Basics
July 24, 2020

Jem Fundano

What Should You Know About OCD?

Individuals struggling with OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, mention how they find themselves having overwhelming and obsessive thoughts. Their obsession with a certain thought, makes them want to do something that can stop them from feeling on edge or anxious.

OCD is a very common problem that is related to anxiety or stress. 2.2 million Americans -- men and women -- suffer from it. Some, are left untreated because they think the symptoms are a normal response to stress. This hampers their everyday life.

Knowing facts about OCD can help you create an understanding if you have specific symptoms. While gaining knowledge is important to become self-aware, it’s vital you don’t self-diagnose. If you observe symptoms of OCD, you must consult a mental health professional who can assess and diagnose. They are there to clarify what you really are struggling with.

To establish self-awareness, here are five facts you need to know about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

There are Obsessions and Compulsions Present

You’re obsessing. You have thoughts, urges, or images in your head and it’s causing anxiety or distress. It’s so persistent that it repeats over and over and it makes you feel on edge or anxious. (1)

When the obsessions are present, you try to restrain yourself or try to push the thoughts away. To avoid what you’re obsessing about, you see yourself doing things over and over until it gives you a sense of relief.

People with OCD cope with obsessive thoughts through compulsions. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors you do to minimize anxiety or stress.

An example of a person with OCD is someone who can’t stop thinking about catching the COVID-19 virus. They feel stressed and anxious so to relieve themselves, they excessively wash their hands. (2)

For some individuals with OCD, obsessions and compulsions have no logical connection. But, for them, it does.

An example of this is someone with OCD who is stressed at work. As a result, someone with OCD will organize objects around them and make it look symmetrical.

Obsessions and Compulsions are Time-Consuming

You experience obsessive and compulsive thoughts and action which take up over an hour of your time daily. These create a strain in your social, personal, work, or other relationships. It creates stress and affects your progress.

OCD Affects All Types of People and Varies in Intensity

Both male and female biological sexes can develop OCD. But, men are commonly affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

OCD symptoms can be seen as a child but it’s commonly diagnosed during lat adolescence. You’re at most risk if you have a family history of OCD. But, that doesn’t automatically mean you have it. (3)

The intensity of OCD varies depending on the level of stress. If you’re extremely stressed because of work and family problems, you will experience intense obsessions and compulsions. (4)

Stress Makes OCD Symptoms Worse

Obsessions build up anxiety and fear. If you’re obsessing more about something, your compulsions will get worse. When you’re stressed, you find yourself repeating behaviors more than usual.

For someone with OCD who are living in stressful environments, their compulsions are intrusive. It may take up half of their day and it causes chronic disturbance in their day-to-day life.

Monitoring and managing your stress levels help minimize the intensity of your OCD symptoms.

OCD Has Available Effective Treatments

OCD was considered a highly untreatable mental disorder. But, it is now considered to be a manageable one because of different available treatments.

Consulting a mental health professional can extremely help you understand OCD. You can be given therapy and medications.(5)

Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), and Prozac (fluoxetine) are common medications to help you with your OCD symptoms. These can balance your serotonin levels which are the neurotransmitters that regulate your mood.

Therapy is helpful. Undergoing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Therapy, and other types of psychotherapy can help you recover from OCD. (6) (7)

Getting help is the first step. Talk to someone. Mental health professionals are there to assess you - what you’re struggling with, what you should work on, and how you can cope. You can manage OCD symptoms once you ask for help and engage in treatment.

Sources:

(1) American Psychiatric Association. Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder Fifth Edition. 2013; Section II; 235-242.

(2) Wilson, R., Nicely, S., Quinlan, K. (April 10, 2020). Managing Covid-19 Concerns for people with OCD. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/managing-ocd

(3) Swedo SE, Rapoport JL, Leonard H, Lenane M, Cheslow D. Obsessive-compulsive disorder in children and adolescents. Clinical phenomenology of 70 consecutive cases. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1989;46:335–341.

(4) McElroy SL, Phillips KA, Keck PE Jr. Obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 1994 Oct;55 Suppl:33-51; discussion 52-3.

(5) Lack C. W. (2012). Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Evidence-based treatments and future directions for research. World journal of psychiatry, 2(6), 86–90. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v2.i6.86.

(6) Foa E. B. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 12(2), 199–207.

(7) Hertenstein, E., Rose, N., Voderholzer, U., Heidenreich, T., Nissen, C., Thiel, N., Herbst, N., & Külz, A. K. (2012). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in obsessive-compulsive disorder - a qualitative study on patients' experiences. BMC psychiatry, 12, 185. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-244X-12-185

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