Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
Signs and Symptoms: People with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships. Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Common symptoms include:
– Fear of germs or contamination
– Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm
– Aggressive thoughts towards others or self
Here are four things you need to know to overcome OCD:
1. OCD is chronic: This means it is like having asthma or diabetes. You can get it under control and become recovered but, at the present time, there is no cure. It is a potential that will always be there in the background, even if it is no longer affecting your life. The current thinking is that it is probably genetic in origin, and not within our current reach to treat at that level. The things you will have to do to treat it really control, and if you don’t learn to effectively make use of them throughout your life, you will run the risk of relapse. This means that if you don’t use the tools provided in cognitive/behavioral therapy or if you stop taking your medication (in most cases) you will soon find yourself hemmed in by symptoms once again.
2. Two of the main features of OCD are doubt and guilt: While it is not understood why this is so, these are considered hallmarks of the disorder. Unless you understand these, you cannot understand OCD. In the 19th century, OCD was known as the “doubting disease.” OCD can make a sufferer doubt even the most basic things about themselves, others, or the world they live in. Doubt is one of the more maddening qualities of OCD. It can override even the keenest intelligence. It is what causes sufferers to check things hundreds of times, or to ask endless questions of themselves or others. Even when an answer is found, it may only stick for several minutes, only to slip away as if it was never there. Only when sufferers recognize the futility of trying to resolve this doubt, can they begin to make progress. The guilt is another excruciating part of the disorder. It is rather easy to make people with OCD feel guilty about most anything, as many of them already have a surplus of it. They often feel responsible for things that no one would ever take upon themselves
3. Although you can resist performing a compulsion, you cannot refuse to think an obsessive thought: Obsessions are biochemically generated mental events that seem to resemble one’s own real thoughts, but aren’t. Some patients used to refer to them as “My synthetic thoughts.” They are as counterfeit bills are to real ones, or as wax fruit is to real fruit. As biochemical events, they cannot simply be shut off at will. Studies in thought suppression have shown that the more you try to not think about something, the more you will end up thinking about it paradoxically. The real trick to dealing with obsessions I like to tell my patients is, “If you want to think about it less, think about it more.” Neither can you run from or avoid the fears resulting from your obsessions. Fear, too, originates in the mind, and in order to recover, it is important to accept that there is no escape. Fears must be confronted. People with OCD do not stay with the things they fear long enough to learn the truth–that is, that their fears are unjustified and that the anxiety would have gone away anyway on its own, without a compulsion or neutralizing activity.
4. The goal of any good treatment is to teach you to become your own therapist: In line with the last point, good Cognitive/Behavioral treatment should aim to give you the tools necessary to manage your symptoms effectively. As therapy progresses, the responsibility for directing your treatment should gradually shift from your therapist to you. Whereas the therapist may start out by giving you assignments designed to help you face and overcome your fears, you should eventually learn to spot difficult situations on your own and give yourself challenging homework to do. This will then be a model for how you will need to handle things throughout your life.
Your treatment goals for OCD are to retrain you brain and to control your symptoms with the least amount of medication possible. Set yourself up for success physically by eating healthy food, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Emotional support matters, too: Surround yourself with encouraging family, friends, and people who understand OCD.