Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V) characterizes using the following criteria:
- Presence of compulsions, obsessions, or both
- The obsessions or compulsions are time-consuming
- The obsessive-compulsive symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance
- The disturbance is not better explained by another mental health disorder
People who have OCD often struggle with uncontrollable and/or intrusive thoughts, the overwhelming need for perfection, and fear that something bad may happen to them or someone they love. This mental health disorder is most noticeable in individuals between the ages of 4-40, however the symptoms associated with OCD tend to be most prominent in teenagers and young adults.
As with any mental health disorder, OCD can develop even if a person is not at risk for having it. However, the majority of people who have OCD usually have at least one risk factor that has likely contributed to the development of this specific disorder. The risk factors associated with OCD include the following:
- Having a family history of OCD
- Having another mental health disorder ( the most common being anxiety, depression, ADHD, eating disorders, and some personality disorders)
- Having Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS)
- Increased amount of stress or a continuation of consistent stress
- Pregnancy and postpartum
Just because a person has one or more of the risk factors listed above does not necessarily mean that they will develop OCD. It does not mean that they will develop any type of mental health disorder at all. But, those who have these risk factors present are more likely to struggle with OCD than those who do not.
It is not uncommon for people to think that OCD and OCD personality disorder are the same thing. While these two conditions share some similarities, they are not the same.
OCD personality disorder is defined as a “disorder that is characterized by a pervasive preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control (with no room for flexibility) that ultimately slows or interferes with completing a task.” Symptoms of OCD personality disorder include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Perfectionism to the point where a person is unable to finish tasks
- Highly rigid behaviors and mannerisms
- Extreme attention to detail
- Hoarding useless items
- Inability to share or delegate work because of fear that it will not be completed correctly
- Significant fixation with lists
- Strong adherence to rules
- Excessive need for order
- A sense of righteousness regarding how things should be done
While the two conditions can appear more similar than not, they are not the same. Usually, those with OCD personality disorder tend to have more pervasive symptoms that dramatically interfere with their ability to function.
There are several symptoms of OCD, but it is important to understand that these symptoms cannot be generalized. That is because there are different types of OCD. They include:
- Symmetry and ordering
- Ruminations/intrusive thoughts
The symptoms for these types of OCD include the following:
- Fears about being responsible for any type of threat to life or property (such as a fire or a burglary)
- Fears of developing a serious illness
- Fears of making mistakes
- Fears of saying or doing something hurtful or inappropriate
- Fear of getting cancer, STI’s, or any other health-related problem
- Fear of spreading illness
- Fear of bodily fluids (e.g. blood, saliva, semen)
- Fear of germs and toxins
- Fear of becoming contaminated by someone who is sick
- Fear of becoming contaminated if something irrational occurs (e.g. fear of contamination if someone sits in a certain spot in the house)
Symmetry and ordering OCD
- Fear that something bad will happen if something is out of place
- High anxiety when objects are not symmetrical
- Excessive need for balance (e.g. items needing to be symmetrical or only taking a certain amount of steps to get from one place to the next)
- Obsessive thoughts about cleanliness
- Fear of harming someone
- disturbing, uncontrollable thoughts (such as inappropriate sexual or violent thoughts)
- Intense thoughts of perfection
A person may not fully fall into one of these OCD types but instead exhibit symptoms from more than one type. There are many people who specifically fit one of these types. Thankfully, OCD is a treatable mental health disorder.
As mentioned before, OCD is a treatable condition. Individuals who have obsessive-compulsive disorder do not need to continue struggling with unchecked symptoms. Instead, they can learn how to manage their problematic symptoms so that they can live healthier lives.
Individuals with OCD can benefit from a wide range of evidence-based therapies. Individual psychotherapy, group counseling, and even family therapy can be vital in helping develop a strong foundation for recovery. But it is often the therapies that hone in on specific issues that benefit individuals the most. These therapies include, but are not limited to, the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT works by identifying patterns of behaviors or thoughts that create negative effects and modifying them to produce positive effects. For example, a new mother is experiencing significant anxiety because she is having intrusive thoughts of harming her child. While she is not capable of that action and understands that cerebrally, her thought pattern can cause her to feel out of control, detach, and frightened. CBT challenges that intrusive thought by replacing it with something that produces a more positive effect, such as outwardly saying “I am not going to hurt my baby, that is an untrue thought.” After making that statement, the new mother can do something that can help retrain her brain and its response by doing something, such as folding the laundry, taking a drive, reading a book, etc. This example shows how CBT works to identify and then replace problematic thinking patterns associated with OCD.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP)
Exposure and response prevention is similar to CBT in that it challenges individuals to modify their negative thinking and behavioral patterns. A therapist will expose the patient to an event that triggers the onset of OCD symptoms and encourages them to keep from performing compulsive behaviors. When exposure and response prevention is conducted regularly, patients become desensitized to the triggering events.
OCD is an anxiety disorder. Today, anxiety is the top mental illness in the United States. This specific mental health disorder can be caused by genetics, environment, or a combination of both. Therapy, such as CBT and ERP, are absolutely vital components of a person’s OCD treatment. But, in many cases, medication is needed to help balance out brain chemistry. Specific prescription medications can be used in conjunction with therapy in order to produce the most promising result for the patient.
Living with OCD can be painful and lonely. Thankfully, there is treatment available so that those who grapple with this mental health condition can create and maintain happy, stable lives. Launch Centers in Los Angeles utilizes a number of therapies to help individuals recover from OCD.