As if we need another reason to love our dogs! Dogs are currently helping scientists identify genetic variations that could lead to OCD in people, according to new research. The idea behind this is that human and canine versions are often similar, for example, dogs may lick their paws to the point of injury, whereas […]
If you have OCD, taking care of yourself every day is very important when you are dealing with this disorder. This includes making sure to take your medicines as directed every day and doing the homework your therapist may give you to do at home, such as self-directed exposure and response prevention exercises. For these, […]
OCD is often a disabling and chronic form of anxiety suffered by about one in 50 adults in the United States.
What is OCD?
Obsessions are persistent thoughts and ideas that continually invade the consciousness. Common obsessive themes include fear of contamination by dirt or germs, aggressive impulses, fears that someone is in danger of being harmed, and sexual images.
Compulsions are urges to carry out repetitive, stereotyped behavior in an effort to lessen anxiety that usually arises from their obsessions. Even though the obsessions are recognized as senseless, the compulsive actions are carried out in an intentional manner, at times for fear that some catastrophe may otherwise occur.
Compulsive behaviors include repetitive washing, counting, and checking, for example to be certain that a door is locked. Compulsions may also take the form of touching objects a certain number of times before leaving a room, turning lights on and off, and ordering the pencils on a desk to make sure they are all parallel to each other. (Anyone who has seen my office can be certain that I do not have this compulsion; my compulsion is constant clearing of my throat.) Just as some compulsive people avoid stepping on the cracks in a sidewalk, you may have noted that some major league pitchers carefully avoid touching the baseline as they move from the mound to their dugout.
Treatment of OCD
OCD needs to be treated because the time-consuming obsessions and compulsions are distressful and may interfere with social interactions and function in the workplace. In the absence of treatment two-thirds of patients tend to improve over time, but OCD behavior disappears fully in only about one in five.
People with mild OCD may respond to psychotherapy, but most of those with more severe OCD require medications.
Psychiatric treatment often involves “exposure therapy”: A patient who fears contamination with germs would be placed in contact with the feared object or place that was considered contaminated until the fear is eliminated. It sounds brutal, but repeated exposures may eventually result in loss of the fear.
For many years the tricyclic anti-depressant, clomipramine, was the most common drug used to treat OCD. Because of its side effects, the first choice of drug treatments for OCD is now one of the serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that are commonly used for the management of depression. These drugs include fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, and fluvoxamine. When treatment with a medication is successful, it is continued for one or two years before the drug is slowly tapered.
With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us are firmly entrenched in the excitement, anticipation, and business of this time of year. Whatever our holiday plans involve, there are bound to be changes in our routines. This can be particularly difficult for those suffering from OCD.
It’s not hard to see why vacationing and travelling might trigger all kinds of concerns for OCD sufferers. No matter what type of OCD they suffer from, there’s always lots to worry about when stepping out of their comfort zone.
- “Will I be able to use the public or hotel restroom?”
- “What if I catch an illness or contaminate someone else while traveling?”
- “What if I hit someone while driving on the highway?”
The questions are endless and will be different for each person with the disorder. As you can see, however, all these concerns revolve around one thing: the uncertainty of what will be. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder have the need to know, for sure, that all will be okay.
Having to alter plans, not being able to be spontaneous, and dealing with high levels of anxiety are just some of the many examples of how OCD can impinge upon a vacation. Interestingly, anticipatory anxiety is often worse than the actual event being agonized over. So what should OCD sufferers do when faced with all these holiday events fraught with doubt and uncertainty?
They should push through their anxiety and embrace the doubt and uncertainty that is holding them hostage. Yes, there is uncertainty that comes with traveling, vacationing or entertaining. Indeed, there is uncertainty in every aspect of our lives, and we all need to learn to accept, not fear, it.
A great way to learn to embrace the doubt is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy, the frontline treatment for OCD. This therapy is about facing one’s fears as well as accepting the uncertainty of life. Giving in to what OCD demands only fuels it; standing up to OCD takes away its power. And while ERP therapy is difficult, it’s in no way as hard as living a life dictated by the disorder. Therapists who are properly trained in ERP therapy can help those who are suffering from OCD regain their lives.
If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, I propose that you give yourself a gift this holiday season and make the commitment to stand up to your OCD. Reclaim your life. You deserve to enjoy the holidays, and every day, with your family and friends instead of being controlled by obsessions and compulsions. It will not only be a gift to yourself, but just might possibly be the best gift you could ever give to those who care about you.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a type of mental illness that causes a person to have repeated unwanted thoughts. In order to get rid of the thoughts, the person will do the same tasks over and over. If you suspect that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, it is important to seek treatment right away. Treatment will improve your quality of life, as well as the lives of your loved ones. Getting early treatment of OCD can help to reduce your symptoms and reduce the disruption the illness can create in your life. While there are many health professionals that can help to treat or monitor OCD, you may want to see a health professional who has had specific training in OCD management. Health professionals who can diagnose, treat, or monitor the progress of OCD include:
- Family Medicine Doctor
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
Other health professions who are able to provide ongoing counseling and support of OCD but can’t prescribe medicines include:
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- Social Worker
It is very important to reach out to your doctor is you think you have OCD. They will be able to help you set treatment plans in motion and help you to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.