Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects both men and women of all ages, of all different walks of life. It is a specific neuropsychiatric anxiety disorder that co-abuses an individual to experience uncontrollable, recurring thoughts and/or behaviors that they feel the need to repeat over and over. These thoughts and behaviors are referred to as obsessions and compulsions. The compulsions or behavior’s role in symptomatology is to decrease the anxiety and distress related to whatever the obsessive thoughts triggered.
OCD is a common illness and type of anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Health, OCD affects 1.2% of the United States population.
OCD is also a common co-occurring diagnosis in those struggling with a substance use disorder.
OCD affects men, women, and children of all communities and backgrounds. OCD can occur at any age but is most likely to appear between the ages of 8-12 or in early adulthood. The National Institute of Mental Health States that 1 in 100 adults are living with OCD, and 1 in 200 kids are living with OCD.
OCD comes in many forms and can have varying symptoms, but in general, there are four types of OCD. It is common throughout all forms of OCD that the symptoms bring about intense feelings of anxiety or panic attacks.
Contamination: Underlying fear of contamination of germs, characterized by going to great lengths to avoid situations they see as risky
Perfection: Having to do with symmetry, ordering, and exactness
Doubt/Harm: Individuals will pose a fear of unintentionally causing harm to themselves or others and will get in the habit of checking and rechecking locks, doors, stoves, light switches and appliances.
Forbidden Thoughts: an obsession with a line of thinking, maybe violent or disturbing; dealing with intrusive and unwanted thoughts.
People with OCD can struggle with obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms interfere negatively with all aspects of life and daily functioning, including career, school, and relationships.
Obsessions are repeated mental images, urges, and thoughts that cause intense feelings of anxiety. Examples of obsessions include.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsession. Examples include.
A person with OCD does not have the ability to control their thoughts and behaviors even when they are able to recognize them as excessive. Individuals suffering from OCD tend to spend more than 1 hour a day engaging in these thoughts and behaviors. When dealing with obsessions and compulsions, the individual does not get a sense of relief or pleasure when performing them but instead feels relief from anxiety.
The causes of OCD are not yet fully known, but the illness has been linked to imbalances in neurochemistry that block communication in certain areas of the brain. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that imbalances in serotonin and vasopressin have been associated with the behaviors that cause OCD. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter involved in emotional regulation, metabolism, mood, and sleeping patterns. Vasopressin is a hormone that affects fluid regulation and cellular function.
OCD can also run in families, although there is no genetic marker proving its relation. Some theories suggest that growing up in a home where a child is exposed to the illness through relationships can be a determining factor in its diagnosis.
Research shows that there are specific treatment medications that can help combat the symptoms of OCD.
CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT is a form of talk therapy that usually takes place in an individual setting with a counselor, therapist, or social worker. CBT skills can be taught in group therapy as well, depending upon the treatment center where services are received. The modality focuses on changing destructive and disturbing patterns of thinking that negatively influence a person’s life to meet goals.
Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy: exposure refers to being exposed to and dealing with the thoughts, images, and situations that trigger obsessions and brings on anxiety. Response prevention refers to making an active and conscious choice not to engage in compulsive behaviors once the obsession is triggered. This type of therapy is a hands-on process with a trained clinician. ERP is not traditional talk therapy and is a type of habit reversal training.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): TMS uses an electromagnet to send magnetic pulses into specific areas of the brain. TMS therapy stimulates a part of the brain called the pre-supplementary motor area. Research has shown that this modality can be helpful in reducing abnormal brain activity triggered by OCD.
Medications: Medications can be a supplemental aid along with behavioral therapies to help reduce and eliminate symptoms of OCD. Consult with a psychiatrist to see what medications may be beneficial for you.
Due to the discomfort of symptoms, people with OCD want to desperately free themselves from their obsessive behaviors and thought patterns. This may lead them to seek ways to self-medicate and, as a result, suffer from drug addiction or alcohol addiction. There are many addiction treatment programs that serve individuals struggling with a dual diagnosis where you can learn to work through both issues collaboratively.
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