What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition characterized by thoughts of obsessing over the same thing and indulging in compulsive behaviors. Engaging in certain repetitive acts is an attempt to reduce anxiety that results from having undesirable thoughts. Many individuals with OCD are frequently aware that these ideas and behaviors aren’t rational but still are not capable of resisting their compulsions. This is because once the brain becomes engaged in a particular idea or urge, and it’s too difficult not to give into the situation. It’s common for a person to experience several emotions that can result in ritualistic behavior; however compulsive behaviors will provide some relief from the stressor. For example, anxiety can increase when things aren’t done flawlessly, leading to a desire to behave compulsively. When OCD is at its most severe form, it can prevent an individual from performing their daily responsibilities that are essential for a healthy quality of life.
Studies show that 1 in 50 men and women have OCD in the United States alone. In many cases, there are other mental health disorders that accompany OCD, such as suffering from additional anxiety disorders, having an eating disorder, or possibly living with depression. It’s common for individuals with OCD to work towards avoiding certain situations, which could contribute to an increase in social isolation. Additionally, living with this OCD can lead to substance abuse. Addiction is a coping mechanism that attempts to help a person with OCD remain calm or escape from the emotional anguish they may feel.
Symptoms of OCD: Understanding Obsessions and Compulsions
Individuals with OCD typically have a variety of obsessions and compulsions that can present a wide range of challenges. However, some people may experience only obsessions or compulsions but not both. The severity of symptoms may change over time but often worsens during excessive periods of high stress or anxiety.
It’s common for the frequency of both obsessions and compulsions to increase when you are going through a difficult time. This could be something as simple as having a bad day or could be more pronounced, like working through a job loss or grieving the loss of a loved one. For instance, dealing with life situations like a medical emergency or financial challenges can increase stress, and this may translate to a more severe episode of OCD.
Most individuals with OCD can relate to one of the following behavior categories:
Hand washing: Having a great deal of fear about germs or dirt can lead to an obsession with keeping parts of the body clean. This behavior may become so severe that a person with OCD washes their hands dozens of times per day, causing skin irritation or bleeding.
Counting and fixing things: Wanting to place items in a precise manner that may include arrangements by numbers or colors, is common in people who have OCD. If any details are out of place, it can cause a lot of emotional distress and worry. Failing to have these things in the correct numerical order or right placement isn’t just unacceptable, but it can create anxiety so intense that it results in panic attacks. The amount of time it requires to organize these things correctly doesn’t matter for an individual that suffers from OCD because their behaviors are not part of a rational thought process.
Having doubt or negative thoughts: In many cases, a person with OCD will have recurring thoughts about violence. These can include various forms of violence that may range from minor harmful ideas to more significant and disturbing ones. Most of these urges and ideas may be prohibited by religious beliefs and engaging in this type of activity may lead to a compulsion to pray excessively. This behavior can lead to a great deal of inner conflict which makes it more likely to feel emotional turmoil.
Re-checking things: For people with OCD, there is an ongoing need to check and re-check things frequently, such as locking doors, turning off the stove, or closing the garage. Most individuals experiencing severe bouts of OCD may leave home and turn around to go back and check again repeatedly. This can result in being late for work, missing appointments, and disrupting daily routines.
Hoarding items: People with OCD often have an intense fear of losing items that may be necessary to have, and this creates the need to hoard things. Engaging in this activity can generate a lot of concern from other family members, while also taking up too much living space in the home. Hoarding can make it impossible to have a healthy home to live in, and can potentially contribute to the spread germs and illness. In severe cases, hoarding may become so excessive that it can be difficult to walk through the home with ease.
Repetitive behavior: For many people with OCD, it’s common to be repetitive in many daily activities. Doing the same thing over and over to ensure that it’s right can take a tremendous amount of effort and consume a lot of time in the process. Engaging in repetitive activity is a very unproductive way to get through any day.
Keep in mind the more severe the OCD is, the worse the obsessions and compulsions may be. This can vary a great deal for one person to the next but getting the proper treatment can offer the help that is necessary.
Find Treatment for OCD
Looking on the positive side of OCD, there are many useful treatments and complementary self-help strategies that are useful in dealing with this condition. Self-care can significantly reduce the symptoms of OCD and help allow for a more normal way of life. Working with a licensed professional is the key to finding the treatment type to meet the needs of any individual with this condition.
It’s essential to choose the right treatment to get optimal results and allow for a higher quality of life in both the short and long-term. This means only relying on therapists with the expertise and previous training to accurately diagnose and treat OCD with either medication, psychotherapy, or in many cases, a combination of both. Some of the treatment options for OCD include:
It’s possible to treat OCD with prescription drugs. However, to get an individualized treatment plan, it’s essential to visit an OCD specialist. After your visit, you may receive a prescription for medication that can help reduce OCD symptoms. Taking time to find a pharmacy that is convenient and affordable to fill the medication is always essential and one thing that you will want to do beforehand.
Having a thorough evaluation of the severity of your OCD and its impact on your day-to-day activities is an important component of finding the right medication and the correct dosage. Keep in mind; it may take some time for any medicine to begin to work and to get the full benefits of taking it. In some cases, it can take up to six or eight weeks for people to feel the full effects of medication, so patience is an important part of finding the right prescription for you.
In addition to medication, many healthcare providers recommend psychotherapy to minimize the effects of OCD. Knowing some of the various forms of psychotherapy may be helpful when looking for OCD treatment:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This method of treatment can be extremely beneficial for people that suffer from OCD. In CBT, you will work on identifying obsessive thoughts that may lead to having increased feelings of anxiety, and you will work on replacing this mode of thinking with one that is more realistic. It’s important to work closely with a therapist to obtain the results you want during this process.
Exposure therapy (ET): Allowing an individual to confront their fears in an environment that is both safe and controlled can be helpful when it comes to reducing the impact of OCD. Engaging in this type of therapy may encourage this individual to become more desensitized to specific situations that commonly trigger their anxiety.
Studies show that a combination of medication and CBT or ET are the best remedies for OCD. A combination treatment is often the recommendation of OCD specialists because of the fast and efficient results that are obtainable.
Working closely with a therapist can be the key to helping you to live a higher quality of life when OCD is present. This will require the right amount of effort, discipline, and time but is entirely possible with and professional guidance.
There are numerous self-help strategies that can be used in dealing with OCD’s various challenges, and these activities are easy to do on your own outside of therapy sessions:
Mindful breathing: Taking control of the day can often begin by becoming more in tune with the mind and body. A great way to accomplish this task is by taking deep breaths and focusing on breathing throughout the day. Mindfulness may help any person remain more focused and less likely to get off track by having obsessive or compulsive thoughts. Learning meditation can be a great way to handle OCD better and to help keep it under control. Mindful breathing is easy to learn, allowing you to practice techniques at your own pace.
Keeping a journal: Working to maintain a record of what’s going on throughout each day is an ideal way to feel more in tune with the mind and body. This will only take a few minutes to accomplish and may be extremely helpful in reducing many of the obsessions that are common for OCD sufferers. One thing that is necessary for having success with this self-help strategy is being consistent with the effort. Doing this can provide a thorough record of what’s going on each day and may be extremely helpful when it comes to living with OCD. In addition to its practical purposes, journaling is an enjoyable activity that many people find useful for reducing the stress and anxiety that accompany OCD.
Sleeping well: Getting into the habit of getting enough rest each night can be beneficial for coping with OCD. Being well-rested can contribute to a calmer mind, which is helpful for anyone with OCD. It’s possible to experience more OCD symptoms if you are tired or have a diminished capacity to concentrate on the task at hand each day. In some cases, your doctor may recommend sleep medication to allow you to get the rest the body needs to feel as well as possible.
Joining a support group: Communicating with others that struggle with the challenges of OCD can be a great way to manage this condition. Learning effective daily coping strategies with the help of other people with OCD is an excellent way to feel supported in your journey to living a full and healthy life. Having a group that is accessible and willing to provide the necessary support can be extremely helpful for any individual with OCD.
Find OCD Counseling
If you or another person you know is suffering from OCD, it’s entirely possible to get the help that is necessary to live a more productive and normal life. Search the TherapyTribe directory for an OCD specialist that has the expertise, training, and knowledge to help you overcome the challenges that may accompany your condition.
Taking the necessary amount of time to learn more about treatment options for OCD is well worth the effort so you can benefit from the help that is available. Finding a therapist in your area to provide the assistance you need is effective in reducing the obsessions, compulsions, and anxiety that are common with OCD.
Another beneficial treatment option involves working with an online therapist. Online therapy is a convenient way to access the professional guidance you need. Living a healthy life with OCD is possible with the help of the right therapist who will offer suggestions and recommendations that enable you to live a positive and productive life, free from the burden of struggling with OCD on your own.