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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that features repetitive patterns of obsessive fears and the compulsive actions. When someone has OCD, they spend much of their time trying to maintain a sense of safety. Their obsessive fears cause them to feel threatened or in danger.
OCD can be highly disruptive to daily functioning and relationships, as well as a source of embarrassment and shame. The person may become socially withdrawn as the OCD is so disruptive, which can cause significant impairment in daily functioning. So, is OCD a disability? Read on to learn about OCD.
What Is OCD?
OCD is an anxiety-related disorder that features alternating obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors repeated throughout the day. OCD can become so disruptive that it can impair one’s ability to function at school, work, or maintain healthy personal relationships. OCD affects approximately 1.2% of the US adult population, according to statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, with women more than three times as likely to suffer from the disorder.
OCD patterns fall into these five groups:
- Contamination obsessions. Obsessions about germs and contamination result in compulsions that involve repeated hand washing or cleaning behaviors.
- Harm obsessions. Driven by an overwhelming fear of danger or potential harm to oneself or others, this individual will use compulsive checking rituals to relieve this fear.
- Symmetry obsessions. An obsessive need for order and symmetry drives compulsive behaviors that include ordering, arranging, and counting.
- Obsessions that have no visible compulsions. Distorted and irrational thoughts plague this individual, usually involving sexual, violent, or religious themes or fears. Compulsive mental rituals, such as reciting words, prayer, or counting, are not visible to others.
- Hoarding. The obsessive fear of losing important papers or items drive the hoarding of mail, magazines, containers, clothing, and junk mail.
Someone with OCD will use safety-seeking behaviors to manage fearful thoughts in these three ways:
- Avoidance. These are efforts made to avoid the object, situation, or event that causes anxiety.
- Escape. Using rituals, such as repetitive hand washing or flipping the light switch, are efforts made to help escape the anxiety.
- Reassurance seeking. Asking others to provide assurance that nothing bad has occurred helps to reduce anxiety.
What Causes OCD?
Much is still not understood about the cause of OCD. OCD does tend to run in families, which is a genetic component. Also, the obsessions and/or compulsive behaviors observed as a child may then be modeled in adulthood.
Some progress has been made by OCD neuroimaging studies. Brain scans show that certain areas of the brain are functioning differently in those who have OCD. This finding means that OCD is mainly a neurobiological disorder that may be influenced by environmental factors.
Is OCD a Disability?
A disability is any condition, injury, or illness that prevents you from doing things that are easy for other people. This includes mental illnesses. The exact definition is more complex, and whether your OCD qualifies as a disability depends on government agencies to decide.
Under the ADA and other laws, severe OCD that causes severe impairment could very well be considered a disability. A severe version of OCD might keep you from getting out of the house in the morning to go to work. An example is the compulsive checking behaviors that keep you fearful of possibly burning the house down. Disability is determined by the degree to which your daily life is disrupted by the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
How to Apply for Disability for OCD
To be able to get disability payments, you must follow the steps required to apply for benefits. These include:
- Do you qualify? Check the SSA website to learn about the requirements to receive SSDI. You must have worked long enough to accumulate the work credits.
- Proof of disability. With section 12.06 of the Blue Book as a guide, it will be determined if your OCD is a disability.
- Apply for benefits. You can apply for your SSDI benefits online. If you are declined, you are able to file an appeal.
Self-Care Methods to Help Manage OCD
While the treatment protocol for OCD involves medication and therapy, some people may want to enhance treatment with holistic methods. These might include:
- Daily exercise. Getting some daily exercise is helpful for those with anxiety disorders like OCD. This is due to the serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine that are produced with physical activity. These chemicals reduce stress.
- Yoga. Even just 12 sessions of yoga can make a difference in your anxiety symptoms.
- Mindfulness. This type of meditation helps you take control over your thoughts, including cognitive distortions common in OCD.
Treatment for OCD
Treating OCD will be much like the treatment for other anxiety disorders. Treatment involves both drugs and therapy as the main protocols. These include:
Medication. There is no specific drug designed for the treatment of OCD. However, there can be positive results with antidepressants, like Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft.
Psychotherapy. Some evidence-based therapies that are found to help OCD include:
- CBT. CBT guides the person to confront their thought distortions and then reframe them in a more positive light. CBT helps the person choose new healthy responses to triggering thoughts.
- Prolonged Exposure. This type of therapy can help someone whose OCD causes trauma. Using this method, the therapist gradually exposes the patient to the disturbing thoughts. Over time, the thoughts lose their power over them.
- ERPT. Exposure and response prevention therapy is a type of CBT that is offered in both one-on-one and group sessions. ERPT slowly exposes the patient to the fear-inducing thought by having them say the thought aloud. As the thought is stated, the person is shown how to not respond to it.
- EMDR. EMDR is a type of therapy for trauma-related OCD. The patient follows an item back and forth with their eyes, while sharing their OCD thoughts. This can diminish the effect of the thoughts.
- Habit Reversal Training. This therapy involves the person practicing the compulsive habit in the mirror. The patient learns a competing response that blocks and reverses the disordered habit.
TMS. Brain stimulation therapy called TMS can reduce the symptoms after about 4-6 weeks of treatment sessions.
The Treatment Specialist Offers OCD Guidance
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health
conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. If you believe your OCD is a disability, we can provide guidance. Please call us today at (866) 644-7911.