By Brian Robinson.
Here is a thought: if there was no such thing as language, there would be no anxiety disorders, no OCD and no intrusive thoughts. Although it is true that in some cases the intrusive thoughts involved with OCD take the form of images, the vast majority of intrusions come in the form of words or dialogue.
Although we should never abandon the idea of applying reason to the OCD intrusive thought, that thought will always dominate to some degree. You cannot simply reason your way out of OCD. Recovery comes via experience and the use of therapies such as Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy. This is where the OCD sufferer delays doing the compulsion, and as a consequence, the OCD mind relaxes as nothing bad happens as a result of this exposure to the assumed danger. Words do not work: but the right sorts of actions or behaviours do.
Before language was invented, when people used to communicate via grunts and gestures, most of the processing that went on in the brain was done in the form of pictures. And the brain was very good at making sense of the world in that way. It still is. Now, language has to a large extent taken over the role of understanding the world. However, when it fails, as with OCD, perhaps we should go back to the use of images or pictures. And indeed, the use of visualisation, videos and pictures is now used widely in many therapeutic approaches with a variety of disorders.
When using a visual approach to helping with intrusive thoughts, it could be as simple as looking at pictures or videos of something good happening as opposed to fretting about something nasty happening. For example, if you fear something horrible is going to happen to your dog, you might look at videos of dogs safely at play. Or if you worry involves someone close to you, you could look at pictures of them when they are laughing and happy. We should never underestimate the power that visual input can have on the mind. After all, they say a picture paints a thousand words.