Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in the anxiety family that involves having obsessive thinking patterns that can include unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that make a person feel anxious or distressed. Individuals who have OCD often have significant difficulty pushing away or ignoring these thoughts. Those with OCD also have compulsive behaviors, or rituals, which are an attempt to reverse the obsessive thoughts or urges by performing some sort of action.
What are Obsessions?
Obsessions are anxious thoughts, images, and urges that can be intense and overwhelming. It’s like having a laser focus on something except that obsessions are typically unwanted. In fact, obsessions are generally unwanted and cause a variety of intense feelings such as disgust, guilt, shame, fear, and a morbid disturbance. Obsessions can seemingly be nonstop, which adds to the feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed. Because of this, obsessions can be time consuming and distracting. Obsessions ultimately rob a person of peace, time, and well being.
Types of Obsessions
The fear of contamination leads to unwanted obsessions with:
- Bodily fluids (feces or urine)
- Cleaning chemicals (bleach, household cleaners, detergent)
- Soap and hand sanitizer
The fear of being imperfect leads to unwanted obsessions with:
- Being correct
- Test scores and grades
The fear of harming others or self leads to unwanted obsessions of:
- Harming others through neglect (leaving baby in a car, setting house on fire)
- “Snapping” and suddenly becoming a killer
- Causing bad things to happen without knowing
- Being responsible for the pain or misfortune of others
- Committing crimes against people
Unwanted Sexual Thoughts
The fear of having unwanted sexual thoughts leads to obsessions with:
- Perverse or forbidden sexual contact or images
- Sexual contact or incest with children
- Aggressive sexual behavior
- Sexual orientation
The fear of not being morally “good enough” leads to obsessions with:
- Religious sacraments
- Keeping traditions
- The appearance of evil
- Being “right” with God
- The Bible
What are Compulsions?
Compulsions are unwanted repetitive actions or rituals the brain uses to quiet or stop the intrusion of obsessions. Think of scratching and itch. The itch is the obsession and the scratch is the compulsion. What happens when you scratch an itch? The itch is satisfied momentarily and you feel comforted. The problem is that it’s not long before you itch again – even more intensely! Compulsions, or rituals, tend to be not only counterproductive but also reinforcing. The more you perform rituals the more the brain is conditioned to keep doing it because of the momentary relief. That’s why ending the cycle of obsessing and ritualizing is so difficult to break.
Types of Compulsions
- Cleaning house or surfaces excessively and without feeling clean
- Washing laundry multiple times before use
- Excessive and repetitive grooming and hygiene routines
- Washing hands until they are raw or bleeding
- Brushing teeth until gums are raw or bleeding
- Repeating activities or gestures certain numeric multiples (3’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc.)
- Repeating routine movements (turning on lights, locking/unlocking doors, crossing door thresholds)
- Repeating body movements (snapping fingers, tapping, blinking, clicking sounds with mouth)
- Rewriting or rereading
Checking (many times)
- Checking locks on automobile or home
- Checking that you did not harm anyone
- Checking things are not out of place
- Checking for mistakes
Mental (Pure-Obsession a.k.a. “Pure-O”)
- Praying that you won’t hurt someone or yourself
- Counting to preferred number(s) when doing a task
- Replaying events multiple times to reassure that you did not hurt someone/yourself
- Online researching (“Do I have OCD?,” “Am I a psychopath?,” “Do I have brain cancer?”)
- Looking for reassurance
- Avoiding anxiety provoking situations
Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
Exposure and Response Prevention is the gold standard of treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). ERP is a form of Cognitive therapy that focuses on how the mind views anxiety and works on reprogramming the brain’s response to it. In therapy, a skilled ERP therapist works on exposing your mind to your fears to desensitize it from your fear. Then this allows your responses (usually avoidance or control) to fears, worries, and panic to change. This change ultimately relieves you of the grueling suffering associated with high anxiety and panic attacks.
If one or more of the above symptoms resonates with you, we encourage you to look into ERP with us today.
Contact us today for a free consultation.
Helpful links for information on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):