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There is Help for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Sally has an intense fear of becoming sick and ending up in the hospital. Although she has no underlying illness, she is continually washing her hands to the point of her hands becoming raw. She fears shaking hands because she may come into contact with germs, so she tries to avoid gatherings when possible. When she cooks with raw meat, she makes sure to wear gloves and throws any contaminated paper towels into a plastic bag before throwing them in to the trash. She then disinfects the surfaces three times and washes her hands with bleach. If she is unsure that she touched a germy surface, she will worry about germs and the fear of becoming sick until she engages in her washing routine. Her hands hurt all the time and she is tired of always thinking of what will happen to her physically.


David constantly worries that he might have hurt someone. He will lay in bed at night going over interactions and trying to decide if he needs to apologize for anything. What if someone is angry with him? What if he accidently said something to hurt someone’s feelings? Maybe that person will never speak to him again! These thoughts impact his sleep and result in countless over-apologizing to others.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive, repetitive, and unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that cause significant distress and. These obsessions often lead to compulsions, which are behaviors, rituals, or internal acts (e.g., repetitive prayers) that are typically performed in an attempt to reduce the anxiety and distress caused by the obsessions.


Common obsessions experienced by individuals with OCD may include a fear of contamination, a need for symmetry or orderliness, or horrific thoughts or images of harm or violence. Common compulsive behaviors may include excessive cleaning or hand washing, repetitive checking of locks or appliances, or counting or repeating words or phrases.

OCD is a chronic condition that can significantly impact an individual's daily life, relationships, and overall well-being.


Cause of OCD


The exact cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is not fully understood, but it is believed to be the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Here are some of the factors that may contribute to the development of OCD:


1. Genetics: OCD tends to run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component.


2. Brain structure and function: Studies have shown that certain areas of the brain may be involved in the develop


ment of OCD. Abnormalities in the levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, may also play a role.


3. Environmental factors: Traumatic events, such as abuse or neglect, may increase the risk of developing OCD. Stressful life events, such as illness or job loss, may also trigger the onset of OCD symptoms in some individuals.


4. Cognitive factors: Individuals with OCD may have certain cognitive styles, such as a tendency towards perfectionism or a need for control.


It is important to note that OCD is a complex disorder and likely results from a combination of multiple factors. Further research is needed to fully understand the causes of OCD.


Treatment


Even though OCD can be extremely distressing and negatively impact all facets of life, there is are effective treatments available. Treatment often includes a combination of psychotherapy and medication.


For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat OCD. CBT is a type of therapy that helps people with OCD learn to manage their symptoms by changing their patterns of thought and behavior. A specific form of CBT called exposure and response prevention (ERP) is typically considered the treatment of choice for OCD. The goal of ERP is to help individuals with OCD learn to face and manage their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. ERP involves exposing the person to situations or objects that trigger their obsessive thoughts, while preventing them from engaging in compulsive behaviors or rituals. The exposure can be either real-life situations or imagined scenarios. This treatment can be difficult and may initially lead to increased anxiety, but over time, the individual becomes desensitized to the triggers and their anxiety will decrease. ERP is typically conducted in a structured and gradual manner, with the individual working with a therapist to develop a hierarchy of triggers, starting with the least anxiety-provoking and working up to the most anxiety-provoking. ERP is considered a highly effective treatment for OCD, with research showing that it leads to significant reductions in symptoms for many individuals.


In conjunction with ERP, therapists may use other types of therapy such as mindfulness-based interventions, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), relaxation training, and other interventions aimed at coping with anxiety or addressing underlying traumas.


Crisis Line: Dial 988


Disclaimer: This article is not intended for medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.



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