It’s very normal to be conscious of doing certain things or have repeated thoughts about things you should be doing or things that you need to do.
For example, double checking to see if you have your keys or going back to check if you turned off the stove. People who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, experience a very different reality. If you have OCD, you will frequently have obsessive thoughts and engage in compulsive behavior. This can become really intense and interfere with your daily life.
The good news is, with the right help, it’s possible to have full control over your thoughts and urges. OCD has become a pop culture term that references being preoccupied with neatness and orderliness. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In this article, we explore Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, what it entails and how you can deal with it.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): What Does It Mean?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder that features an individual having uncontrollable consistent thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). People with OCD are usually aware that these thoughts are irrational, however, they’re usually unable to resist these thoughts and feel like they must perform these compulsive acts to ease their stress. OCD usually centers around specific themes. For example, a fear of being contaminated by germs results in the compulsive washing of the hands multiple times every day.
The repetitive behavior such as washing of hands or cleaning can significantly disrupt the individual’s daily life and social interactions. The person may not derive any pleasure from constantly performing those actions, however, it provides temporary relief from the anxiety-inducing thoughts that prompt the actions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD affects 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children in the United States.
Signs And Symptoms Of OCD
People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder usually have both symptoms of obsessions and compulsions. However, it’s possible to only have only obsession symptoms or only compulsion symptoms. It’s important to note that experiencing obsessive thoughts or performing compulsive behavior does not necessarily mean that a person OCD. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviors usually cause significant distress, take up a lot of time (at least an hour a day) and interfere with daily life and relationships.
What Are The Common Behaviors And Characteristics?
Obsession symptoms: Obsessions are involuntary repeated thoughts, mental images or impulses that cause anxiety. People with OCD try to ignore obsessions by performing a compulsive action or ritual. Some common obsession themes are:
- Fear of dirt, contamination or germs.
- Always wanting things to be spick and span.
- Thoughts about causing harm to self or others.
- Having taboo thoughts concerning topics like sex or religion.
Examples of Obsession symptoms include:
- Not wanting to come in physical contact with objects or people for fear of being contaminated after touching them.
- Being stressed when objects aren’t arranged in a particular manner.
- Doubts that you’ve performed a specific action.
- Imagining distressing sexual or violent situations.
- Avoidance of situations that trigger obsessive thoughts such as shaking hands.
Compulsion Symptoms- Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that an individual with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought, in an attempt to make obsessions go away. Compulsions are usually excessive and are usually not realistically related to the problems they’re trying to fix. Some compulsion themes are:
- Following a strict routine
- Constant checking
Examples of compulsion symptoms include:
- Repeatedly checking on loved ones to ensure they’re safe.
- Constantly double checking things such as appliances and locks.
- Counting or saying certain words or phrases repeatedly to reduce anxiety.
- Constantly scrubbing, washing or cleaning.
- Silently repeating a prayer over and over again.
- Accumulating junk.
- Constantly rearranging things so that they remain a particular way.
- Constant hand washing.
Testing: What are the Diagnostic Criteria Per The DSM 5?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders abbreviated ‘DSM-5’ is the reference material used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental health disorders. It acts as a manual for mental health professionals in giving an obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis. To receive an OCD diagnosis, you must meet certain diagnostic criteria.
You must meet the general criteria, which are as follows:
- You must have obsessions and compulsions.
- The obsessions and compulsions must significantly impact daily life.
- You may or may not realize that the obsessions and compulsions are excessive.
You must also meet the specific criteria for obsessions and compulsions:
- Having persistent thoughts that cause distress.
- Difficulty in suppressing those thoughts or images.
- Having thoughts that don’t focus on real problems in your life.
- You may or may not be aware that these thoughts don’t pose a real threat.
- Repetitive behavior that you feel you must do unless something bad will happen.
- Engaging in these repetitive behaviors for at least an hour daily.
- Performing these compulsive acts in order to reduce the severe anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts.
Coping With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
If you have OCD, the best thing to do is to learn as much as you can about the condition. No matter how complicated having OCD seems, there are many ways to cope with it while you’re getting treatment.
- Pay attention to your triggers: Take note of your urges by being mindful of them. This helps you to reduce their intensity. For example, if you always feel that your hands are dirty, and it triggers your compulsive hand washing ritual, remind yourself that you’ve already washed your hands. When you get the urge again, consciously remind yourself that it’s an obsessive thought. Being mindful of your urges takes constant practice, but it’s an effective way of combating obsessive thoughts.
- Face your fears: Try not to avoid the situations that trigger your urges. When you expose yourself to situations where you face your urges, you can practice resisting the urge to perform a compulsive ritual. This helps you get a sense of control.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Taking deep breaths every time you feel an urge to perform a compulsive ritual can help you regain control.
- Refocus your attention- When you get the urge to do something, try thinking of something else instead. This helps to distract you.
- Keep a journal- Keep a physical or digital notebook where you document all your obsessive thoughts. Doing this will help you to see just how repetitive your thoughts are. It also gives you something to do instead of performing the action.
Look Out For These Complications Or Risk Factors
For some people, having OCD comes with a tic disorder. These tics could be motor or verbal. Motor tics are sudden movements such as eye blinking, twitching, or shoulder shrugging. Also, OCD symptoms may come and go, ease over time or get worse. If you think you have OCD, the best thing to do is consult a mental health professional.
Some factors also increase the risk of OCD. Research shows that people who have close relatives (such as a parent or sibling) with OCD have a high risk of developing OCD as well. An individual’s experiences also play a huge role. People who have experienced physical or sexual abuse or other trauma are also at an increased risk for developing OCD.
Obsessive-Compulsive disorder can be treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Sometimes, medication and psychotherapy don’t work to control the symptoms. Other OCD treatment options include:
- Brain surgery
- In-patient hospitalization
- Electroconvulsive therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Find A Therapist On Thrivetalk
Finding a therapist who can diagnose and effectively treat OCD is a huge challenge for many people. On Thrivetalk, you can find therapists with great experience diagnosing and treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. By conducting OCD tests, they can help you manage your symptoms in the best way possible and learn coping skills.
Although OCD has no known definite cause, it’s possible to effectively treat and manage it instead of having it control your life.