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All About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can have a tremendous impact on your life and your mental health. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from this condition, you need to understand how OCD operates and how to ensure that you or your loved one is able to find  appropriate help and the support they need. To help you do this, here is everything you need to know about OCD!

What is OCD?

OCD typically has two components: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive, distressing, and unwanted thoughts that are repetitive and occur without the individual’s conscious desire to think them. Although the vast majority of people even without OCD experience intrusive thoughts, people with OCD experience these thoughts to a much greater and more intense degree and experience them as very threatening and disturbing. 

The second component of OCD  is compulsive behavior,  which  is a need to perform a particular action in order to neutralize or undo the anxiety that is driven by obsessions. It is crucial to note that compulsive behavior can take the form of observable actions or behaviors that another person could see or observe as well as mental processes such as compulsive prayer, thought replacement, or working to cancel out distressing thoughts. These mental processes are collectively referred to as mental compulsions or rumination.  Often, compulsive behavior will consist of an elaborate routine, sometimes taking hours to complete. 

It should be noted that OCD is different from superstitious or normally careful or cautious behavior. For example, it’s not OCD to check that you have turned off electrical appliances before you go to bed, but it might be OCD if you need to check each one multiple times before you can feel safe and comfortable.

Many people with OCD know that their obsessions and compulsive behaviors aren’t grounded in reality. But they still feel unable to force these thoughts from their mind or feel calm and safe until they complete their array of compulsions. OCD is designated by the presence of intense, disturbing, and unwanted fears that are far in excess of the actual risk presented in a given situation, as well as the presence of compulsive behaviors that the individual feels unable to stop doing despite knowing they are excessive and unreasonable.

OCD Signs & Symptoms

The most obvious  and observable sign of OCD is the need to undertake compulsive behaviors that will often take a long time to complete and interfere with the individual’s ability to live a joyful and meaningful life. In many cases, they can take hours to complete and can assume the form of both overt behaviors as well as mental processes or mental compulsions. 

OCD will follow a similar cycle for most sufferers, and is marked by an initial intrusive thought or fear, called an obsession, followed by intense fear and anxiety, which results in an urge to engage in an action or behavior to neutralize or otherwise decrease the anxiety brought about by the initial obsession. After this process is complete, which may take hours and multiple efforts to achieve, the individual will experience momentary relief until the obsession is experienced once again.

    There are a few categories of symptoms that are common subtypes of OCD,
    although it is important to note that OCD can assume many forms and is not limited to
    the list presented below. These are:

    • People who are afraid of contamination from germs, dirt, or toxins
    • Those who need to repeatedly check that they and others are safe, such as checking that  items such as appliances are switched off or that things are in the right position
    • Those who are concerned that they might have made a legal or moral mistake, for which they will be punished or who those fear that they could harm someone else despite not wanting to do so
    • Those who require a certain order or symmetry in order to feel safe or to achieve a ‘just right’ feeling
    • Those who are preoccupied with religious, existential, sor superstitious fears or worries

    *It should be noted that those with OCD may also suffer from other mental health conditions such as  depression and other anxiety disorders. Sometimes, people with OCD may also engage in substance abuse problems in an effort to self-medicate and decrease their anxiety and distress.

    Diagnosing OCD

    If you, or someone you know, suspects they have OCD there are some ways of getting a professional diagnosis. There are a few tests that will be performed. Your medical doctor  will likely do a physical examination, which can include things like taking a blood sample to rule out any physical health problems that might be triggering your symptoms. A therapist or psychiatric provider will ask you a series of questions to better understand your symptoms and may also administer psychometric instruments designed to clarify both type and intensity of symptoms.  

    It is important that you seek treatment from a mental health professional who is trained in the evaluation and treatment of OCD symptoms specifically, as these symptoms can be easily overlooked or misdiagnosed by practitioners who do not understand the condition.

    OCD Quiz

    Another way that people help identify Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is by taking online OCD quiz. Although, these tests do not provide a medical diagnosis of OCD, they can help sufferers quickly identify if OCD is present in their life, what level of severity, and which type of OCD they have. There are many different types of tests to help identify OCD.

    What Causes OCD?

    As yet, the research into what can cause OCD is still ongoing but appears to have both genetic and behaviorally reinforced components.

    What Increases the Risk of Getting OCD?

    There are a few factors that might increase the chances that you will develop OCD. First, your risks are higher if you have a blood relative that  has been diagnosed with OCD, and OCD can be linked with other mental health conditions. For example, those with ADHD and social anxiety disorder also tend to be more likely to develop OCD. 

    Finally, it should be noted that the effects of OCD tend to become more pronounced when you are going through serious life changes. The more stressful a situation becomes, the more intense the OCD can become. 

    OCD Statistics

    By looking at a few statistics, we can understand how common this disease is. It’s estimated that it affects one percent of the population in the United States. This translates to around 2.2 million people. It tends to affect roughly the same number of males and females. 

    One of the most interesting aspects of this disease is when it strikes. It’s believed that most people will develop the disease when they are younger. According to some studies, two-thirds of people started to develop symptoms when they were under 25. The average age of developing OCD symptoms is 19.5 years of age. 

    OCD World Facts

    It’s estimated that around two percent of the worldwide population has OCD. However, this might not be an accurate interpretation.

    Many people will attempt to suppress their symptoms and due to the nature of some OCD fears, may be extremely reluctant or even fearful to seek treatment and support. Because of these factors, the true number of people who have this condition might be higher.

    2%

    of the world’s population is living with OCD

    Estimated

    156,000,000 people worldwide

    OCD

    affects all races, ethnicities

    OCD Treatment

    Getting the right OCD treatment is  invaluable for your mental health and quality of life. Finding the right type of treatment and support is imperative to learning how to manage your condition and to live a joyful and meaningful life.

    The gold standard treatment for OCD is Exposure with response Prevention (ERP), which will support you in gradually being exposed to your fears while resisting the urge to engage in compulsive behavior. This will be done in a controlled environment, with the support of a therapist.

    A psychiatrist or medical provider can also prescribe medication to help manage OCD symptoms. Research shows, however, that OCD sufferers achieve the best outcomes when pharmacological and therapeutic strategies are combined to alleviate symptoms and teach you new skills to live gracefully with OCD.

    OCD Recovery Tips

    Once you are diagnosed with OCD, you can start your recovery. Part of this might include therapy or taking medication. But there are a few tips you can use to help overcome your OCD. First, it’s important to make sure that you can identify what triggers you.

    Try tracking for a week. Take note of any event that stokes your anxiety and the type of compulsions it triggers. You might also want to record how long they last. If you can understand the situations that cause compulsive behaviors you can try to find ways of eliminating them from your life. For example, if touching a handrail triggers handwashing you might want to take a different way to work. It’s also important to learn when these compulsive thoughts emerge. This will allow you to relabel them. Sometimes, you might want to write them down on paper. Looking at phrases can remove their power. It can also allow you to judge the thought more subjectively, seeing how irrational your obsessions are.

    Finally, you might want to try mediation. This can be a good way of reducing anxiety. Additionally, you can take a few deep breaths when faced with a stressful situation. Focus only on your breathing. This will help you center your thoughts and remain calm. Though it might take a while, these techniques can help you lower your anxiety level when faced with situations that would normally trigger compulsive behavior.

    Track Your OCD Recovery Progress

    As mentioned above, it is important to track your OCD recovery process so that you’re able to gauge that you are heading the right direction. One of the best ways to do this is to take our OCD Severity Test every other week to ensure that your number is going down, indicating you are in the process of OCD recovery.

    Final Thoughts

    OCD is a relatively common condition, affecting over two million Americans. Untreated, this condition can have a big impact on your life. Sometimes, these compulsive routines can take an hour. But there are effective treatment options that you can explore. Plus, there are some OCD recovery techniques that you can experiment with to help you better manage your compulsions.