Understanding And Treating OCD

Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a mental health disorder marked by a pattern of escalating obsessions (unwanted fears and thoughts) that lead to compulsions (repetitive behaviors). This pattern of obsessions leading to compulsions can end up interfering with your daily activities, ultimately causing significant distress and a diminished quality of life.

Those suffering from OCD will often ignore or try to stop their obsessions, which can in turn escalate their levels of anxiety and distress. Ironically, this may then drive them to perform even more ritualistic behaviors in order to diminish this stress. This is the broken and painful cycle of OCD, which can be difficult to interrupt, and painful to endure. 

THE ORIGINS OF OCD

While experts have not yet ironed out one specific cause for OCD, they have three major theories about its origin:

  1. Learning: You might learn obsessive fears and compulsive behaviors gradually, or by watching your family members engage in them.
  2. Biology: You might develop OCD from a change in your brain function or body chemistry.
  3. Genetics: OCD could be rooted in genetics, although researchers have not yet singled out any particular genes that can cause it.

RISK FACTORS FOR OCD 

There are several known risk factors that experts speculate could increase your likelihood of developing OCD, or can trigger the disorder.

These could include:

  • Other mental health issues: It is thought that OCD could be related to other mental health issues, including depression, tic disorders, anxiety disorders, as well as substance abuse.
  • A family history of OCD: You are probably more likely to develop OCD if you have parents or other family members suffering from it as well.
  • Stressful events in your life: Your risk of developing OCD could increase if you have experienced trauma or other types of stressful life events. Your reaction to said events could trigger OCD’s characteristic emotional distress, intrusive thoughts, and rituals.

OCD OBSESSIONS DEFINITION

OCD obsessions usually manifest as unwanted, persistent, and repetitive images, thoughts, or urges that are intrusive and distressing, and often have themes such as:

  • Horrific or aggressive thoughts about self harm or harming others
  • Fear of dirt or contamination
  • Having the need for everything to be symmetrical and orderly
  • Unwanted thoughts about sexual or religious subjects
  • Having a hard time tolerating uncertainty

OCD OBSESSION SYMPTOMS

Some examples of obsessive symptoms might include:

  • Doubting that you have locked a door or turned the stove off 
  • Avoiding situations that can trigger obsessive behaviors, like shaking hands with people
  • Images of driving your car into a crowd of individuals
  • Fear of contamination after touching something other people have touched
  • Thoughts about acting inappropriately in public or shouting obscenities

OCD COMPULSIONS DEFINITION 

OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that individuals feel driven to perform in an attempt to abate anxiety related to their obsessions or in an effort to prevent (what they feel is) something bad from occurring. As with OCD obsessions, OCD compulsions often have themes, including:

  • Counting
  • Washing and cleaning
  • Demanding reassurance
  • Following a strict routine
  • Orderliness
  • Checking

OCD COMPULSION SYMPTOMS

  • Counting in specific patterns
  • Repeatedly checking doors to ensure they are locked
  • Washing one’s hands until their skin is raw
  • Repeatedly checking the stove to ensure it’s off
  • Arranging canned goods so that they are facing in one direction
  • Silently repeating a word, phrase, or prayer

TREATMENT FOR OCD 

In considering how to treat OCD, there are many different approaches. What works for some might not work for others.

These could include:

  • Medications: Physicians tend to prescribe antidepressants, such as zoloft, prozac, paxil, or anafranil to help control the obsessions and compulsions associated with the disorder.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which is among the most effective psychotherapeutic routes in treating individuals struggling with OCD. A component of CBT known as exposure and response prevention (ERP) has been particularly helpful in treating OCD. 
  • Exposure and response prevention therapy, or ERP, is carried out by a licensed mental health professional in an outpatient setting. ERP can also be performed in group therapy settings, like with OCD therapy at Grouport

According to the International OCD Foundation, the ideal treatment for about 70% of OCD patients includes a combination of ERP and medication. 

If medications and psychotherapy do not produce the desired results, your physician may suggest you consider:

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation: Colloquially known as TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive procedure that involves harnessing magnetic fields in order to stimulate the brain’s nerve cells.
  • Intensive outpatient or residential treatment: You may find more success if you enroll in comprehensive treatment programs that focus on ERP’s therapeutic principles.
  • Deep brain stimulation: Also called DBS, deep brain stimulation is sometimes used in adults 18 and older with severe OCD. During this process, electrodes are implanted into your brain in the hopes that their electrical impulses will help curb any abnormal impulses you suffer from.

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