Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 100 adults and 1 in 200 children and teens in the US, and is characterized by uncontrollable, recurring thoughts and behaviors, and is generally treated using medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). While OCD can seem overwhelming, there are steps people can take to manage their symptoms.
The first step in managing OCD is to understand the ABCs of OCD: Awareness, Beliefs, Compulsions. Awareness means understanding what OCD is and recognizing the signs of OCD in yourself or others.
Understanding the Basics
OCD can manifest in many different ways – such as fear of being contaminated by touching objects others have touched; doubts that you’ve locked the door or turned off the stove; intense stress when objects aren’t orderly or facing a certain way; images of driving your car into a crowd of people; thoughts about shouting obscenities or acting inappropriately in public; unpleasant sexual images; and avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions such as shaking hands.
Beliefs refer to your thoughts and beliefs about OCD, i.e. how you interpret situations related to OCD and how those interpretations affect your behavior.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of mental disorder characterized by recurrent, intrusive thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors or compulsions. OCD can manifest in various ways, including feeling responsibility for possible harm, the need to control one’s thoughts, overestimating potential threats, an intolerance of uncertainty, and beliefs about the consequences of anxiety and the capacity to cope.
Compulsions refer to the behaviors you engage in as a result of awareness and beliefs: for example, avoiding certain situations or performing rituals or routines.
Common OCD-related compulsions can include excessive cleaning; repeatedly checking locks, doors, appliances and other items; rituals used to ward off contact with objects that are verboten as per superstitions; repeating prayers or chants in order to avert bad luck; rearranging and organizing common objects; collecting huge volumes of unnecessary items. In addition to these common OCD compulsions, other OCD symptoms may include avoiding certain situations or people out of fear; struggling with upsetting images appearing unexpectedly in the mind’s eye; self-deprecating comments made internally; feelings of guilt and profound shame that can become difficult to manage. Other OCD behaviors may include counting things like steps taken while walking or taps on a table.
When it comes to treating OCD, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be one of the most effective treatments available today. CBT works by helping people identify problematic patterns of thought and behavior related to OCD, challenge them with new skills for overcoming compulsions, and develop healthier responses to distressing obsessions and urges. Exposure therapy is another method for treating OCD; it involves exposing people directly to feared situations without engaging in compulsive activities or avoidance behaviors.
Medication is also commonly used for treating OCD symptoms, especially when more intensive treatment such as CBT or exposure therapy is not available. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), atypical antipsychotics, other antidepressants, stimulants, anti-anxiety medications are all options that may help reduce anxiety levels associated with OCD symptoms. However, it’s important to note that these medications do not cure OCD; they simply help manage symptoms, so that they don’t interfere with daily activities or relationships.
In addition to medication and therapy, lifestyle changes can make the management of OCD symptoms that much more effective. For example, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can be very helpful indeed in calming anxious feelings associated with intrusive thoughts or obsessive worries. Likewise, creating a healthy routine that includes regular exercise can help reduce stress levels overall, which can in turn decrease the frequency of compulsive behaviors. Taking time each day for self-care – whether it’s reading a book for pleasure or spending time outdoors – can also give sufferers the opportunity to take their mind off of their obsessions while providing much needed rest from the rumination cycles associated with OCD triggers.
OCD management is a long process that requires patience and commitment from everyone involved, family members included. If you find yourself struggling with intrusive thoughts or uncontrollable behaviors associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, don’t hesitate to get help from your doctor, who will be able to present you with the treatment options best suited to your needs.