Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety disorder that manifests in obsessive unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The term obsessive-compulsive is used frequently when referring to people who are neat and tidy, but in fact, it is a serious and debilitating condition that has significant implications for people who experience it.
OCD is characterized by two key areas, obsessions, and compulsions. Obsessions describe the intrusive thought patterns and involuntary urges which are felt by people with the condition. Compulsions are the behaviors they enact as a response to the obsessions to try and control the distress they may be causing.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can affect anybody, with research by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggesting approximately 2.3% of adults in the United States will experience OCD during their lives. Although you can develop OCD at any age, the average age of development is late teens or early twenties.
Given the frequent use of the term OCD, it can be difficult to identify problem behavior. Additionally, common symptoms of OCD can overlap with other mental illnesses. This blog looks at some of the key indicators of obsessive-compulsive disorder and how to approach the condition.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths around OCD which can make correct diagnosis difficult. No two cases of the condition are the same, with a vast spectrum of obsessions and compulsions being experienced by different people.
Something which is shared across the board is uncertainty and fear. Often obsessive thoughts will begin as seeds of doubt and they will escalate into severe and overwhelming thoughts. Usually, people will react to these obsessions with compulsions in an attempt to ease their rumination and distressing feelings.
Given the variety of experiences between people, it can be complicated to ascertain what you are experiencing. Below we are going to look at some features which may indicate you have OCD, focusing on frequent obsessions and common compulsions.
Obsessive unwanted thoughts may interrupt a person at any point during the day or night. They are hard to ignore and can be very upsetting. They may revolve around specific themes such as:
Experiencing repeated intrusive, unpleasant thoughts which may be frightening or disturbing in nature is a sign of OCD.
A significant concern about germs, illness, infections, chemicals, dirt, and harmful substances is associated with OCD. People with the condition may fear touching objects others have touched, or shaking hands with others.
Feeling overly concerned about the safety of yourself or others can be a sign of OCD, this can include fearing that you will harm others despite not having any desire to.
Needing things to be ordered in a specific way, or in a pattern is common in OCD. This can be visual or physical, some people may need physical sensations to be symmetrical for example if they touch something with one hand they need to touch it with the other. They may feel intense distress if things are not ordered in a specific way.
Having intrusive thoughts of a violent nature is a common symptom of OCD. This could include enacting violence, such as hurting or killing someone or something, or watching violent things happen. This may result in extreme fear that you may act out on violent urges.
Unwanted sexual thoughts and images are common in OCD. These may feel inappropriate or uncomfortable and can cause people to feel shame and guilt.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that the obsessive thoughts drive people to act out. These are usually the person's way of trying to reduce anxiety associated with the obsessions, sometimes people will feel as though harm will come if they do not do the compulsive behavior. Usually, the compulsions do not relieve anxiety, and if they do it is short-lived.
People with OCD might formulate rules which they believe will help them to manage the distress of obsessions. Unfortunately, they can lead to a spiral of unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. Compulsions may include some of the following:
Doing things over and over again, such as doing actions or saying words is common in OCD.
People with OCD are often consumed with fear that they have forgotten to do something. This may see them repeatedly checking they have turned off the oven or iron.
Ordering or arranging things in a particular pattern is one way in which compulsion manifests. This could be ordering objects to face in a certain way for example or lining objects up.
There are some further physical OCD symptoms that may help to identify the existence of a condition. These include the following:
Whether or not these specific traits resonate with you, if you find that obsessive thoughts and compulsions interfere with your everyday life it could suggest you have OCD. Seeking help from a medical professional could help you
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is one condition, but people with OCD are likely to experience different forms of obsessions and compulsions. Some people will always experience symptoms revolving around a specific theme, while others will be random.
Whichever way OCD manifests, it is likely to impact a person's daily life and they may find it hard to concentrate on tasks, engage in relationships and enjoy activities.
Some people with OCD will recognize that their behavior is not rational, which can add another layer of complexity and shame. Others may believe that their behavior is logical and necessary, which can cause relationship issues and upset.
OCD commonly begins in adolescence or early adulthood, but it can also start in childhood. Typically OCD starts gradually and increases over time. The manifestations of obsessions and compulsions may change over time. Some people will have phases that are more intense than others which tend to correlate with periods of stress or difficulty in their lives.
It is crucial to have an official assessment from a medical professional in order to correctly diagnose OCD. A mental health practitioner will ask you a number of questions and observe your behavior to get an idea of your symptoms. There is some overlap with other mental health issues such as generalized anxiety disorder, and a doctor will be able to identify whether you are experiencing OCD or another disorder.
It's common for those with obsessive-compulsive disorder to have co-existing mental health conditions such as other anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. This can make diagnosing the condition complicated and requires professional medical advice.
The good news is, as research develops on this condition, treatment options develop and grow. Here we look at some effective ways to manage OCD symptoms with a range of treatments.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a therapy that has been developed to treat cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This works by gently exposing the client to fears and obsessive thoughts. Through being exposed to anxiety-causing situations in a safe environment individuals can find their symptoms reduce.
ERP therapists work with clients to face different fears which can ease anxiety, and increase confidence and self-esteem. This helps people go on to face different triggering events and situations in real life. ERP is a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is a form of therapy that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an effective treatment for OCD in 2018.
TMS works by stimulating activity in areas of the brain which are associated with OCD using magnetic fields. As a non-invasive and fairly quick procedure, clients can undergo TMS treatment and return to their daily activities after sessions. TMS therapy is typically administrated on an outpatient basis and clients will typically attend treatment sessions five days a week for around six to eight weeks.
Some people may benefit from antidepressants for OCD symptom relief.
The following antidepressants have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of OCD:
Antidepressants are especially effective if people are living with symptoms of depression in combination with OCD.
Talk therapies including family therapy can be effective in the treatment of OCD. Family members can play a big part in the mental well-being of individuals, especially those living in the same household. OCD can affect those around the individual significantly, and family therapy is a great opportunity to learn more about the disorder together.
Family therapy enables each member to discuss the personal impacts of the condition, improve strained relationships and create helpful coping strategies. Working together in this way allows the individual and those around to feel heard and understood.
Joining a support group can be beneficial for people in treatment for OCD. Sharing your personal experiences and hearing from others in similar situations can help you to feel supported and understood. Support groups can enable you to learn healthy coping strategies for difficult or triggering situations.
If after reading this you believe you may be living with OCD, seek help today. GIA Miami has a range of evidence-based treatment options to suit your specific recovery needs. Our highly skilled team of clinicians has a wealth of experience in treating a range of different mental health conditions, OCD, and co-existing disorders.
We believe that every case of OCD is completely unique and we believe treatment should reflect this. We tailor our recovery programs to offer individualized care for every person that walks through our doors.
We are confident that those who enter our center for treatment, can leave with newfound confidence and positivity for life. Get in touch with us to find out about our admissions process today.
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