Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a potentially disabling illness that traps people in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and behaviors.
People with OCD are plagued by recurring and distressing thoughts, fears, or images they cannot control. The anxiety produced by these thoughts leads to an urgent need to perform certain rituals or routines. The compulsive rituals are performed in an attempt to prevent the obsessive thoughts or make them go away.
Although the ritual may temporarily alleviate anxiety, the person must perform the ritual again when the obsessive thoughts return. This OCD cycle can progress to the point of taking up hours of the person’s day and significantly interfering with normal activities. People with OCD may be aware that their obsessions and compulsions are senseless or unrealistic, but they cannot stop them.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
Common obsessions include:
- Fear of dirt or contamination by germs
- Fear of causing harm to another
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of being embarrassed or behaving in a socially unacceptable manner
- Fear of thinking evil or sinful thoughts
- Need for order, symmetry, or exactness
- Excessive doubt and the need for constant reassurance
Common compulsions include:
- Repeatedly bathing, showering, or washing hands
- Refusing to shake hands or touch doorknobs
- Repeatedly checking things, such as locks or stoves
- Constant counting, mentally or aloud, while performing routine tasks
- Constantly arranging things in a certain way
- Eating foods in a specific order
- Being stuck on words, images or thoughts, usually disturbing, that won’t go away and can interfere with sleep
- Repeating specific words, phrases, or prayers
- Needing to perform tasks a certain number of times
- Collecting or hoarding items with no apparent value
What Causes OCD?
Although the exact cause of OCD is not fully understood, studies have shown that a combination of biological and environmental factors may be involved.
How Is OCD Treated?
OCD will not go away by itself, so it is important to seek treatment. The most effective approach to treating OCD includes cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach people with OCD to confront their fears and reduce anxiety without performing the ritual behaviors (called exposure therapy or exposure and response prevention therapy). Therapy also focuses on reducing the exaggerated or catastrophic thinking that often occurs in people with OCD.
What Is the Outlook for People With OCD?
In most cases, OCD can be successfully treated with medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or both. With ongoing treatment, most people can achieve long-term relief from symptoms and return to normal or near-normal functioning.
Can OCD Be Prevented?
OCD cannot be prevented. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the time a person spends suffering from the condition.
Get started on your path to a better life – make an appointment with a fully qualified and trained BCS Counselor. (Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian)