Dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, can be incredibly difficult. People who suffer from OCD tend to be stuck in a destructive pattern of obsessions followed by compulsions. Obsessions are defined as unwanted fears and thoughts, while compulsions are defined as repetitive behaviors meant to quell anxiety or prevent bad things from happening.
If you are trying to navigate dealing with OCD thoughts, you might try to ignore or even stop your obsessions, but in fact this will likely only increase your anxiety and distress, which can culminate in you performing even more ritualistic behaviors than you were previously. This OCD cycle can be vicious and even become dangerous.
If you suspect you are living with OCD, there are various different signs and symptoms you might want to look out for; these relate to both obsessions and compulsions related to the disorder.
General OCD Symptoms
- Fear of dirt or contamination
- Horrific or aggressive thoughts about self harm or harming others
- Having a hard time tolerating uncertainty
- Having the need for everything to be symmetrical and orderly
- Unwanted thoughts about sexual or religious subjects
Experts define OCD-related obsessions as unwanted, persistent, and repeated images, thoughts, or urges that are intrusive and cause significant anxiety or even distress.
Some examples of obsessive symptoms might include:
- Fear of contamination after touching something other people have touched
- Doubting that you have locked a door or turned the stove off
- Thoughts about acting inappropriately in public or shouting obscenities
- Avoiding situations that can trigger obsessive behaviors, like shaking hands with people
- Images of driving your car into a crowd of individuals
Additionally, OCD related compulsions are defined as repetitive behaviors that individuals feel driven to perform in an attempt to abate anxiety related to their obsessions or in an effort to prevent something bad from occurring. Similar to with obsessions, compulsions tend to have themes, such as:
- Demanding reassurance
- Following a strict routine
- Washing and cleaning
Some signs related to compulsion might include:
- Counting in specific patterns
- Silently repeating a word, phrase, or prayer
- Washing one’s hands until their skin is raw
- Repeatedly checking doors to ensure they are locked
- Arranging canned goods so that they are facing in one direction
- Repeatedly checking the stove to ensure it’s off
Managing OCD Symptoms
- Try out mindfulness practices. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is useful in helping people with OCD, often looks to mindfulness principles to help people. Mindfulness involves keeping yourself grounded and rooted in the present moment.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is important, because if you are well rested, you may be more likely to have the energy to handle hard experiences and feelings.
- Consider your diet. Making sure your blood sugar remains stable through regular eating can prove to have a major impact on your energy levels as well as your mood.
- Manage your stress. OCD can actually worsen if you are feeling anxious and stressed, so stress management is very important.
- Give physical activity a try. While many folks find it difficult to exercise, you may find that “lighter” activities such as walking, yoga, or swimming will have a positive effect on your mood. When it comes to physical activity, finding what works best for you is what is most important - whether that means doing chair-based exercises, dancing around your apartment, or going for a run.
- Try out a relaxation technique. When you’re suffering from high anxiety, stress, or are just generally busy, engaging in relaxation techniques can be a great and effective way to engage in self care.
- Look into group therapy. Interestingly, group therapy has been shown to be highly effective in many individuals suffering from OCD and various other mental illnesses. Therapy groups, which usually consist of 10-15 people led by one or more therapists, offer various benefits that individual therapy does not. One such benefit is being reminded that you are not alone in your struggles. Here at Grouport, we offer online group therapy for OCD that is conducted totally online to help you manage your symptoms and improve your health and future. Grouport’s licensed therapists are trained to tackle OCD as well as a wide variety of other mental health issues.
Though it might initially seem like a challenge, overcoming OCD is possible. The International OCD Foundation says that for about 70% of people living with OCD, therapy, medication, or a combination of both will lead to a significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.