To define OCD, you need to look at the commonly accepted symptoms that therapists use when making a diagnosis. The bottom line is that OCD sufferers have uncontrolled and recurrent thoughts and behaviors with a strong urge to repeat them. Everyone may feel the need to check off a list or make sure a door is locked. But for people with OCD, these tasks become obsessions that create anxiety.
A person with OCD is normally affected by rituals for at least one hour per day. These rituals can provide a brief respite from their anxiety until they experience another trigger, which restarts the cycle. The longer a person with OCD puts off getting help, the more their work, school, and relationships can be affected for the worse.
Types of OCD
OCD can manifest itself in different ways. Sufferers tend to repeat the same behaviors over and over, sometimes without thinking. They may also have thoughts that replay again and again, without being able to rein them in. You can categorize different types of OCD by two main branches: fear-driven OCD and nervous-system-driven OCD.
Those who suffer from fear-driven OCD perform many rituals. They believe that if they fail to perform the rituals, what they actually fear may come true. For example, they may fear that the house will catch on fire unless they check every light switch, stove, and heat source several times before leaving. Another example is those who fear becoming sick. They may clean surfaces with compulsion because they are sure that a virus on the surface will cause an infection.
Some fear-driven OCD sufferers have thoughts that hold them captive. They may have recurrent doubts and fears about their relationships. It’s also possible that they have fear-driven thoughts about harming themselves or others, even if the thoughts are bizarre.
Everyone experiences upsetting thoughts from time to time. But OCD sufferers replay these thoughts because they fear the thoughts will manifest. They may use mental rituals, like counting numbers or repeating words, to relieve their distress.
With nervous-system-driven OCD, people perform rituals without a particular reason, other than it feels unnatural and uncomfortable not to perform them. They feel so strongly about this compulsion that they fear something bad could happen in the absence of rituals.
Signs of OCD
OCD shows up in the form of obsessions and compulsions. Whether the type is fear-driven or nervous-system-driven, OCD causes people to repeat behaviors or thoughts many dozens or hundreds of times per day.
These are the signs that OCD may be present:
- Obsession over contamination, viruses, and bacteria
- Obsession over misplacing or losing items
- Fears about harm toward oneself or loved ones
- Taboo thoughts about religion, sex, or others
- The compulsion to have everything in perfect or symmetrical order
- Excessive cleaning of one’s own body or environment
- Hoarding or keeping unneeded objects
- Checking on things again and again
- Counting things or steps again and again
- Need for constant reassurance
When someone with OCD experiences these thoughts or behaviors, they attempt to relieve feelings of distress. However, the cycles repeat because the fears or nervous system impulses keep reoccurring. The OCD sufferer never truly feels relief since the cycle never ends.
Symptoms of OCD
Since rituals are time-consuming and draining, OCD sufferers often feel bogged down. Their rituals tend to take over their schedules. They can get hung up on the details or routine and may become frustrated or upset when their rituals are disrupted.
Those with OCD may exhibit compulsive behaviors, as described above. They may also have recurrent, unwanted thoughts that they do not share with anyone else. Some OCD sufferers also have tic disorders. They may have vocal tics like grunting, throat-clearing, or sniffing. They may also have motor tics such as grimacing, shrugging, blinking, or jerking.
What Causes OCD?
Researchers believe that OCD may be influenced by genetics. Sometimes it runs in families, but it’s not known why some people in the family experience OCD while others do not. The risk is higher if a first-degree relative developed OCD as a child or teenager. OCD tends to start showing up in adolescence. Boys may experience it at an earlier age than girls.
Certain parts of the brain play an important role in obsessive and compulsive behaviors, in addition to the underlying fear and anxiety. Scientists are studying the frontal cortex to see if there are connections between brain abnormalities and OCD. As research continues, treatments will adapt and improve for OCD patients.
People who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, or who have post-traumatic stress disorder, have a higher risk of developing OCD. Some children develop OCD after streptococcal infections. This is called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).
OCD Treatment Options
If you think you have OCD, the first step is to speak with a qualified counselor. Your counselor will listen to your description of symptoms, ask about your health history, and form a diagnosis. At Seattle Christian Counseling, we offer OCD treatment options to many clients, using Cognitive Behavior Therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you retrain your brain for different thinking and behavioral patterns. It can help you form different reactions to your obsessions and compulsions. This type of therapy has helped many people at our clinic overcome OCD.
A specific type of CBT, known as Exposure and Response Prevention, slowly exposes you to the root fears or obsessions. During this type of therapy, we assist you in practicing healthy habits for dealing with anxiety triggers.
We also use habit reversal training to help you stop compulsive behaviors. When we counsel children with CBT, we will help the family form strategies for stress management at home and school.
If your OCD is related to other disorders like anxiety, depression, or body dysmorphic disorder, we will take a holistic approach to treatment. We will address each issue as you are able to handle, encouraging you to take small steps of progress. After CBT, many patients are empowered to put OCD behaviors behind them.
Medication may also help certain individuals control OCD. Antidepressants that help with serotonin uptake, known as SSRIs or SRIs, are usually prescribed for depression. However, they can also help patients with OCD. These types of medication often take up to 12 weeks to work and have side effects including nausea, headaches, or troubled sleep.
Many patients can manage these side effects, which tend to decrease over time. However, if you experience side effects, it’s important to speak with your doctor or psychiatrist first before stopping your dosage. By going off the medication without professional input, you may unintentionally worsen your OCD symptoms and cause other potentially dangerous side effects.
If your symptoms do not improve after CBT and these types of medications, you may respond more favorably to antipsychotic medication. Research shows that people who have both a tic and OCD often experience good results with this type of medication. It’s important to consult with both your doctor and counselor on the best type of treatment for your symptoms.
Christian Counseling for OCD Treatment
When you start receiving OCD treatment, it’s wise to take a long view. You may not notice an improvement in symptoms for several weeks, so it’s essential that you continue with therapeutic treatments.
Even though there is no cure for OCD, a caring Christian counselor can help you overcome the worst of your symptoms so you can live a fuller, healthier life. We will talk about other ways you can manage your stress levels, including eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. We can help you improve the quality of your relationships, so you have a stronger support system. Contact us today to learn about the best treatment options for you.
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