Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The term OCD has found its way in the popular lexicon as something to do with organization or tidiness. Some people might say “oh, it’s just my OCD acting up” when they are being particular about something or casually state “I’m so OCD about…” as if it’s a personality trait. While these phrases and associations have become common, they can be quite harmful as they trivialize the very real struggle of those suffering from OCD and pathologize completely normal behavior. OCD is a complicated disorder that can cause significant distress to those suffering from it and impact their day-to-day lives negatively. Let’s dive into what the disorder is, its symptoms, and the treatment options available.
What Is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious mental condition characterized by the presence of either obsessions (recurrent unwanted thoughts), compulsions (repeated behavior or mental action to neutralize an obsession), or both. In the US alone, OCD affects 1 out of 40 adults. The mean age of the onset of OCD is 19-20 years but the symptoms can emerge in childhood, adolescence, or teen years.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of OCD?
As we mentioned above, OCD involves two main symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. While both of them are often present together in OCD patients, in some cases only one or the other might be present. Let’s define what these terms mean.
● Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, or worries that persistently appear in your mind. They feel almost impossible to control or stop, and cause overwhelming anxiety and fear. For example, a constant fear of contracting germs or worrying about something bad occurring.
● Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or actions that you perform in an attempt to alleviate the anxiety, fear, or distress caused by obsessions. For example, if you are worried about contracting germs, you may wash your hands repeatedly. Compulsions aren’t always physical or overt, they can be mental acts, like repeating a special prayer. Compulsions also don’t provide any pleasure, they only offer temporary relief from anxiety.
Many times, there is no logical relation between the obsessive thoughts and the compulsions. For instance, someone might walk in a straight line because of a persistent thought that if they don’t, something bad might happen to their loved one. It should be noted that obsessions or compulsions aren’t preferences. People with OCD may know that their obsessive thoughts aren’t grounded in reality or that their compulsive behavior won’t stop something from happening, but they still get those urges and aren’t able to control them. It can take hours each day and is highly distressing, affecting the personal and professional lives of those suffering from it. Some people might not even leave their home due to the fear of embarrassment and feelings of shame when they’re in a public place.
Are There Any Treatment Options Available?
Fortunately, yes! While OCD cannot be cured, it can be managed with the help of psychotherapy and medication. The medications usually include anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs); all medications that can be prescribed by Common Ground Psychiatry. Medication is often successful in alleviating symptoms, however, therapy is typically recommended along with medical intervention.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is often regarded as the most effective type of therapy for OCD. It helps the patient manage their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. More specifically, exposure and response prevention (ERP)—a type of CBT, has been found to be a highly efficacious treatment for those suffering from OCD. Exposure entails gradual confrontation with anxiety-provoking situations and the urge to engage in compulsive behaviors. The response prevention part involves refraining from performing a compulsion. Over time, the anxious feelings subside as you learn that nothing bad happens even if you don’t perform your compulsive ritual.
Reach out for help
Without treatment, it can be extremely difficult to manage the symptoms of OCD. Book your consultation today with Common Ground Psychiatry and let us help you get back to living a happy, productive life, while keeping your symptoms well under control.