What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Have you ever had a thought that keeps on repeating no matter how much you try to ignore it? Or maybe you sometimes feel like you’ve developed an obsession for a specific activity or routine?
Experts define obsessions as unwanted, repeated, and persistent thoughts, memories, images, or urges.
For people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive thoughts can generate anxiety and distress. Since it’s challenging to go about their daily activities while dealing with an annoying, anxiety-generating thought, people with OCD often compensate with compulsive behaviors.
Compulsive behaviors are persistent and repetitive acts, or ‘rituals’ that lower anxiety and generate a sense of satisfaction or relief.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a long-lasting condition in which the person has persistent, uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) followed by behaviors that he/she needs to repeat (compulsions or ‘rituals’) to lower anxiety.
People with this condition may experience obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, or both.
Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The symptoms of OCD can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, relationships, and personal growth.
There are two symptoms that characterize OCD: obsessions and compulsions. But let’s take a moment to figure out how these symptoms might look like.
- Fear of dirt, germs, microbes, and contamination
- Uncontrollable urge to hurt other people
- Exaggerated sense of responsibility for the safety of others
- Intense and often strange thoughts related to sexuality or religion
- Constant feeling that something terrible is about to happen
- Uncontrollable desire to do everything perfectly
- Washing, rinsing, and cleaning
- Obsessive hand washing
- Counting, or arranging objects in a specific order
- Obsessive praying
- Checking things repeatedly
For a thought or impulse to be considered obsessive, it needs to be repetitive, persistent, and intrusive. And the same goes for compulsive behaviors.
How is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Treated?
When dealing with patients who struggle with OCD, mental health professionals recommend medication, psychotherapy, or a mix of both.
One of the most frequently used approaches for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
This approach helps people with OCD understand the irrational nature of their obsessive thoughts and challenge their core beliefs about danger, control, and other aspects that might be related to their condition.
To manage compulsive behaviors, patients are encouraged to engage in exposure and response prevention. That involves exposing themselves gradually to anxiety-inducing stimuli and refraining from any compulsive behaviors that might lower anxiety.
Many healthcare experts believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder is, in part, the result of neurochemical imbalances. And that’s why pharmacological treatments are sometimes the only way in which OCD sufferers can get a handle on their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
For people with OCD, psychiatrists prescribe medication designed to alter the quantity of neurotransmitters produced by the brain.