Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric illness that is difficult to both understand and treat. It is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by uncontrolled repetitive and intrusive thoughts in the mind of the sufferer. As a result of such irrational thoughts, pictures, and impulses that occur over and over again, the person develops strangely compulsive behaviors.
It starts of as an obtrusive thought. To make the obsessions disappear, the sufferer performs an action. The relief is short-lived and the obsessions come back stronger than before. The compulsive actions continue. In due course of time, these compulsive actions become very demanding (in terms of time consumed) and distracting to the individual and cause extreme anxiety. As an example, a victim may wash his/her hands again and again to make sure they are clean (for fear of contamination or contracting a disease) or may return back to the kitchen twenty times to make sure that the gas stove is turned off.
Studies have indicated that OCD is caused by a combination of both psychological and biological factors. Abnormalities of serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter), a possible genetic mutation, evolutionary psychology, etc., are some factors linked to OCD.
OCD – Symptoms And Treatment Options
OCD is more common than you may think with an estimated 3 million sufferers, just in the US. That’s 3 million lives affected by regular and continuous obsessive thoughts and resultant compulsive behaviors and if you’re one of them, or think you may be then read on, you’re not alone in your battle against this disorder.
Obsessive compulsive disorder makes its presence felt during adolescence or in young adults. There are other disorders that have symptoms which are similar to those of OCD. It is, therefore, necessary that a thorough psychological and medical exam be conducted by a specialist to ascertain the presence of OCD.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Symptoms
Merely having obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors does not classify any one as suffering from OCD. It is only when the thoughts and actions cause immense distress and anxiety to an extent that normal daily living is disrupted and relationships are upset that it is called OCD. Many individuals with OCD are victims of both obsessive thoughts and compulsions. Some Individuals, however, suffer from only one of the two. Some common obsessive thoughts occurring in those suffering from OCD include excessive attachment to religious ideas, excessive belief in superstitions, sexually explicit thoughts and images, fear of losing things, etc., among others.
There are programs that can really help cure obsessions – the system that you really need to at least consider is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT for short … it’s amazing:
Strangely compulsive actions of a person suffering from OCD include checking many times (usually excessive) whether doors are locked; obsessive cleanliness/orderliness including putting things back in their places, wiping things clean, washing the hands with soap, etc.; being exceedingly ritualistic and superstitious; and accumulating junk for fear of losing things, among many others. Sufferers of this disorder share some character traits such as extra-high attention to detail, very careful planning, taking a long time to arrive at a decision, etc.
OCD affects lives in many different ways – ways such as:
- Regular and continuous obsessive thinking which, no matter how you try, cannot be suppressed. Sometimes described as a brain itch which just has to be scratched but never stops itching.
- Frequent and intense feelings that you must perform certain tasks or rituals “correctly” such as in a certain order, a certain number of times, or with perfect symmetry.
- Obsessions and compulsions that you realize may not make any sense whatsoever but, whatever you do and however hard you try, you just can’t suppress them.
- A paranoid specific obsessive focus that can be on anything but often on things like dirt, germs or cleanliness that leads to compulsive actions and behaviors such as cleaning, frequent hand-washing, disinfecting or sanitizing.
- Obsessive and repeated checking of things such as door locks or appliances because you doubt yourself.
- Compulsion to count things, anything at all – can be completely random.
- Obsessive worry that if you don’t perform a task, ritual, compulsion or follow a normal routine that something terrible will occur.
- Collecting, hoarding or being unable to throw things away is another form of OCD.
- Other compulsive disorders such as hair pulling (trichotillomania), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), or hypochondria.
- Fear of acting in an embarrassing or socially inappropriate manner, maybe by shouting obscenities, swearing or behaving in a way that’s against your morals and values.
- Compulsion to gain reassurance from people or engage in superstitious or impulsive behaviors.
This is not an exhaustive list but just a tiny example of just some of the more common symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Treatment Options
For a person who suffers from OCD, the treatment may depend on the extent to which the ability to function normally is impaired. In some cases treating OCD is difficult and in yet others, OCD even when treated may not get cured. However, treatment approaches do help to alleviate the distressing symptoms that disturb normal day-to-day living.
The two main methods of treating OCD are psychotherapy and use of medications. Often, a combination of these two methods is seen to be the most effective.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to treat OCD. The basic premise of CBT involves developing a different set of thought patterns that render the compulsive behavior and obsessions unnecessary. The sufferer is trained to respond in a different manner when being gradually exposed to a fear or obsession. This takes both effort and practice on the part of the patient. However, once the new techniques of managing the obsessive thoughts are learned, the quality of life improves considerably. Therapy is provided for the affected either alone or in group/family sessions.
Psychiatric medications are used to treat symptoms of OCD. Antidepressants (Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, etc.) are commonly used in the treatment because they help to increase the serotonin levels. Serotonin has been observed to be lacking in some patients suffering from OCD. In specific cases, a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotic medications is used for the best effect.
Individuals who suffer from OCD find interacting with support groups to be very useful. Support groups help to provide much-needed reassurance in times of anxiety and stress, reduce feelings of isolation, and provide opportunities to socialize with others. Support groups also help to provide information and support to family members of those who are affected. In very rare and severe cases, surgery may be resorted to when all the other forms of treatment have failed.
OCD – Self Help Treatment
If you are struggling with OCD then you’ll understand just how incredibly powerful and time-consuming it can be and how much it can seem to take over your entire life. It may be classed as an anxiety disorder but OCD is very different from all other fears because the fear itself is very often unavoidable and that’s because it’s not a real thing but comes from the brain. Think about it – if you’re scared of the dentist you don’t have to go, if you’re frightened of the dark you can leave a light on, OCD is different though, what you’re actually frightened of is your very own thoughts, no matter how irrational they may be.
OCD is incredibly powerful and potentially has a devastating effect on lives. It can feel terrifying, it can take over your entire life and just won’t go away. No matter how fast you run, where you try and hide OCD will always catch up with you or find you … it feels like there’s just no escape from yourself. You become your own worst enemy and the more you try to suppress the obsessive thoughts, the more you try and refrain from the compulsive actions the more they are there and the worst they actually get.
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