If you’re living with this disorder, it can be debilitating. The following is a breakdown of the condition and what you can do to manage it.
An obsession is a thought, impulse, or image that pops into your hard no matter how hard you attempt to block them out. They are usually about something upsetting or dangerous that induces feelings of fear, guilt, and anxiety. These are thoughts like did I lock my front door? (someone could break in) Did I remember to turn the oven off? (what if it explodes and my house burns down).
Obsessions can be even scarier, with the image of running someone down or even stabbing them. Or, urges that you don’t want to cater to. They generally unpleasant and disturbing because they are things you don’t want to be true and they revolve around things you love or value. For a short-term solution, the majority of people attempt to cope with these obsessions by focusing on how untrue they are. Or, by checking to ensure the door is locked, the oven is off, etc.
A compulsion is generally what you do as a response to your obsession. Your attempt at ensuring the obsession cannot become a reality. This is the physical act of checking things, washing hands, or praying, repeating words or numbers silently, and counting. These are also referred to as rituals, as the behavior tends to take a ritualistic tone. In that, the individual has to do certain things precisely to ensure that the bad thing can’t happen. This often results in these compulsions being repeated until it has been done exactly right to stave off the danger.
In some situations, there is an obvious connection between the two, but sometimes it’s more personal and may depend on the person’s superstitions or beliefs. Common obsession and compulsion pairings include:
- Contamination and washing
- Doubts and checks
- Violent thoughts, with associated rituals
- Sexual outrage, with associated rituals
There is no pleasure from obsessive thoughts, rather they fuel actions and thoughts that lead to greater levels of anxiety.
If you believe you have OCD and you have not been diagnosed, your first port of call should be your primary care physician. From there, the doctor will determine what type of treatment is right for you. This may include therapy, an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), or both. For some, CBT is the most helpful course of action because it focuses on thinking differently to cope with obsessions and compulsions. As far as research goes, studies have found that patients with OCD respond more favorably to CBT, with 70% saying it made a difference versus the 50% who found an SSRI effective.
If you have already received a diagnosis of OCD or you are on your way, you may be interested in self-help approaches to aid a traditional method of treatment. You can start by keeping a list of when your symptoms occur, the thoughts it conjures up, and how you can avoid or mitigate these situations.
You would also do well to make a note of the situations or activities you avoid because of your obsessions and compulsions. You can then offer each of these situations a rating on how anxious or upsetting they are, with 0 being not at all and 10 being incredibly anxious. This will make it easier to tackle CBT when you visit a therapist.
If you need assistance to manage OCD, get in touch with our team today.