What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
It is a mental illness that impacts daily living, but so much more. Let’s look at what it’s not though. It is not cute little quarks, a joke, something someone chooses, easy to fix, or (probably most important) impossible to treat. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder consists of two main parts obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are often intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts aren’t something someone chooses to have, enjoy, or want. With out a doubt they are miserable. Most people have strange thoughts that come to mind every so often. However, with people who have OCD thoughts enter their brain and they perceive it as a threat or bad and causes extreme anxiety and they get stuck in the anxiety. This leads to the compulsion part.
The compulsion is the behavior that results from that fear. It is a way to neutralize, counteract, or cope with the fear. There are many types of obsessions and compulsions. One of the key things about OCD is that the person is generally aware that the thoughts don’t make sense and that the compulsion isn’t a good solution to their problem, but often they don’t know a better way to cope.
What is the most common treatment for OCD?
From my knowledge the most common ways to treat OCD is exposure response prevention (ERP), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medicine. Usually, people with OCD use a combination of the three to get better. At this point you are probably wondering what ERP and CBT are.
ERP is exposing you to certain things that create fear, because you have OCD. Then preventing the natural response, the compulsion you get from OCD, and habituating to the discomfort. Usually, a hierarchy is created of your OCD fears on a scale of 1-7 and you start somewhere in the 2-4 range with exposures and gradually work your way up. What happens as you habituate the higher numbers they become less anxiety provoking. Since OCD usually plays on your biggest fear and attacks the things you enjoy this is usually not any easy task. However, like a lot of things in life. Sometimes you have to do a few things you don’t want to get something you really need.
CBT Is basically correcting the irrational thinking. This is done in a few different ways. ERP does this to some extent, but it usually requires more work. One way of doing this is thought challenging. Two of the most common problems with OCD is that it likes to make someone with OCD believe that what they fear is worse than it actually usually is and it also likes to make us believe that the odds of what we fear happening are greater than they usually truly are. Challenging that type of thinking can be very helpful. People with OCD generally have a few cognitive distortions and recognizing them can really be beneficial.
With all this being said I do not encourage you to try this on your own. I recommend you find a therapist trained in treating OCD. If you need help finding a qualified therapist the International OCD Foundation website (www.iocdf.org) could be very helpful.