Obsessive Compulsive Behavior or OCD is a mental health disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition. The person suffering from OCD will have recurring and unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations.This might drive the person to do something repeatedly. Some of these behaviors might look like excessive hand washing or cleaning excessively. These are probably more well known than other OCD behaviors. These obsessive behaviors will get to the point where it is interfering with the daily life of the person struggling and they will be severely impaired.
To be clear, there are people who repeat behavior and have a certain focus that is regimented but this does not disrupt their life and it might make their life easier. This is not OCD. When people struggle with OCD the thoughts are persistent and unwanted.
The rigid routines are not helpful and when they are not doing them it causes a great deal of stress. Many people know that the thoughts and obsessions are not true yet it is still very stressful to remove their focus from the obsessions and stop the compulsive behavior.
“Do I Have OCD?” :: Diagnosing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
When diagnosing OCD there are criteria that are needed to be met for a diagnosis. They will have obsessions, compulsions, or both.
Obsessions are defined by the DSM-5 as:
- Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.
- The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action (i.e., by performing a compulsion).
Compulsions are defined by:
- Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, check- ing) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.
- The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing anxiety or distress, or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts are not connected in a realistic way with what they are de- signed to neutralize or prevent, or are clearly excessive.
Also when diagnosing OCD it is important to evaluate the obsessions or compulsions and whether they are time-consuming. For a diagnosis, they would take up more than one hour per day or cause clinically significant distress or impairment in one of these areas of life: social, occupational or other important areas of your life and how you function.Evaluating other areas of your life is important to look at. This diagnosis would not fit someone abusing drugs, alcohol or medications. Also, it would not apply if there is another medical condition showing similar symptoms. There are also other mental health disorder symptoms that can be better explained by a different mental health disorder.
One example of this could be a preoccupation with appearance which could also be explained by body dysmorphic disorder. A professional in the mental health field would be able to differentiate the different diagnoses and what fits best for the individual.
Examples of Obsessive Compulsions:
- Cleaning and washing repeatedly
- Excessive double-checking of things. These could be locks, appliances, and switches.
- Constantly checking in with somebody to make sure they are safe.
- Ordering or arranging things continuously so they are “perfect”
Examples of Obsessive Thoughts:
- Fear of germs
- Fear of harming others or yourself
- Intrusive sexual or violent thoughts or images
- Having superstitions where you give excessive attention to something you consider “lucky” or “unlucky”
Treatment for OCD
Therapy is a great option for somebody struggling with OCD, one that I believe is needed in order to work through the obsessions. There are different treatments you can do with a therapist that are meant for treating OCD.
One common form of therapy is exposure and response prevention or ERP. This is the most common approach when working with a therapist who specializes in treating OCD. ERP is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The exposure in ERP is where the person exposes themselves to the thoughts, images, objects, and situations that make them anxious and start the obsessions.
The response prevention is about making a choice not to engage in the compulsive behavior once the individual is “triggered”. This is done with a therapist, initially. The hope is that the individual will eventually be doing this on their own.
For some, it is scary to contemplate purposely exposing themselves to their obsessions that they typically run from and do not want to face. With this approach, the individual is actively making a choice to confront their obsessions and the anxiety that comes with it. By doing that they face the OCD head on and are able to find tools to deal with it from that point.
Talking to a Psychiatrist is going to be up to you. I think at least making an initial appointment would be great. You do not have to take any medications you do not want to but exploring this option might be beneficial to you and another tool to put in your tool box.
Medications like SSRIs have been found to be helpful for people suffering from OCD. They typically require a higher dosage than for somebody suffering from depression but are still very safe with minimal side effects.
Ways to Help Yourself
Starting the work with a professional is only a part of the work somebody will do to get through this. There will be homework and practicing what you learn in sessions while you are out in the world and not in treatment.There are also things you can also do for yourself that will help your wellbeing and recovery from OCD. Being able to find ways to relax on your own is going to be important, as well as things you can do that might offer a distraction or a way to get your mind off your treatment without being destructive.
Yoga & Meditation
Doing things like yoga or meditation might help you relax. Lets be honest, going through treatment for OCD can be exhausting. Working on the compulsions can be anxiety-provoking especially during therapy. Finding a way to quiet the mind would be a great tool to practice.
Mindfulness is another tool to help calm yourself. Mindfulness techniques are a great skill you can learn more about in therapy. Your therapist can teach you some mindfulness techniques and also point you to some books to help you learn to do this at home.
Exercising is a great relief for frustration. It also helps release endorphins that trigger a positive feeling throughout our body. Even if you do not go to the gym frequently, getting outside to walk is great.
Be your own best advocate & cheerleader
It is important not to seek praise and acceptance from others. I know that is easier said than done. Talking to yourself and praising yourself for the work you are doing is going to be so important. Nobody is going to do the work for you and you are going to be the one feeling the affects of your hard work. So cheer yourself on and advocate for what you need.
Do not wait for perfection before you are grateful
A long time ago I heard my pastor talk about not waiting for perfection before you are grateful. I feel it applies here. Be grateful where you are and where you are going. You might not be at the end yet but be grateful for where you are today not just looking toward tomorrow.
Talking to God and Looking to His WordLeaning into God during any of the trials of our lives is always important. God is here to comfort us and give us hope. Lets look and see what the Bible has to say.
One of my favorite Scriptures to look at when anxiety and struggle are prevalent in my life or the life of somebody I care about comes from Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23
This Scripture is saying that the Lord, our Shepherd, will help us find food, water, work, love and anything we might need, just like a Shepard would for his flock. That He will help us if we deviate from what is right. By saying, “I shall not want,” God is saying we will have everything that we need. I could go on about the meaning behind this passage but I think it is very clear that God is saying He will take care of all our needs, He will protect us and we do not need to worry.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
This Proverbs verse has been a source of comfort and blessings to many Christians. God is saying, “He shall direct thy paths.” This passage teaches that we need to fully commit to the Lord. By following God’s word and making sure to stay out of our own head (even any obsessions) he will guide us to our home in Heaven.
Here are a few other Scriptures to look into:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:6-8
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Faith Without Works is Dead
God will always be there for each and every one of us, so continue to seek Him. In James 2:26 it says, “Faith without works is dead.” I believe this is a very important message. Yes, we want to make sure we are reading Gods word, praying, etc but we also need to put the work in ourselves.
An individual can pray to have God help them through struggles like obsessive compulsive disorder but each individual needs to put the work in too. What that “work” looks like is going to be individualized to each person. Keeping the faith and doing the work to heal is going to be a great combination to getting somebody on the path to recovery from OCD and any trials in their life.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a treatable mental illness. There is hope for you or anybody else in your life that might be struggling. Reach out to a professional. This will be challenging work but with God and any other support you can get, anything is possible. And remember, you are not alone in this fight.
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