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  • Writer's pictureLoraina Calderon

Brief Breakdown of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.

  • Obsessions are thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control. Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts are illogical.  Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, uncertainty, and doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.” In the context of OCD, obsessions are time-consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values. This last part is extremely important to keep in mind as it, in part, determines whether someone has OCD — a psychological disorder — rather than an obsessive personality trait.

  • Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person uses intending to neutralize, counteract, or make their obsessions go away. People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution, but without a better way to cope, they rely on compulsions nonetheless. Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions. They are time-consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.

  • Similar to obsessions, not all repetitive behaviors or “rituals” are compulsions. This depends on the function and the context of the behavior. For example, bedtime routines, religious practices, and learning a new skill all involve some level of repeating an activity over and over again but are usually a positive and functional part of daily life. Similarly, arranging and ordering books for eight hours a day isn’t a compulsion if the person works in a library. 

Treatment for OCD is available to those who are seeking help with their disorder and people who do receive treatment tend to have easier times living. Treatments include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 

  • Relaxation. Simple things like meditation, yoga, and massage can help with stressful OCD symptoms.

  • Neuromodulation. In rare cases, when therapy and medication aren’t making enough of a difference, your doctor might talk to you about devices that change the electrical activity in a certain area of your brain. One kind, transcranial magnetic stimulation, is FDA-approved for OCD treatment. It uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells. A more complicated procedure, deep brain stimulation, uses electrodes that are implanted in your head.

If you or someone you know needs assistance with this disorder please reach out and we will guide you to the best resources available and specialists in your area.

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