Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized under the broader term of Anxiety Disorders. The disorder is characterized by uncontrollable and usually unwanted thoughts and ideas that run through an individual’s mind. Even though the individual may realize that the thoughts are irrational, one is unable to resist thinking about the obsession. For the individual, these thoughts are regarded as intrusive and, despite not wanting to have the thought, one can’t stop them. They are disturbing, conflictual and they can be a great distraction.
Some common obsessions include:
- Thoughts about lack of cleanliness or the possibility of getting ill
- Thoughts that things are out of control, therefore leading to a need to be overly orderly or meticulously clean and neat
- Thoughts about different superstitions or concerns or fears that something bad is going to happen
- Thoughts and concerns about one’s own hostile impulses and a fear that one can hurt themselves or others
Compulsions are often in response to obsessional thoughts. They are typically ritualistic behaviors that are felt to address the feelings of nervousness and fears that the obsessions stir. For example, if a person has a fear of germs or a fear of being contaminated, the compulsion may lead to ritualistic hand washing. A person who is afraid of being attacked may have the compulsion to check, recheck and check again that every door and window of the house is closed. Performing these ritualistic behaviors may address the fear and nervousness for a short time, but typically, the unwanted and uncomfortable feelings will return. Some people liken this disorder to a needle getting stuck in a deep groove in an old record, repeating and repeating endlessly.
Typical compulsive behaviors include the following:
- Attempts to be overly orderly. Some examples may be arranging things and rearranging things so that they will appear perfect to the individual; structuring one’s life in a rigid and orderly way to prevent the fears of mishaps; calling and emailing one’s loved ones to address the constant concern about their safety and well-being.
As one can see, these are behaviors that can be exhausting and preoccupying and do not seem to go away, despite the individual’s attempts to be rational with themself.
The typical treatment approach includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Often, the therapy is used in connection with psychotropic medication designed to “quiet the mind” and reduce the force of both obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will help the person realize that their worst fears are unfounded and give the client a variety of anxiety reducing techniques, as well as strategies to deal with unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors. As in the treatment of other anxiety disorders, general healthy lifestyle habits are of value. This would include a proper diet, getting enough sleep and exercising on a regular basis. Sometimes joining a group of like-minded individuals who suffer from OCD is extremely supportive and reinforcing.
The literature suggests that OCD is related to chemical imbalances in the brain. Research has suggested that there are certain brain regions most active in OCD. The disorder is related to the level of a neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Some of the medications that effectively treat OCD are:
Your therapist will be able to assess whether psychotropic medication will be of help to you. Call us today for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Baltimore MD at 410-828-6062.