Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Can I control it?
August 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that interferes with people’s lives. Obsessive thoughts, compulsions and obsessions take control causing distress and affecting a person’s normal life. Unfortunately, OCD is not something someone can easily manage by himself.
OCD is common in both children as well as adults and it is estimated that around 2.5 million adults in the US currently have it. OCD can start at any time from preschool to adulthood.
OCD has two main characteristics:
- Obsessions: disturbing and persistent thoughts which do not allow you to function normally,
- Compulsions: uncontrollable need of repeating a specific behavior, also known as ritual (for example: need to repeatedly check, touch or count things).
It’s important to clarify that people with OCD do NOT enjoy performing the rituals; the rituals are executed simply to control the obsessions and they are just a temporary relief from the anxiety created by intrusive thoughts.
What Causes OCD?
Although it’s not entirely clear what causes OCD, the only fact is that if someone suffers from it his or her brain is not working correctly. However, there are some theories: research suggests that OCD is linked to a chemical imbalance, irregularities with serotonin (a neurotransmitter which regulates anxiety). People with OCD may have a lower amount of serotonin than required. OCD sufferers may also have different patterns of brain activity or problems in the communication between the front part of the brain and deeper structures causing the person to perceive danger everywhere with no real reasons for it.
Symptoms of OCD
- Get easily engaged in behaviors that obstruct important activities (washing, cleaning, counting, checking),
- Have frequent and uncontrollable thoughts on different topics such as sex, aggression or religious matters,
- Need to perform specific activities over and over again in order to get some anxiety relief,
- Fear of dirtiness, getting a physical illness, etc.
- Unusual need to have things put in a precise orders and sometimes symmetry in objects; sometimes arranging objects and rooms until it “feels right”,
- To be extremely superstitious about lucky/unlucky numbers, certain colors, ideas, movements, etc.
- To clean and wash excessively or in a certain structured way,
- Checking constantly things around to be sure everything is fine,
- Avoiding situations that might trigger obsessions.
The main problem with OCD sufferers is that they decide to take action and look for help when the disorder is already in an advanced stage. The main reasons for this? Fear of being judged. For most individuals with OCD it takes several years until they decide to get help and the right treatment.
Once a mental health practitioner detects it, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is treated with psychotherapy (cognitive behavior therapy), medication, or a combination of both.
Cognitive behavior therapy is a kind of psychotherapy that aims to show and teach a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations. In time, anxiety is better managed and fear is reduced along with the obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
Medication. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications tend to be useful in treating OCD. Medication is beneficial for some OCD sufferers, however some of them could take weeks to start working and may present side effects such as headache, nausea, difficulty sleeping, or even suicidal thoughts.
Talk to your doctor about possible side effects, and also about which is the right treatment for you and your individual needs.
OCD can be an ugly monster for the individuals suffering from it, but in time and with the proper help, anyone can start feeling better, and finally control and overcome it. If you think you or one of your loved ones may suffer from OCD, don’t be afraid and seek for help. Remember no one will judge you, there is a solution for it!
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