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When Obsessive and Intrusive Thoughts Become Irrational
Maybe you have acquired a real concern for exposure to germs, feeling the compulsive need to wash your hands dozens of times a day. You might keep antibacterial gel handy in your car and purse, and even find yourself opening doors or touching surfaces only with a tissue in hand.
Or, it could be that you have begun to feel really nervous about someone breaking in to your house or car. In response to this fear, you find yourself locking, unlocking, locking, unlocking the front door over and over to convince yourself that it really is locked. You head out to the garage or driveway and repeat this same compulsive locking behavior until you feel certain that the car is secured.
Just how OCD are you, you might wonder. You realize that this obsessive overreaction to fear is irrational, but cannot seem to rein in the compulsive behaviors that result. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is not uncommon, with 2%-3% of the U.S. population struggling with it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. As frustrating as the condition might be, OCD symptoms are manageable, enabling patients with the disorder to live a fulfilling life.
About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD
OCD is one of several anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders tend to all have a common feature of excessive worry or fear at their core, including OCD. Two disorders exist in OCD, the distorted obsessive thoughts that trigger the compulsive behaviors as a way of managing the stress caused by the irrational thoughts. Most OCD cases revolve around attempts to control something in their environment that they perceive as a source of worry or concern. OCD is taxing, as the thoughts and behaviors tend to monopolize their time and energy, as well as cause distress and embarrassment.
Some of the common OCD thoughts and behavioral responses include:
- Fear of contamination or germs, leading to excessive hand washing or cleaning
- Fear of safety, leading to compulsive rituals like checking if the stove is turned off, if the door is locked
- An obsessive need for symmetry and order, leading to perfectionism and continually rearranging things to be symmetrical
- Intrusive fears or thoughts of harming someone, leading to constantly reviewing past events and conversations
How OCD Are You
So exactly how OCD are you? Well the degree to which one’s symptoms sabotage their chances of living a peaceful life if probably a good barometer of how extreme the disorder is manifesting itself. A mild version of OCD might be when someone spends a bit too much time fussing over the order of their knives in the utensil drawer or whether their towels are folded just right as a way of minimizing stress that is triggered by clutter or chaos in one’s environment.
A severe version of OCD might be when you cannot get out of the house in the morning because of the compulsive checking behaviors that keep you fearful of possibly burning the house down. The degree to which your daily life is disrupted by the obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors will determine how serious the OCD is.
How is OCD Treated
Treating OCD is similar to treating other anxiety disorders, with both medication and psychotherapy as the foundational interventions. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals struggling with OCD to confront their thought distortions and then reframe them realistically. Exposure and response prevention, a subtype of CBT, helps patients by diminishing the power of the obsessive fears, thus mitigating the compulsions that have resulted prior to treatment.
Antidepressants have been shown to help individuals with OCD but helping to rebalance neurotransmitters, or brain chemistry. Combining psychotherapy with antidepressants is the bedrock of treatment for OCD, but other measures, such as family therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy have also been shown to be helpful in symptom management and improving daily functioning.
Learning to Manage OCD
Upon understanding how OCD are you, it helps to learn some important coping skills that can help moderate the compulsive behaviors. Because OCD is an anxiety disorder, learning how to manage stress is helpful in controlling fear and worry responses by accessing deep breathing techniques or mindfulness meditation. Getting regular exercise is also a great stress-reliever and promotes overall wellness. A nutritious diet and establishing healthy sleep habits are also beneficial to individuals with OCD. With clinical support from a psychiatrist and family support, those with OCD can lead a productive life.
The Treatment Specialist Offers Resource Material About OCD
The Treatment Specialist is a team of mental health professionals who have assembled an online resource of information about mental health conditions, including OCD. When asking oneself, “Just how OCD are you?” consider seeking helpful guidance here at The Treatment Specialist where we will provide free information about treatment options and providers. For more information, please connect with The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.