There are three parts to the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
Obsessions – intrusive, unwanted and repeated thoughts, images or urges which you experience involuntarily and which may appear to be senseless.
Emotions – anxiety or distress which you feel from the obsessions.
Compulsions – repetitive behaviours which you feel you must perform to reduce the anxiety or distress.
OCD often centers around certain themes.
You might notice:
There are many factors that affect whether OCD develops and often a few factors occur together:
The usual treatment for OCD is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), medication or both. A combination of both CBT and medications is often most effective.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to help reduce OCD symptoms. SSRIs often require higher daily doses in the treatment of OCD than of depression and may take 8 to 12 weeks to start working, but some patients experience more rapid improvement.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
A type of CBT called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is usually recommended. In OCD, although compulsions may temporarily reduce anxiety, they actually perpetuate the vicious cycle of obsession-compulsion that prolongs distress. ERP is an effective way to break this cycle. It involves learning to bear the anxiety-provoking situation which triggers compulsions (e.g. touching dirty objects), refraining from undertaking the usual resulting compulsion (e.g. handwashing), and learning that the thoughts and feelings which trigger compulsions are more tolerable than expected and do not lead to the feared outcomes. You may find it challenging at the start, but the process is safe and you will work through your feelings of discomfort with your therapist. You will practise in a gradual fashion, from the less distressing scenarios to the more challenging ones. Over time, the anxiety which feeds the obsessions and compulsions will diminish.
Understand yourself and OCD
Knowledge really is power when it comes to OCD. The more you understand OCD and how treatment works the better the chances of managing and overcoming it. Attend your appointments with the doctor and psychologist regularly and do not stop treatment prematurely.
Build a support network Many people find it hard to talk about OCD. You might worry that people won't understand. Strengthening the relationships around you may help you feel less lonely and more able to cope. "Sharing the obsessive thoughts made them feel less powerful."
Learn to De-stress Stress and anxiety can make OCD worse. Try a relaxation technique or mindfulness to look after your wellbeing.
Look after your physical health Getting enough sleep, ensuring a balanced diet and doing regular exercise can make a difference to your mood and energy levels.