Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

An obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of psychological condition wherein a person suffers from persistent thoughts and behaviors that are mainly driven by fear and anxiety. While its main cause is unknown, many experts agree that it often begins early in a person’s life because of a stressful or traumatic event, which acts as a trigger. The affected person notices that their feelings of fear and anxiety that are caused by the stress or trauma are quickly relieved whenever they perform a specific action. So they keep repeating the action each time that they feel bad inside.

At first, the different repetitive behaviors are harmless. But as the disorder progresses, their symptoms can become so severe that they will start to damage the affected person’s ability to hold a job, have a healthy relationship, or even get a good night’s sleep. This is mainly because of the amount of time that the behaviors take to perform though since many of them require ten or more hours a day.

What Are the Symptoms of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

The main symptom of an obsessive-compulsive disorder is the constant repetition of a behavior or thought. However, the behaviors or thoughts that someone has tends to vary depending on what they have found to help them ease their anxiety and fears the most. For example, those who have developed a fear of contracting a deadly illness may notice that they feel more secure whenever they wash their hands after touching a surface that they think is contaminated with germs.

Soon, this behavior will escalate into washing their hands so frequently that their skin starts to crack and bleed through. However, someone who sees something catastrophic happens right after they thought about something negative might begin to repeat certain phrases in their mind as a preventative measure against it happening again. This is often because they believe that their thoughts were responsible for the event occurring in the first place though.

What Are Obsessions?

An obsession is an intrusive type of irrational thought, which compels a person to perform certain actions. The thought often causes a person a great deal of inner turmoil and embarrassment because no matter what they do, they can’t seem to make it stop. Sometimes, obsessions can occur on their own outside of OCD though. Whenever this happens, it is called a pure obsession, which is a different type of psychological disorder. Some of the signs that a person has developed an obsession include:

  • Intrusive thoughts about negative things that could happen
  • Feeling stressed and anxious when spending time in a disorganized area
  • Aggressive thoughts about harming themselves or others
  • Inability to concentrate on anything except one task
  • Avoiding certain people, places, or things that have the perceived number of wrong objects
  • Limiting social interactions with people who don’t match a certain profile
  • Feeling guilty because of the amount of time spent on the obsessions
  • Magical thinking
  • Replaying “what-if” scenarios about things that could go wrong

What Are Compulsions?

Compulsions are the actions that a person with an obsession may start to perform in order for them to feel less anxiety and fear. A few of the most commonly known compulsions include:

  • Cleaning for several hours a day even when the house is clean
  • Counting objects over and over again
  • Checking locks, stove knobs, and faucets a certain number of times
  • Turning the lights on and off
  • Performing certain tasks at specific times of the day
  • Repeating prayers, words, or phrases
  • Frequently calling, writing, or visiting someone
  • Seeking constant reassurance

What Are Some of the Treatment Options for an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

The treatment that a person with OCD is given depends on the type of obsessions and compulsions that they have. However, most people require a combination of prescription medications and talk therapy. The prescription medications usually consist of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) because these drugs help increase the amount of the neurochemical serotonin in the brain, which is responsible for helping a person feel calm and happy. It seems to work best for people who have this condition because it reduces the amount of anxiety that they feel. This, in turn, helps to ease the amount of time that they spend on a compulsion. There are, however, other stronger anti-anxiety medications that may be needed for those who have a severe sub-type of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Sometimes, specific therapies may be the most effective mental health treatment though. For example, a therapy called systematic desensitization has been shown to work well for those who have become afraid of not performing a task because they think that there will be catastrophic consequences if they don’t. It works by exposing the person to the situation that they fear the most so that they can see that nothing bad happens afterward. For instance, someone who has become obsessed with cleaning because they think that germs could kill them might be slowly introduced to messy rooms over time. Another mental health treatment called group therapy is also helpful because it helps a person who suffers from this condition to feel less isolated and ashamed whenever they can talk about what they have to go through on a daily basis.

If left untreated, an obsessive-compulsive disorder has a severe negative impact on a person’s day-to-day life. While it may be difficult to manage, it’s important to remember that you are not alone and recovery is possible. With the right treatment plan, a person can learn how to manage and cope with symptoms of OCD in order to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Contact us today to take the first step.