The True Harm of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a real, harmful disorder which is often cast aside and not fully understood. People lacking knowledge about OCD often think it is just a label for the odd habits people may have like checking a locked door three times or checking every window in the house before they leave. We often hear people say ‘I’m a little OCD about checking the door’, but when you actually look further into OCD, we can learn more about the obsessive thoughts which can adversely impact on a sufferer’s mind and force them to carry out these ritualistic actions even when it is making them extremely unhappy.
OCD isn’t something you have to just accept and live with. Therapy can help you take apart the layers of your obsessions and tackle the thoughts and emotions that cause you stress and anxiety. By taking the time to meet with a professional, in a few weeks and months, you can start to see real change in your life. Read on to learn more about OCD, what it is, how it affects lives and the proper ways to tackle it.
It’s Not All About Cleaning
Not everyone understands precisely what Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is and can often mistake it as the need to turn every light switch off three times or keep an overly-clean household. However, these are only small symptoms of what OCD actually is. For some people with OCD their condition goes way beyond small rituals and can cause them real harm, stress and anxiety throughout their lives.
OCD is an anxiety disorder split into two main parts: obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly plague a person’s mind and make them feel very anxious. Although some people have described this as a ‘mental discomfort’ rather than anxiety, either way, it is an unsettling daily torture for people.
The second part of OCD is known as compulsions. These are repetitive activities more associated with what most people understand OCD as. The activities like checking a locked door, repeating specific phrases in your head or checking your body are some things that are done to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession, which many people don’t realise and cause them to mistake your actions as odd habits. Many people have described compulsions as having no control over the negative thoughts in your head and therefore being afraid that by not doing these activities and actions you will cause harm. Often, the associated thought has nothing to do with the action itself. It may be that a sufferer believes that if they do not perform a certain action in a certain way then they will cause harm to someone they love – this is when the disorder can really impact negatively on daily life.
The Impact of OCD
Many people might experience minor obsessions like worrying about leaving the gas on or compulsions like avoiding cracks in the pavement, but these don’t interfere significantly with daily life. However, there are many ways larger obsessions and compulsions can have a negative impact and harm on your daily life and increase your anxiety.
Repeating compulsions can take up a lot of your time, sometimes even preventing you from going to work, seeing friends and family or even leaving the house. The obsessive thoughts you are trying to repress can fill your mind and leave you feeling trapped in your own house. Because of this, you may feel like you need to hide your OCD from other people, even those you are in a relationship with. The doubts and anxieties that come with obsessions can make you feel anxious about your relationship and can ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship. Moreover, you may feel ashamed and lonely because of your OCD as you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it because it is too embarrassing. Letting your OCD take over your life without seeking help can lead to physical health issues that are often seen with anxiety like insomnia.
What Can Be Done?
If you suffer from OCD, there are several different paths you can take to try and take: One of the many talking therapies and medication. Counselling and psychotherapy involve working with a therapist to tackle your problem into separate parts such as your thoughts, feelings and actions and addressing each one. They will encourage you to face your fear and let your obsessive thoughts materialise without trying to neutralise them with your compulsions. You will start with situations that cause the least amount of anxiety first and work your way up to more difficult thoughts that are harder to tackle.
While this form of treatment might sound terrifying and challenging, it is very successful for those trying to confront their obsessions, and the therapist will make sure you always feel safe and comfortable. The exact amount of sessions you will need varies from client to client, but those with relatively mild OCD usually need about twelve sessions to feel any real benefit.
People can also take medication for their OCD if they have a stronger case and feel the need for more help controlling their obsessions and compulsions. The main medication prescribed is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which helps improve OCD symptoms by increasing the levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. Often it takes around 12 weeks before the medication takes noticeable effect and most people require it for at least a year.
Don’t let your shame keep you from learning more about your OCD and tackling the symptoms head on. Counsellors like myself have experience with clients just like you and are prepared to help you understand your anxieties and compulsions and put a stop to them for good. If you want to learn more about my services as a therapist, please contact me today.