What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
When we think of obsessive compulsive disorder, different images come to mind: the film character who won’t step on sidewalk cracks or the co-worker who uses tissue to open doors. Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder that can disrupt people’s lives causing them to engage in repetitious behaviors to alleviate feelings of fear or worry. It may be difficult to understand what drives a person to engage in obsessive thinking or indulge in compulsive behavior. Yet, people who suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder are merely victims of false messages they’re receiving from their brains. While, your brain may send signals warning you not to touch a hot kettle or to lock your door the second you get in your car, someone with OCD may receive messages from their brain telling them to check that they turned off the kettle five or six times. They may feel compelled to lock the car door repeatedly or to avoid driving altogether. These obsessive actions are driven by anxious thoughts often focused on sanitation, safety, violence, or profanity.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Symptoms
Obsessive compulsive disorder rears its head in many ways. According to the Mayo Clinic, common obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms include: fear of contamination, a desire to keep things in order, doubts that you’ve taken care of household safety tasks (like locking the door or turning off the stove), frequent hand washing, impulses to shout or act aggressively, replaying of images in your mind, avoidance of behaviors that would trigger obsessive thinking, excessive washing and cleaning, counting or repeating actions (often in patterns), organizing objects to face certain directions, or intense stress at not having things in order.
Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The idea that your brain is lying to you can be a tough concept to grasp. Aren’t you and your brain one and the same? How can you not trust your own perceptions and thoughts? Most people with obsessive compulsive disorder are aware that their thinking is off, unrealistic, or extreme, but they feel like they must take certain actions or indulge certain thoughts. Resisting these actions might cause great anxiety or an increase in obsessive thinking. Nevertheless, people with obsessive compulsive disorder are encouraged to understand that their brain is deceiving them, setting off alarms and warning them of dangers that do not exist. You can retrain your brain, telling yourself it is not you but your OCD that is at the helm. Then, you must resist taking actions that make the compulsions stronger.
Treating obsessive compulsive disorder
There are many ways to alleviate obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms. People suffering with OCD can feel better and learn to overcome their compulsions. The two most common treatments are psychotherapy and medication. When a therapeutic approach is taken, a type of therapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful. This technique helps retrain a person to stop engaging in compulsive actions, while helping their brain to stop sending threatening signals. Steps of this therapy can include the person seeking treatment making a list of his or her fears, then rating them from least frightening to most frightening. For example, an action that would cause a small amount of anxiety might be failing to check the lights after leaving the house. A larger worry might arise over touching something one perceives as dirty. By exposing people to their fears, starting with the items on their list that are less stress-inducing and working their way up to items that rank high in terms of anxiety, therapists can help these individuals learn ways of coping with the emotions that arise. The person suffering with OCD can practice new modes of thinking and strategies for getting through the obsessive thoughts and feelings that arise. In doing so, these individuals become stronger within themselves, and their fears start to dissipate. To learn more about obsessive compulsive disorder treatments click here.
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