Identifying and Treating OCD
Often, OCD is portrayed in pop culture as cute, quirky behaviors; people who can’t walk on cracks or are obsessed with order or germs. In reality, OCD can be a debilitating disorder. OCD sufferers are haunted by unwanted and intrusive thoughts or overwhelming feelings that are often fear inducing and self-critical. The desire to resist the thoughts and feelings can lead to avoidances and other time consuming behaviors that can result in a lonely, distressed, unfulfilled way of living.
OCD is characterized by two components. The first is recurring and intrusive thoughts - Obsessions. The second is excessive urges to perform certain actions over and over again - Compulsions. Obsessions in OCD are distressful. The person does not want to have these thoughts and finds it disturbing that the thought happened at all. Compulsions are meant to prevent or counteract the thought or feeling. A sufferer does not find joy in the compulsion, but rather sees it as the only means necessary to reduce distress. This becomes a reinforcement cycle and interferes with daily living.
Some common Obsession themes include: unwanted sexual thoughts, religious obsessions (Scrupulosity), fear of contamination (germs, chemicals, dirt, etc), fear of losing control of oneself, fear of being responsible for harming self or others, needing things “just right” and many others. Common compulsions include: washing and cleaning, checking behaviors, repeating actions or phrases, asking questions or seeking reassurance, Googling and avoidance; among many others.
If you believe yourself or a loved one may have OCD, it’s important to seek treatment from a specialist. Research has identified a specific type of CBT (Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy) called ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) as the most helpful method for treating OCD. In ERP, clinicians use gradual exposure to desensitize clients to OCD-related thoughts and behaviors. Overtime, ERP empowers clients to confront their feared situations and respond in new more value-driven ways. Leaving them free to live their lives.
To learn more about OCD visit iocdf.org. Kari Gregory, LPC - Kari is an OCD specialist trained in ERP by the Behavioral Therapy Training Institute.