Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform. These behaviors are attempts to reduce the anxiety you feel.
If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational but you are compelled to do the behaviors anyway.
Like a needle getting stuck on an old record, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought or urge. For example, you may check the stove twenty times to make sure it’s really turned off, wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw, or drive around for hours to make sure that the bump you heard while driving wasn’t a person you ran over.
Obsessions are involuntary, seemingly uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again in your mind. You don’t want to have these ideas but you can’t stop them. Unfortunately, these obsessive thoughts are often disturbing and distracting.
Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that you feel driven to act out again and again. Usually, compulsions are performed in an attempt to make obsessions go away. For example, if you’re afraid of hurting your child which occurs in postpartum OCD, you may avoid your child in an attempt to rid yourself of the thought. However, the relief never lasts. In fact, the obsessive thoughts usually come back stronger. And the compulsive behaviors often end up causing anxiety themselves as they become more demanding and time consuming.
Most people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) fall into one of the following categories:
- Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.
- Checkers repeatedly check things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that they associate with harm or danger.
- Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen or they will be punished.
- Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.
- Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.
OCD treatment comes in many forms, but I have found the most successful method is cognitive behavior therapy. While medication is sometimes prescribed to treat OCD, cognitive behavior therapy treats the cause of the disorder, so you are less likely to relapse into old behaviors.
When we work together on your OCD treatment, we will take two approaches. First, is the exposure and response prevention component, which involves facing your obsession head on and concentrating on refraining from the obsessive behavior – such as touching a public doorknob and refraining from washing your hands. We will sit together through the stress and desire to perform the behavior, and you will see that you control the ritual, not the other way around.
Along with exposure and response prevention is cognitive therapy, wherein we will focus on the stressful and anxious thoughts that often come with OCD. We will recognize the thoughts, observe them, and learn how to respond to them in a healthy and effective manner, instead of by performing a obsessive ritual or compulsive behavior. Obsessive compulsive disorder does not have to control you. Through cognitive and exposure therapy, OCD treatment will help you learn the tools and habits you need to find relief from this disorder