Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a disorder that causes the sufferer to have recurring, unwanted, intruding thoughts, or sensations. Then they often feel driven to perform certain behaviors…and repeat them over and over.
Thinking obsessively about something happens. A mistake you made, or new shoes you saw at the mall — just about anything can get stuck in your head.
But, for many people, these thoughts don’t interfere with your work, your routine, or your relationships.
However, for some people, the intensive, repeating thoughts, and the repetitive behaviors they drive, interfere with everything. And even though you may suspect that the thought or the question or the doubt in your mind isn’t real, it’s still really hard for you to ignore the thoughts…to just not check…and the thought of not being able to do what you need to do to lessen your anxiety — of not being able to follow through on a compulsive behavior — causes awful distress.
Obsessions – What They’re Like
So let’s talk about those obsessive thoughts. They can be images, impulses, or a fully formed thought. These are persistent and distressing, and they intrude all the time, leading to upsetting emotions like anxiety or even disgust.
They can be just about anything. Sometimes the thoughts are thoughts of harm — even thoughts of things you would never, ever do — injury to yourself or another person. Sometimes you can have thoughts that might be sexually focused in a way that’s abhorrent to you, the sufferer.
You try to shift your attention, block the thought — or you do something that you hope will somehow prevent or resolve this obsessive and upsetting thought. As a question, over and over. Check, check, check.
Compulsions – A Maddening Non-Solution
If you have obsessive compulsive disorder, the distressing thoughts that torment you can drive you to behaviors that somehow relieve their distress… or maybe you hope they will. These behaviors, such as checking the oven over and over and over…. or closing and locking the door over and over and over, often represent to the sufferer a solution.
The “solution” proves to be severe, when the repetitions last more than 10 times, or 20 times. But like a cruel master who’s never satisfied, they may drive you to continue repeating the action all day long and into the night.
Once you reach a point of relief, and can stop the behavior, the obsessive thought returns…and the cycle starts all over again.
These rituals of repetitious cycles are aimed at preventing a feared situation, and at reducing the stress that fear is causing. To make matters worse, you knows deep down these behaviors are a little irrational. But that knowledge isn’t enough to help you stop.
And the behavior may bring a mild sense of relief, but it’s always temporary …until the obsessive thought returns and the cycle repeats.
Categorize Compulsive Behaviors like this:
Cleaning. It can be hand washing with varying degrees of thoroughness, even to the point of removing layers of skin. It can be cleaning house, cleaning the car, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning kitchen, cleaning the floor. In many cases, there is often a fear of germs, chemicals, or dirt you imagine to be contaminating and potentially harmful.
Repeating. These can be words, numbers, a name, or a phrase that are repeated several times or more. Even though you recognize that these repetitions won’t prevent injury, you many fear that if you don’t repeat then harm will come to you or someone you love.
Checking. Checking rituals develop to in response to the the thought that you should prevent injury to yourself or someone else. So you check to be sure that the door is locked over and over…you check that the stove is off …over and over. Or you retrace a route with the car to be sure no one was run over on your last trip. Then…just in case, you retrace it again.
Arranging. For some, there is relief in putting things in order, arranging and rearranging books or papers… arranging items in a symmetric position, though it’s the re-ordering and re-arranging that is so compelling. It doesn’t feel right until it’s just right. And that can waste hours.
Mental compulsions. Sometimes you respond to intrusive thoughts with silent prayer or repetitious phrases to drive away that anxiety and dread.
In addition, if you have OCD, your family may suffer from other anxiety-related disorders. Conditions such as hypochondriasis, body dysmorphic disorder, hoarding disorder, trichotillomania or hair pulling disorder, and excoriation (or skin picking disorder) … as well as Tourette’s.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatments
Treatment has long included SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These are effective in some cases. To determine whether the treatment is effective requires several weeks to months. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help reduce OCD symptoms.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) shows promising results, in both depression and anxiety disorders. Learn more about TMS here. TMS helps patients who aren’t helped by medications …in as many as 75% of cases.
IV ketamine treatment has also been effective with many anxiety-related conditions. Ketamine treatment is an available option at Innovative Psychiatry in South Windsor, CT. It can provide freedom for patients with OCD.
Do any of these symptoms…or feelings…sound familiar?