I’ve lost count of how many weeks into Exploring Neurodiversity and Mental Health we have done! This week we’re heading back to an informational post. Let’s explore Obsessive Compulsive Disorder today!
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD)?
OCD is a chronic mental disorder that causes a persons obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring and unwanted thoughts, urges or images. These obsessions may cause a person to perform compulsions; repetitive and ritualistic behaviors. OCD can affect people of all ages, though the average age of diagnosis is 19. Both men and women can develop OCD. Both obsessions and compulsions can ease away over time or they can worsen.
As with most mental illnesses, there is not one straight known cause of OCD. There are some risk factors that heighten a person’s chance of developing OCD. Research suggests that OCD may be a brain disorder. The brain has trouble sending messages from the front of the brain to deeper structures. Other research has shown that OCD is genetic however that is not the only cause. Some people struggling with OCD have physical or sexual abuse in their childhood. Another known cause is the reaction to PANDAS. This presents suddenly in response to the disease, and is different than most childhood cases of OCD.
What does it OCD like?
As mentioned above, OCD has two main aspects: obsessions and compulsions. Not all obsessions and compulsions are the same however. Obsessions can look like unwanted thoughts about: germs, harming oneself or others, forbidden thoughts about sex or religion and having things in a specific order. These obsessions are often intrusive thoughts that cause discomfort.
Compulsions are often behaviors done to soothe this anxiety over obsessive and intrusive thoughts. Some compulsions include: excessive hand washing, repeating meaningless tasks, counting, cleaning, and arranging things in specific orders.
Both obsessions and compulsions are often uncontrollable. While adults with OCD may recognize their behaviors as irrational, they are unable to stop them. These thoughts and behaviors can cause serious and significant problems in all areas of their lives. And while the behaviors may provide a few moments of release from an anxiety, they do no bring joy or permanently get rid of the obsessive thoughts.
How do you treat OCD?
Obsessive compulsive disorder is most often treated by medication, therapy, or a mixture of both. Medication is prescribed by a medical professional and must be monitored by a psychiatrist. Anti-depressants and anti-psychotics have both shown some improvement for those with OCD.
On top of medications, OCD is helped by talk therapy. Therapists often use CBT(cognitive behavioral therapy) for treating individuals with OCD. Research has also found that Exposure and Response Prevention has been beneficial for those medication did not work for. EX/RP helps reduce compulsive behaviors.
What do I do if I think I or a loved one has OCD?
In this moment I would like to reiterate something. Obsessive compulsive disorder is not simply liking things in order and to have your house clean. While I feel most mental illnesses are not taken as seriously as they should be, I find OCD is most often misunderstood. If you believe that you or a loved one may be struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder, the first step you should take is to speak with a professional.
I would also like to really remind you that you are not alone if you have intrusive thoughts that feel wrong. Obsessive compulsive disorder is something I deal with in my own personal life. For a long time it went unknown and untreated because I didn’t have a therapist I felt safe with. Once it was diagnosed and able to be treated, it brought some relief to my obsessive, unstoppable, horrible thoughts and images. What was even more a relief? I finally had a name to put on these images that brought me so much shame and guilt.
Remember, you are not alone and you deserve help to live life the best you can!