Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that involves recurrent and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that are typically associated with mental or physical behaviors (compulsions). Individuals with OCD may experience either obsessions, compulsions, or both at the same time.
While obsessions and compulsions are commonly experienced by the general population, symptoms of OCD rise to a level of severity that can be debilitating and interfere with your work, relationships, hobbies, and daily life.
What are obsessions?
Obsessions are thoughts, images, or impulses that occur repeatedly throughout the day and feel outside of one’s control.
Common obsessions include:
- Contamination (e.g., body fluids, germs, environmental contaminants, dirt)
- Losing control (e.g., fear of acting on impulse to harm oneself or others, fear of violent images in one’s mind)
- Harm (e.g., fear of being responsible for harming others)
- Perfectionism (e.g., concern about exactness, fear of losing things, fear of making wrong decisions)
- Unwanted sexual thoughts (e.g., forbidden or perverse sexual thoughts, obsessions about aggressive sexual behavior towards others)
- Religious obsessions (e.g., fear of offending God, excessive concern with right/wrong or morality)
In most cases, people with OCD realize that their obsessions may be irrational, yet they continue to cause a high level of distress.
What are compulsions?
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that an individual engages in to provide some relief from the negative feelings brought on by their obsessions. These behaviors are time-consuming and tend to get in the way of completing important activities that the person values (e.g., work commitments, family responsibilities, self-care).
Common compulsions in OCD include:
- Washing and cleaning (e.g., excessive washing hands, showering, grooming, cleaning household, doing things to prevent or remove contact with contaminants)
- Checking (e.g., checking that you did not cause harm to yourself or others, rechecking that you locked doors or turned off the stove, checking to avoid mistakes)
- Repeating (e.g., rereading or rewriting, repeating or redoing actions over and over, tapping or touching an object a particular number of times)
- Mental compulsions (e.g., excessive praying to prevent harm, reviewing events of the day to prevent harm, replacing “bad” words with “good” words to cancel them out)
Engaging in compulsions will typically leave an individual with temporary relief, but will ultimately reinforce the irrational and disproportionate amount of distress caused by one’s obsessions.
What causes OCD?
Research has demonstrated that OCD has a strong genetic component, meaning that someone is more likely to develop symptoms of OCD when they have a first-degree relative who has this disorder. Other risk factors for developing OCD include:
- Exposure to trauma
- Brain function abnormalities
- Underlying mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression, substance abuse)
- Family history
Although OCD can occur at any age, it is most commonly diagnosed by age 19—however, you can certainly go years without a proper diagnosis and not know about your condition until later in life.
OCD affects men, women, and children of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. It is estimated that OCD affects about 1 in 100 adults and 1 in 200 children in the U.S.
What are treatments for OCD?
The majority of people with OCD (about 7 out of 10) will benefit from some kind of treatment for their symptoms. The current evidence-based treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medication.
Many of the clinicians at Thriving Center of Psychology have been trained in a specific type of CBT called exposure and response prevention (ERP), which has the strongest evidence supporting its effective use in the treatment of OCD. Your clinician can also help connect you with a psychiatrist to determine if psychiatric medication would improve your response to treatment.
No matter how complex your case of OCD is, the highly skilled team at Thriving Center of Psychology can help. Book your OCD evaluation at Thriving Center of Psychology through the website or call the offices to schedule an appointment today.
Disorders that present with similar characteristics to OCD include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Hoarding Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder