Understanding OCD: What it is and How to Cope With it 

An adult sitting depressed

Do you ever find yourself washing your hands repeatedly or constantly checking to see if you’ve locked the door? While these behaviors may seem harmless or even quirky at first, they are symptoms of a serious condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

OCD affects millions of people around the world and has significant impact on their daily lives. But the good news is that OCD is manageable. If you or someone you know has OCD, it’s important to understand what it is and how to cope with it.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that is characterized by intrusive and persistent thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These thoughts and behaviors can be time-consuming, interfere with daily activities, and cause significant distress. 

What are the Symptoms of OCD 

Like the name suggests, the common OCD symptoms are obsessions and compulsions. An obsession is an uninvited and annoying thought, image or urge that repeatedly enters your mind. It can cause feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease. A compulsion is a repetitive behavior or mental act that you have urge to do, that can temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings brought on by the obsessive thought. 

Obsession symptoms of OCD  

Obsessions can cause intense anxiety. People with OCD can’t control these thoughts. Most people with OCD realize that these thoughts are illogical or irrational. Common obsessions include: 

  • Fears of contamination
  • Worries about harm coming to yourself or others 
  • Concerns about order or symmetry
  • Fear of making a blunder
  • Need for continuous reassurance
  • Doubting yourself or someone else

Compulsion symptoms of OCD

OCD Compulsions are often referred to as OCD rituals. You may be aware that you don’t want to perform these compulsive behaviors and you don’t get pleasure from them. You feel like if you don’t perform them your anxiety will get worse. Common compulsions include:  

  • Washing your hands multiple times
  • Checking and rechecking that a door is locked
  • Checking that your shoelaces are tied 
  • Counting objects repeatedly
  • Hoarding objects that are not really needed
  • Arranging things in specific way, such as hangers in your wardrobe
  • Need for continuous reassurance

Girl with mask on her face, sanitizing her hand

What are the 4 types of OCD 

We mentioned earlier, you have obsessions and compulsions in OCD. The most widely recognized classification for OCD is based on the nature of the symptoms. According to this, the 4 types of OCD are: 

1. Contamination and cleaning OCD 

This type of OCD involves persistent and distressing thoughts about being contaminated with germs, dirt, or harmful substances. Individuals with this subtype often engage in excessive and ritualistic cleaning or washing behaviors to reduce their anxiety and prevent contamination. 

2. Symmetry and ordering OCD 

This subtype of OCD involves an overwhelming need for symmetry, precision, or exactness. Individuals with this subtype may engage in repetitive and time-consuming rituals such as arranging and rearranging objects or counting to achieve a sense of order and symmetry. 

3. Doubt and double checking OCD 

This subtype of OCD involves persistent and intrusive doubts and fears about harm occurring to oneself or others. People with this subtype may repeatedly check appliances, locks, or other things to ensure that they are safe or not responsible for harm. 

4. Intrusive thoughts OCD 

This subtype of OCD involves unwanted and distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that are inconsistent with an individual’s values, beliefs, or personality. These thoughts can be violent, sexual, blasphemous, or taboo, and they can cause significant anxiety, guilt, and shame. People with this subtype may engage in mental or behavioral rituals such as praying, mental counting, or avoiding situations to prevent these thoughts from occurring.

What is OCD Behavior 

Everyone experiences occasional intrusive thoughts or behaviors from time to time. But in OCD, your compulsive thoughts make you feel compelled to perform these actions to an extent that it interferes with your daily life, causing significant distress and anxiety. 

What are the Causes of OCD 

The exact cause of OCD is still unknown, but research suggests that it may be related to a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors.

Some studies have found that certain brain regions, including the basal ganglia, may be involved in the development of OCD. Others have suggested that imbalances in the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine may play a role.

Environmental factors, such as traumatic events or chronic stress, may also contribute to the development of OCD in some people. In addition, there may be a genetic component, as OCD tends to run in families.

How Is OCD Diagnosed 

OCD test is typically done by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. They will typically conduct a thorough evaluation, which may include a clinical interview, questionnaires, and other assessments.Your doctor or therapist will use a reference, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to diagnose your disorder. Using this reference, he will ask you questions to come to any conclusion.

Does OCD Go Away 

OCD does not just go away completely but with the right treatment options, you can manage your symptoms.

Lady sitting on ground with folded clothes

How is OCD Treated 

There are several options you can try for OCD treatment. They depend upon the severity of your symptoms. Some of the options are:

Intervene early 

The importance of early intervention for obsessive compulsive disorder is to find the right cause and the right treatment at the earlier stages of life to get hold of the problem so that it does not progress further. 

Develop habits that have positive impact 

In order to keep your mind at ease, develop hobbies and interests that you find interesting and entertaining. Exercise regularly and go for long walks in the morning to clear your head. It is also important you get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet. Follow a lifestyle prescribed by your doctor to gain maximum benefits. 

Rationalize your extreme thoughts 

In your mind you are already aware that your obsessions and compulsions are baseless. When you find yourself stuck with extreme obsessive and compulsive thoughts, try to rationalize them with logical explanations.

Use affirmations to create a healthy thought pattern 

Affirmations have special powers to turn them into reality. When you keep repeating affirmations throughout the day, your subconscious mind starts finding ways to make it a reality. Keep repeating your affirmations throughout the day. You have to get rid of all your obsessive and compulsive thoughts, and turn them into positive thoughts. When you get the urge to lock the door again, say to yourself “I have already locked the door, and that is enough”.

Focus on meditation and mindfulness techniques 

As an OCD disorder treatment, you can try meditation and mind power techniques. In these, you can do stress management and find out how to cope with your OCD. These are one of the therapy techniques you can start on your own.

Use talk therapy (psychotherapy) 

In psychotherapy, a therapist not only discusses your disorder but also considers your views and feelings as you describe them. There are many types of psychotherapy. The therapist will decide which type is suitable for you.

Try medications 

For high intensity OCD the doctor can recommend certain anti-depressant medications to help you cope with the extremity of the problem. There are several types of antidepressants. Those prescribed for OCD types are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Other medications, such as antipsychotics, may also be used in certain cases.

OCD is a complex and challenging condition that can cause significant distress and impairment in daily life. OCD symptoms may come and go, ease or worsen over time, and living with OCD can be challenging. However, it is important to recognize that people with OCD can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives with appropriate support and treatment. 

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