According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, OCD affects 2.2 million adults, or 1% of the American population. The Mental Health Foundation defines OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, as a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive and frequent obsessions and repetitive and ritualistic behaviors.
Those who have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder feel driven to do certain things with a strong urge, in order to release stress and tension, or just to feel better. If you’re wondering what those urges might look like, hold tight because we’re going to be diving deeper into the different types of urges later on in this article.
Today, we’re going to unpack OCD symptoms, the different types of urges or compulsions, OCD demographics and causes, and OCD treatment.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessive and compulsive behaviors. It is possible to only experience one or the other. More often than not, someone with OCD will experience both.
When it comes to seeking OCD treatment, it’s vital to first recognize the signs and symptoms of the disorder. Let’s break down both obsession symptoms and compulsion symptoms, beginning with different obsessions one may experience.
According to the Mayo Clinic, OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent, and unwanted thoughts, urges, or images that are intrusive and cause stress or anxiety. Typically, they are very hard to ignore and may cause people to engage in certain ritualistic behaviors to try and get rid of them.
Some examples of obsessive thoughts may include:
- Being afraid of dirt or getting contaminated
- Having to have things in order or symmetrical
- Experiencing strong doubt and difficulty handling uncertainty
- Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or someone else
- Unwanted aggressive or sexual thoughts
- This type of obsessive behavior may manifest itself in the following ways:
- Not wanting to touch objects other people have touched for fear of being contaminated by germs
- Wondering persistently if you forgot to lock the door or turn off the stove
- Experiencing intense stress when things aren’t orderly or just how you like them
- Images of hurting yourself or someone else
- Avoiding certain situations that trigger an obsession like shaking someone’s hand
- Thoughts about acting inappropriately in public
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel a strong, intense urge to perform. These repetitive mental or physical acts are performed to help reduce anxiety, but typically they only provide temporary relief.
Common compulsive symptoms:
- Cleaning repeatedly
- Having a strict routine
- Checking on things repeatedly
- Demanding reassurance
- Cleanliness and orderliness
Compulsive symptoms may display themselves as the following behaviors:
- Excessive hand-washing
- Checking doors repeatedly to see that they’re locked
- Making sure the stove is off numerous times
- Counting in certain patterns or having to count the stairs each time you go up and down them
- Silently repeating a word, phrase, or prayer
- Arranging your books (or other objects) to face a certain way
Sometimes, people mistake being a perfectionist with having OCD, and it’s important to note that being a perfectionist and having OCD are not the same thing. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder causes intense stress and anxiety and is considered a lifelong disorder, while perfectionism does not fit within that definition.
According to the International OCD Foundation, OCD affects men, women, and children of all races and ethnicities equally and can reveal itself starting at preschool age and into adulthood.
It’s most common, though, for OCD symptoms to first appear between the ages of 8 and 12, or between the late teen years and early adulthood. About 1 in 100 adults in the United States are currently living with OCD, which is about the same amount of people currently living in Houston, TX.
When it comes to children and OCD, an estimated 500,000 children in the United States are currently living with this disorder.
While researchers don’t know the exact cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, to find the right OCD treatment, it’s helpful to understand that OCD can be due to biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Biologically, research shows that OCD can occur when the frontal lobe of the brain doesn’t communicate clearly with other parts of the brain, inhibiting neurotransmitters called serotonin.
Research also suggests that OCD could be hereditary. If a parent has this disorder, then it’s more likely that the child may also have OCD or OCD tendencies. Even if the child isn’t born with the disorder, the child may pick up OCD tendencies by watching the behaviors of the parent.
Environmental factors also come into play when it comes to the cause of OCD. Research has found that the body’s negative reaction to infection may bring on the symptoms of OCD. According to the International OCD Foundation, this type of OCD is known as PANDAS.
PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. PANDAS differs from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder because it happens very suddenly, seemingly overnight, and can have a severe impact on a child’s life.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the different causes of OCD, let’s explore some of the different OCD treatment options.
OCD Treatment Options
ERP, which stands for Exposure and Response Prevention, and medication are two of the more common OCD treatment options. Research shows that seven out of 10 people suffering from OCD can find relief from their symptoms using either ERP or medication.
Let’s unpack both ERP and different types of OCD medications below.
Exposure and Response Prevention (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
ERP, or Exposure and Response Prevention, is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that exposes the patient to thoughts, images, objects, and situations that would normally make them anxious and start the onset of their obsessive or compulsive thinking and acting.
Once the patient is exposed to a situation that triggers their OCD symptoms, the patient is helped and supported, to make the conscious choice to not participate in the obsessive or compulsive behavior.
ERP is best practiced with a licensed behavioral therapist who can create a safe space for the patient to learn and grow. After a certain number of visits, while practicing ERP, the patient will be able to take what they learn and practice ERP exercises at home under the supervision of their therapist.
Medications Used in OCD Treatment
There are certain psychiatric medications that doctors can prescribe to help those struggling with OCD symptoms. Normally, antidepressants are prescribed as the first medication of choice. Here is a list of antidepressants that a doctor may prescribe for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
- Clomipramine (Anafranil) for adults and children 10 years and up
- Fluoxetine (Prozac) for adults and children 7 years and up
- Fluvoxamine for adults and children 8 years and up
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) for adults only
- Sertraline (Zoloft) for adults and children 6 years and up
It’s wise to be cautious when taking any sort of new medication related to OCD treatment because all medications have certain side effects. If you are leaning towards medication to treat your OCD symptoms, please discuss with your doctor what those side effects are and any concerns you may have.
Medication is not for everyone, so having open, honest conversations with your physician is key when it comes to finding the right OCD treatment for you.
Here at our counseling offices, we want to create a safe space for you to learn and grow. We want you to feel heard and seen while at the same time being challenged and stretched in a loving way.
If you are struggling with an OCD diagnosis and would like to work with a therapist that has a Biblical perspective, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or one of the other counselors in the online directory.
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