Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a type of anxiety disorder affecting thoughts and behavior. An OCD definition might include being neat or organized, even perfectionistic, in trying to control your environment. To understand the struggle, it takes going deeper into what the disorder consists of and how people typically cope.
OCD symptoms include different things like unwanted thoughts, behaviors, compulsions, and things people with OCD feel they must do to manage anxiety. Anxiety is at the root of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions and compulsions include:
- Unwanted, uncontrollable thoughts
- A theme such as fear of being dirty or full of germs
- Focuses on needing symmetrical things
- Upsetting or distressing thoughts that create fear or disgust
- Compulsive behaviors done as a way of making thoughts or feelings stop
- Related to theme of obsessions such as germs and hand-washing
- Only relieves anxiety briefly but returns quickly
- Obvious to family and loved ones but may cause more distress
Mild obsessions or compulsions during times of stress can be normal but OCD is not the same as once-in-awhile behavior. An important part of the OCD definition has to do with degree of interference in normal life stuff. At least some OCD definitions require one hour per day be spent on rituals. Managing symptoms should take a lot of time even when not engaged in compulsions.
When people are haunted by unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors, see a doctor. OCD is often diagnosable by a primary care physician. If there are doubts or complexities, it may help to be referred to a psychiatrist. Treatments do exist, including:
- Medications: ease symptoms of OCD with few side effects. Some are prescribed antidepressants which may work for some people and not others
- Psychotherapy: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is ‘talk therapy’ in which a person learns to regain control of their thoughts. Learning about this will help practice controlling thoughts, including combining medications to support the person’s mental health
There is no doubt OCD can be debilitating for people who suffer from this mental illness. In severe cases, there are reasons to be hopeful and positive. People with OCD can feel better and function well with support of good treatment options.
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