a mild form of OCD. I say mild since there are clearly OCD patients whose lives are extremely curtailed by the disorder such as incessant hand washing, fear of contamination, leaving the house, and so on. I'm fortunate not to suffer from this form of OCD, although I have experienced some agoraphobia, not uncommon with panic/OCD patients. As a result, I now understood that OCD (and panic) is nothing to be ashamed of and in fact is highly treatable due to recent, breakthrough advances in treating mental illness, medication being at the top of the list. Knowledge is power so no longer stigmatized, I was able to approach the problem as any other by looking for further research on treating the disorder and lucky for me, I came across the book "Brain Lock". "Brain Lock" demystifies OCD by attempting to explain the physiology behind the disorder. I am not medically trained but found the explanations plausible enough to continue on into the treatment phase. The most memorable, constantly reinforced phrase I recall from the book is that whenever you find yourself obsessing about an undesired thought, simply say to yourself "its not me its my OCD". Once that realization hits home, you shift ALL your focus to something else such as work, a good book, playing with your child, or anything activity that removes you from the obsessive "stuck in gear" pattern. It sounds simple but it DOES work. But you must work at it and the more acute the disorder the more difficult it is to shift control. That is where medication can be helpful as Dr. Schwartz points out. He doesn't really push meds put acknowledges it as a crutch to get the ball moving in the right direction. He claims that most, if not all his past patients at time of writing are off meds, using his 4-step, cognitive-behavioral process alone. That is remarkable! I have been on meds to control the panic but would probably go off it should the mild OCD be my only problem. Despite meds, I still run into occasional bouts with OCD but using Dr. Scwhartz's 4-step method, I am able to shift gears and move away from it quickly. As a result, I don't build up guilt and discomfort at having the thoughts in the first place since I don't give them time to fester as I had done in the past. "Its not me its my OCD". Again, Brain Lock is a great read for someone aware of having OCD and looking for a self-help method of controlling it.
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254 of 285 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2006
This book teaches OCD sufferers four steps to use to control their disorder, starting with "relabeling" their fears and urges as just a symptom of a disorder, rather than "something real." By reading the case studies, I figured out that "relabeling" means telling yourself, "My urge to perform my compulsive ritual is not a supernatural omen that something terrible will happen if I don't perform the ritual; it's just a symptom of OCD." The author never actually explains this, however.

The technique described in this book may be quite useful for people who have the most common form of OCD - a fear that something terrible will happen if they don't perform some ritual. However, it's not really clear how to apply the techniques in this book to forms of OCD that don't involve a fear of some catastrophe. For example, the author never really says (or gives a good example of) how to apply relabeling to a tendency to horde objects, an urge to pull out one's hair, an irrational belief that one is ugly, etc, although he claims his techniques work for all of these problems. I suspect that these other forms of OCD need a completely different approach.

Worse, the author makes it sound as if beating OCD is relatively straightforward, and that if his technique doesn't work, it can only be because the patient didn't try hard enough. He seems unwilling to consider that his approach may not work for everyone, preferring to place the blame on his patients instead. For example, he describes one patient, Brian, who had an intense fear of contamination from battery acid. Brian would sneak to the scene of car accidents in the middle of the night to apply baking soda, which he felt would "neutralize" the contamination from a possible car battery leak. Most of the case histories in this book are success stories, but in Brian's case, treatment was a failure and his story is presented as a way of illustrating the toll that OCD can take on the patient's family. From reading the case history, it seems clear to me that Brian had not only OCD, but also a phobia of batteries. For example, he was terrified if he saw a battery. (Unlike, say, OCD sufferers who check and re-check their stoves but aren't terrified by seeing a stove.) Given that Brian had a phobia of batteries, it might have helped to add a treatment for the phobia (e.g., systematic desensitization) to the OCD treatment, but it appears that the author never tried this. Instead, he concludes that treatment failure was all Brian's fault, saying that Brian must not have been motivated to overcome his OCD, even though Brian said the OCD made him so miserable that he wanted to die.

Also, the author seems quite opposed to long-term drug treatment (he trivializes drug therapy as being like "water wings" for swimmers) but never gives a reason why. He also is critical of OCD sufferers who are willing to put up with some residual symptoms, even if those symptoms aren't interfering much with their lives. These seem to be moral judgments, with no acknowledgement that patients are entitled to choose what treatment works best for them.

In conclusion, this book will be helpful for some OCD sufferers, but it is marred by a tendency to overstate the patient population who can benefit from the author's techniques, and a tendency to blame patients who don't have complete success with the author's techniques.
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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
This text, written by a psychiatrist experienced in treatment and research on OCD, presents a fairly simple but effective approach to dealing with troubling symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He demystifies the nature and symptoms of the disorder and explains the interaction of the biological and behavioral elements of OCD.
His program focuses on empowering the individual with OCD so that he or she can take an active role in decreasing or eliminating obsessions and compulsions. I often recommend the book to adults and adolescents who have OCD. When a person with OCD is engaged in cognitive-behavioral therapy, treatment is more successful if the individual feels empowered and does "homework" outside of the therapy session. This book reinforces this process.
I find that many people just do not have the time or patience to read an entire book, even one as good as this one. I have recommended the abridged audiocassette to a number of people who otherwise might never have been exposed to these concepts. Most of us commute enough to finish this cassette in less than a week.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2001
Intrusive thoughts were ruining my life and terrifying me. They became so frightening and horrible, I sought out a therapist. Finding little to no relief and still not knowing what was wrong I turned to Amazon.com with the simple search "scarey thoughts". By shear luck, I selected this book. I know it sounds dramatic, but the book saved my life. I was losing ground at work, having panic attacks, and basically falling apart. Reading this book gave me the tools to overcome my problem. I cannot recommend this book enough. I honestly thought I was going insane before reading this book. I went on to read other books about Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, but this book was the best. It's quick and easy to read and spent a great deal of time on "Intrusive Thoughts" which other books simply pass over.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2006
Brain Lock is a book for those that would like an overhead view of their disorder. It helped me feel a detachment from the disease, not so much by encouraging me to dissociate myself from it, but rather by describing it as part of my brain whose opinions I should feel free to ignore. With OCD, you know it isn't normal to think how you do, but you feel like there will be consequences if you ignore your compulsions or distract yourself from your obsessions. And so, we either perform our nonsensical tasks, or we spend countless hours and valuable brain cycles going through the many reasons NOT to perform said tasks.

One of the major revelations of Brain Lock is that BOTH of these responses play into the hands of the disorder. Either way, you are wasting your time and becoming unbelievably stressed out and not getting any closer to being rid of the problem. Only by looking at the thoughts as foreign and allowing yourself to move on to other business can you break yourself out of the cyclical thinking ("brain lock") that plagues us. I hope that you will find, as I have, that as the years progress, the brain lock subsides, and the real you emerges. It is not a cure, and there can be relapses. Despite this, it reminds me of exercising for years and getting injured. You are put out of your routine for a while, but once you are able to get back in the gym, you are not back where you were years ago. Your strength returns, and your progress resumes.

2010 Edit: Still doing well, but I wanted to join in with those recommending cognitive behavioral therapy (and ERP, and the rest of its friends). While this book was quite effective for me, it might be because I had/have a "pure obsession" type of OCD, where the compulsions are all performed mentally. These can include scrupulosity, health concerns, and counting. Exposure therapy is the gold standard for OCD (and phobias, and any disorder where there is an irrational anxiety/fear/disgust response that the brain fails to extinguish). This book has clearly worked for those with overt compulsions (checking, hoarding, cleaning), but I no longer consider it the first choice for such problems. This book does, indeed, recommend its own type of avoidance strategies. That said, the four steps encouraged me to refuse to engage in my mental rituals, accepting the concomitant distress as irrational and dismissible. In other words, this can be very effective exposure and acceptance therapy for pure obsession types of OCD.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2004
This audiocassette saved my life! Well, sort of. Three years ago I experienced an especially painful & stressful bout with Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD). A loved one gave me the "Brain Lock" audio book, and helped put me on the road to recovery.
The authors have developed a simple yet ingenious "four step" routine to perform when obsessions or compulsions strike. First, recognize that the thoughts are OCD; second, re-attribute the thoughts to false impulses generated by the brain; third, refocus your behavior on any mildly productive activity; fourth, revalue OCD thoughts as "waste product" of the mind. Each of the four steps is discussed in detail, with just enough scientific background given to educate (without confusing) the listener. The routine sounds simple, but does take a while to master; it helps to listen to the tape two or three times through to reinforce the method.
Dr. Schwartz reads the book with a compassionate tone, and delivers the content in a personal and effective manner. (I also recommend the original book, which expands upon the content presented in the audio book).
OCD is serious business; I wouldn't recommend this tape as an alternative to professional treatment. But as a supplement to therapy, "Brain Lock" is invaluable.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2006
I don't normally write reviews, but I feel really strongly about this one. I have "pure o" OCD which is harder to treat because there are no compulsions. Even so, this book (along with an amazing therapist) really saved me. Every night when I would lay there panicking about the terrible fears in my head, reading this book always helped me feel better (at the very least, it distracted me as is explained in the 4 steps). I wish I could give it more than 5 stars because it has such an amazingly positive impact on my mental health. After 5 years of living a much improved life by this system, I would highly recommend this to anyone with anxiety.

Another note to anyone recently diagnosed... Cognitive behavioral therapy is a good thing to look for in a therapist. I made the mistake of not asking when I first started with a new one and quickly realized that it terribly exacerbated my condition to see someone that just wanted to dig deep into the content of my OCD and why I would "want" these bad things to happen. Of course, I did not want them - I feared them. I just hope to help someone else before they fall into the same situation.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2002
As a sufferer of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, I found "Brain Lock" to be extremely helpful in finding new ways to break the habits of OC behavior. My counselor Mark introduced me to the book. Not only is it a comfort to read (including some witty comic strips), but it doesn't stick to the standard and sometimes ineffective methods of curing OCD (i.e...just stop it). The book gives us examples of the many different kinds of these symptoms and in turn, shows us many ways to help ourselves. This workbook also has a subtle touch that challenges all those who claim OCD to be the "common cold" of psychiatry. I recommend "Brain Lock" to anyone with OCD, but also for those who are learning to become psychiatrists, counselors, etcetera.
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76 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2006
I am a recovered from severe disabling OCD. When I first learned I had OCD 10 yrs ago, this was the first book on OCD I read and at the time I thought it was good & even tried practicing the first one or two R's. But, then I got into professional intensive treatment for my very severe, disabling OCD with the top CBT's & doctors, trained in the treatment of OCD in the country and I learned that ERP was the best treatment available for treating OCD (& OCD meds), not the 4 R's. The whole idea of OCD treatment is not to stop thinking about the OCD, but to exposure yourself to it, sit with it and resist doing the rituals. I found Schwartz's method tends to just replace a person's OCD symptoms with others. EX: By telling yourself, 'It's Not Me, It's My OCD', his first 'R', is just substituting one ritual with another. I have seen this happen first hand. There is a now a huge abundance of Excellent books on ERP, by all the top experts in the field, Jenike, Steketee, Baer, Grayson, Penzel, to name a few, all use ERP. I highly suggest reading about ERP so you will understand what it is and how and why it works, as well as visiting the OC Foundation website. It will help you do better in treatment.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 1999
A friend gave me this book and it is excellent. If you have OCD or even a related disorder it gives you a practical approach to learning to deal with and outsmart your disorder.
Take me, frinstance, while I do not have any checking compulsions, I have suffered from anxiety disorder and occasionally intrusive, disturbing thoughts for a number of years. (Other than that I am your regular guy, you wouldn't know I had a disorder if you saw me). This book gives you a 4-step method of "reframing" OCD in a way that makes it manageable. Ultimately, the authors say, by using their method you can "retrain your brain" and actually alter your brain chemistry in a positive direction and thus reduce the original symptoms to something liveable.
Buy it (or have a friend give it to you...) :-)
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