What is OCD?

OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, is a type of anxiety disorder which causes people to obsess over what others would hardly give second thoughts. This obsession can create extreme fear of germs, repeating tasks that others find mundane, and tics that impact daily life.

What OCD is Not

Some people use the term “OCD” as a way to describe someone who is well-organized or particularly tidy. Making a distinction between this cleanliness and real OCD is essential. Someone who enjoys cleaning, doesn’t double-dip, and uses a label-maker liberally does not necessarily have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Using the term in this way can harm people who genuinely suffer from this disease. It diminishes the pain that people with OCD face and may keep some people from seeking help.

OCD Diagnosis Criteria

As with many mental illnesses, the main difference between someone who is tidy and someone who has OCD is how much it interferes with their lives. Someone with OCD spends a minimum of one hour each day obsessing.

Furthermore, someone with OCD experiences significant distress. Typically, professionals diagnose OCD when the thoughts and tics interfere with a person’s daily tasks.

Examples of Obsessive Thoughts

People with OCD obsess over things that others would easily overlook. For example, someone may feel as though they need to turn the light on and off precisely 12 times. Not giving in to the obsession can cause significant anxiety and even panic attacks.

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder may also feel compelled to put things in specific orders, avoid particular colors, and go through extreme measures to keep loved ones safe. Some people with OCD accuse others of doing negative things that they have not done. For example, patients with OCD can feel sure that their spouses cheated on them, even when there is no evidence of it.

There are endless examples of OCD behaviors. However, all compulsions make the person feel as though they must do it or face horrific consequences.

OCD Symptoms

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Feeling out of control of one’s thoughts
  • Compulsions
  • Ritualistic behaviors
  • Hoarding
  • Guilt about compulsive behavior
  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares

OCD Treatment

Depending on the severity and causes of a person’s OCD, the medical team may decide that medicine management, therapy, or a combination of both will be the right treatment.

Therapy treatments include:

  • CBT
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy

Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder may need one of more of these types of therapy to heal. For example, a patient may work with a counselor individually and also attend group sessions for support.

It’s important to note that ERP is a type of CBT. With ERP, patients purposefully expose themselves to their OCD triggers. The counselors then help them react to that trigger differently. Over time, the behavior changes.

For many OCD patients, therapy is not enough to ease their symptoms. People sometimes needs to take medications while they work through things in therapy or permanently.

Common prescriptions for OCD include:

  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Fluvoxamine

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