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Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

January 1, 2023


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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a problem that you may struggle with if you have thoughts that you cannot control, and you may have behaviors that you feel you need to perform in order to get relief from your thoughts. These recurring, uncontrollable thoughts are called obsessions while the repetitive behaviors to relieve the thoughts are called compulsions. This is a common problem affecting up to 1% of people. (1) OCD can interfere with many, if not all, aspects of your life.


Obsessive compulsive disorder is often linked to anxiety because the obsessions and/or compulsions are often worsened with stress or anxiety. It is normal for a person to feel anxiety about one or many problems in life. It is only when temporary or long-lasting fear worsens these uncontrollable thoughts and obsessions that anxiety and OCD becomes a problem. (2) You may have obsessive thoughts and compulsions about anything ranging from fears about germs/dirt, sexual thoughts, to fears of financial distress . Typically, completing the compulsive behavior assoiciated with the uncontrollable thought (i.e. checking the stock market for fear of financial distress) will temporarily lessen the obsessions. However, you do not get pleasure from completing the compulsions or "need" to complete. OCD is often typified by "checking" behaviors and can often be accompanied with "counting" behaviors as well.

While scientists don't know what exactly causes OCD symptoms, scientists have noted that there appears to be a genetic link associated with the disorder. That is, first degree relatives of someone diagnosed with OCD is more likely to develop symptoms of OCD. (3) Several things have been associated with the development of the disorder. It is very common for worsening stressors to increase the likelihood that you develop this disorder. Worsening stressors can include:

  • Marriage

  • Divorce

  • Change in employment status

  • Move (in-state or out-of-state)

  • Loss of a loved one

  • Illness/injury

It is important to note that the symptoms of this disorder will improve and worsen over time. This is often directly correlated to stress levels and life situations over time. Some may look to relieve their symptoms by indulging in their compulsions. Others may relieve symptoms by indulging in alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. People with OCD know that they have a problem but cannot stop on their own. Left untreated, OCD can interfere with all aspects of your life.




Examples of OCD Obsessive Thoughts


Obsessions are defined as uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts or fears that make you feel restless, anxious, or overwhelmed. The obsessive thoughts associated with OCD can be about anything but commonly include:

  • Fear of dirt

  • Fear of germs

  • Fear of contamination

  • Fear of failure/financial distress

  • Fear of failure

  • Fear of making a mistake/causing harm

  • Fear of not being in control

  • Aggressive or sexual thoughts

  • Religious or morality fears


Examples of OCD Compulsions


Compulsion are defined as behaviors you indulge in to provide temporary relief of the unwanted thoughts you are having. There are several kinds of compulsions. Examples of compulsive behaviors may include:

  • Arranging things in a specific way in order to maintain neatness, symmetry, or perfection

  • Bathing, showering, hand-washing repeatedly

  • Checking behaviors such as checking to ensure the stove is turned off, the front door is locked, or the stock market has not decreased

  • Collecting or hoarding behaviors

  • Repetitive behaviors such as performing a task a certain number of times before you can find relief from your obsessions


How is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Diagnosed?


The diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) must be diagnosed by a healthcare provider with knowledge of mental health disorders. There is no specific test or imaging that can diagnose the disorder. The symptoms of OCD must meet specific criteria and cannot be better explained with another mental health or medical condition. Drugs, alcohol, and other medical conditions may cause similar symptoms and must also be ruled out for proper diagnosis of this disorder.



Treatment Options for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


Fortunately, for those that have significant interruption in their daily lives due to anxiety problems, there is help. Treatment for obsessive compulsive (OCD) symptoms typically involves medications, education, and development of skills to help with the symptoms of obsessions and compulsions. Providers often involved in the treatment of anxiety are family medicine providers and mental health providers such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, and mental health therapists. Treatment can generally be obtained in one of three ways. The first modality and first line of treatment for OCD disorders is psychotherapy or seeing a mental health therapist/counselor. The second modality in treating OCD is with medication management. The third and generally favored treatment approach to OCD disorders is with a combination of medication management and counseling therapies. It is important to note that there are many ways to treat OCD. Because of this, it is important to work with a trusted healthcare provider to choose a treatment plan that best fits your life and goals.


Mental Health Therapy/Counseling Treatment


Therapy options for OCD disorders include treatment such as talk therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, support groups, and acceptance and commitment therapy among others. Counseling therapy can help improve OCD symptoms by helping you develop skills to more effectively deal with the thoughts and feelings you are having.


Medication Management Treatment


Medications used to treat obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) will often relieve symptoms and calm the nervous feelings that result from OCD. Common medications used to treat OCD disorders include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), antihistamines, beta blockers, antipsychotics, and dopamine antagonists.




Integrated Treatment


An often used and generally favored approach to the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) is counseling therapy and medication management together. Each separate treatment modality may lead an individual on the path to overcoming OCD, but an integrated approach of both medication and counseling may help you reach their goals quicker. The best way to decide on a treatment approach is to discuss concerns with a trusted provider.


Treatment For long-term Success


At Pine Ridge Mental Healthcare, we’ve found success using a variety of approaches to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) management. Getting your OCD under control is a key step in managing your life.


Our team works to reduce your reliance on medications by educating you about the different tools available and how life situations can affect your mood. And we help keep you on track with regular check-ins to monitor your health.


For more information about if you may have OCD or for help managing your mental health, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Pine Ridge Mental Healthcare in Owasso, Oklahoma. If you are interested in other services we provide, check out our services page.


References

  1. Cleveland Clinic

  2. NIH


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