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Exploring Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Feb 15, 2024 | Adolescent Treatment, Adult Treatment, COVID, Mental Health, OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, is a mental health condition marked by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed OCD among the top ten medical illnesses that are associated with the greatest level of disability, which speaks to how debilitating this condition can actually be. It’s a disorder that affects each person differently, but understanding its core features can help those diagnosed manage it effectively. In this blog, we get into the details of OCD and share some ideas for getting help.

What is OCD?

OCD is a chronic mental health disorder where a person experiences uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat over and over. These obsessions and compulsions can significantly interfere with daily activities and cause considerable distress.

Obsessions and Compulsions

Obsessions are repetitive, unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that cause distress or anxiety. Common themes include fear of contamination, unwanted sexual thoughts, religious fears, and the need for symmetry or exactness.

Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to try to end or reduce the distress caused by obsessions. These can include washing, checking, counting, orderliness, and following strict routines. The relief provided by these actions is often temporary, leading to a cycle of repeated behavior.

How to Know if You Have OCD

Identifying OCD can be challenging as it shares characteristics with other mental health conditions. However, certain signs can indicate its presence:

  • Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches.
  • Constantly checking in on loved ones to ensure they’re safe.
  • Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning.
  • Arranging things in a particular, precise way.
  • Repeatedly checking in with health professionals over health concerns.
  • Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety.
  • Spending excessive time on these thoughts and behaviors, often more than an hour a day.
OCD and COVID-19

Certain situations that trigger stress or anxiety can make OCD worse. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a drastic worsening of symptoms in both adolescents and adults. This was rooted in the lack of control, the hygiene-related changes, and the general stress of the period. As a result, researchers witnessed an uptick in symptoms like suicidal ideation, sleep disturbances, avoidance behaviors, isolation, and more.

What Does OCD Diagnosis and Treatment Look Like?

OCD is typically diagnosed when obsessions and compulsions consume excessive time and cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. Treatment often includes therapy, medication, or a combination of both:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), specifically Exposure and Response Prevention, is the most effective treatment for OCD. It involves exposure to the source of fear in a controlled environment, thereby reducing the compulsion to perform rituals.

Medications, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or SSRIs), can help manage symptoms, especially when combined with therapy.

Tips for Coping with OCD
  • Understand Your Triggers: Recognize the situations, thoughts, or feelings that trigger your OCD symptoms. This awareness is a significant first step in managing them.
  • Practice Exposure and Response Prevention: Gradually expose yourself to your OCD triggers and learn to resist the urge to perform compulsive behaviors.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation and deep breathing will help manage the anxiety and stress that comes with OCD.
  • Stay Connected: Social support is one of the best ways to cope with OCD. Sharing your experiences with friends can provide comfort and advice.
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep should be non-negotiable for managing symptoms.
  • Keep a Journal: Documenting your thoughts and symptoms can help you understand your patterns and progress.
  • Get Help: Don’t wait to find help from a mental health professional experienced in treating OCD.
Final Thoughts

Although OCD is uncomfortable for many, there are quite a few ways to cope with this disorder. With patience and consistent effort, mechanisms can be learned that will allow you to live a normal, high-functioning life. Finding the help of a professional, sticking to your health routine, and understanding your triggers will help you move forward in a positive way.

New Dimensions Can Help!

OCD is treatable with professional help.  New Dimensions Day Treatment Programs provide therapy and support for mental health or substance abuse issues.  We have outpatient counseling programs for adolescents and adults.  

To learn more about our services, including Psychological Testing, Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), and Interventions for Substance Abuse, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com.  To learn more about individual, family, and couples counseling, visit www.mhthrive.com.

 

References

  • Brock H, Hany M. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. [Updated 2023 May 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553162/
  • Rosa-Alcázar Á, Parada-Navas JL, García-Hernández MD, Pozza A, Tondi P, Rosa-Alcázar AI. Severity and Changes in OCD Dimensions during COVID-19: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study. Brain Sci. 2023 Jul 31;13(8):1151. doi: 10.3390/brainsci13081151. PMID: 37626507; PMCID: PMC10452262.
  • Swierkosz-Lenart K, Dos Santos JFA, Elowe J, Clair AH, Bally JF, Riquier F, Bloch J, Draganski B, Clerc MT, Pozuelo Moyano B, von Gunten A, Mallet L. Therapies for obsessive-compulsive disorder: Current state of the art and perspectives for approaching treatment-resistant patients. Front Psychiatry. 2023 Feb 16;14:1065812. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1065812. PMID: 36873207; PMCID: PMC9978117.