To combat obsessive-compulsive disorders related to cleanliness, Anglo-American researchers used a method known as the rubber hand illusion where the patients were made to feel as though their hands were covered in feces.
Facing one’s biggest fears to overcome them
American and British researchers have demonstrated the value of an unusual method in patients with OCD associated with cleanliness. They used an illusion known in the world of neuroscience as the rubber hand illusion. By using this method patients are given the impression that they are exposed to feces in the hope to reduce the intensity of their OCD.
Fooling the brain with a rubber hand
The illusion of the rubber hand was identified in 1988 by two American researchers. It involves asking an individual to place both hands on a table. One hand is hidden and a rubber hand is placed on the table. The researchers perform the same action on the rubber hand as on the hidden hand: rubbing them together, for example. After a few minutes, the person has the impression that the rubber hand is his, so any form of brutality towards the rubber object will scare him. At the same time, if the person is asked to close his eyes and touch the hidden hand, the left hand, for example, will hesitate between the hidden hand and the rubber hand or touch the rubber hand directly.
Soft chocolate that smells like feces
In the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers explain how they used the rubber hand method to combat hygiene-related OCD. After simultaneously tickling the hidden hand and the rubber hand, they covered the false hand with soft chocolate, sprinkled with a product that smells like feces. At the same time, their hidden hand was rubbed with a wet tissue. The 29 participants felt that their hands were covered with feces and that their discontent increased as the experience progressed. Extrapolating these results from other studies, the researchers assume that by repeating the operation, participants should feel less and less anxious.
For scientists, this is less violent than exposure therapies-when OCD patients are directly confronted with their phobia. According to their data, 25% of OCD patients reject this type of therapy because it causes them too much anxiety.