In the age of memes and GIFs, obsessive-compulsive disorder is discussed but rarely understood. Those three letters — OCD — are associated with being organized or very structured. This is an injustice to those who struggle with this serious condition. As the name implies, obsessive-compulsive disorder involves the unwelcome intrusion of obsessions and compulsions that can interfere mightily with your ability to navigate your daily life.
Therefore, if you think you have OCD, you must get yourself assessed. If this disorder is present, you will move into the treatment phase. OCD is a chronic condition, but with professional support, symptoms can be managed
OCD: The Basics
Someone with OCD will have incontrollable thoughts they recognize as irrational. Even so, these obsessions cause anxiety and demand a response in the form of a compulsion.
Common obsessions include:
- Harming yourself or others due to negligence
- Harming yourself or others due to a violent impulse
- Contamination by dirt or germs
- Needing neatness, symmetry, and order
- Intrusive sexual thoughts
- Needing reassurance
In order to calm anxiety caused by obsessions, someone with OCD comes up with compulsive behaviors to cancel out the intrusive thoughts. They typically work for a short time period until the obsessions return.
Common compulsions include:
- Cleaning oneself over and over — especially hand washing
- Cleaning your surroundings and home
- Avoiding anything you believe will contaminate you
- Repetitive checking to see if you locked a door or turned off an appliance
- Asking for reassurance
- Repeating mantras, chants, or prayers
- Arranging and rearranging items in your vicinity
- Repeatedly checking that you haven’t accidentally caused harm to anyone
- Hoarding random and valueless items
- Number-related rituals like counting, performing an act a particular number of times, avoiding certain numbers, etc.
The cause of OCD has not yet been discovered but it is believed that genetics, childhood trauma, or neurological changes play a role. OCD is found to impact around 2 percent of Americans with the average onset age being 19 years. While it is rare for someone to develop OCD beyond the age of 40, about half of those with OCD develop it during childhood and adolescence.
Common OCD Treatment Options
The gold standard non-medication treatment for OCD is a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Under the guidance of a mental health practitioner, ERP is performed in an outpatient setting. Here’s a very general description of the process:
- When an obsessive thought or image appears, begin by only delaying how quickly you move into satisfying the compulsion. Little by little, lengthen the delay until it is a significant time period.
- Upon performing the compulsion, do it slowly… very slowly. Remove some of its power by taking your time.
- From there, you can remove one component of the compulsion. Depending on how complex the compulsion is, you can keep stripping away its parts.
- Once you’ve gotten to a point where you take a long delay, move at a glacial speed, and have reduced the compulsion down its roots, you can practice not doing the compulsion at all.
- Diligent adherence to ERP can prevent you from feeling compelled to respond to any type of obsession.
If ERP is not working for you, more intensive options include:
- Ongoing outpatient therapy
- Day program at a treatment center
- Partial hospitalization
- Group or individual inpatient care
- Voluntary residential treatment at a mental health center or hospital
As mentioned, it all begins with an evaluation. Until then, it can add anxiety by speculating on your condition or potential treatment plan. Let’s ease some of your stress by connecting for a free and confidential consultation for ocd treatment.