People with OCD suffer intensely from recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), and uncontrollable urges to perform behavioral or mental rituals (compulsions).
The intrusive thoughts often trigger anxiety and other distressful emotions.
Common obsessions include: fear of contamination and contagion; fretting about being careless or irresponsible; worry about committing violent, sexual, or sacrilegious acts; excessive concern about morality, or intense discomfort about things not being in their proper place or order.
Compulsions are strong urges to perform physical actions, or to think specific thoughts, in an attempt to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Compulsions can be ritualistic in the sense that they must be done in a certain way according to certain rules. Compulsions actually do reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession, but the relief is short-lived. As a result, the sufferer must repeat them frequently, and soon they become a problem in their own right.
… go round and round in their heads trying to quash doubt …
Common compulsions include: excessive washing and cleaning; excessive checking for safety; mental activities such as counting, praying, and replacing bad thoughts and images with good ones; and ordering or arranging objects.
Nearly all sufferers know, at least to some extent, that what they’re doing is unreasonable, but the harder they try to resist the urge to ritualize, the greater the anxiety becomes, and so they give in.
If you have OCD you may be filled with doubt that you left the stove on and feel the need to go back and check repeatedly so you won’t be responsible for starting a fire. You might be preoccupied by thoughts that you’ll stab your child and so you don’t allow sharp knives in the house. You may spend long periods of time straightening objects fearing that if you don’t, you’ll be in a terrible accident that day.
You engage in compulsions in order to prevent something “bad” from happening, but there is no pleasure in carrying them out—only temporary relief from the discomfort caused by the obsession.
Less commonly, some individuals with OCD don’t fear a negative consequence, they just need to do things until they feel “just right.”
Other extremely common coping strategies are avoidance and reassurance-seeking. While understandable, these can become highly problematic.
Since being in the presence of a trigger causes emotional discomfort, objects and situations are often avoided. Life becomes more constrained. In addition, OCD sufferers may ask others for reassurance to reduce their doubt. Beyond this, however, they often go round-and-round in their heads in an unsuccessful attempt to quash doubt.
ERP is universally regarded as the gold standard of OCD therapy
The good news is that OCD can be greatly reduced and become quite manageable with a type of therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). An enormous body of evidence supports this. Strikingly, all authoritative agencies, associations, and organizations agree that ERP is the “gold standard” of treatment. Recent developments have supported the benefits of adding mindfulness techniques. A number of medications have also been found to be helpful.
Expert, up-to-date information about OCD and its treatment can be found on the website of the International OCD Foundation: #https://iocdf.org (You can also check out the Resources page for additional relevant links).
I invite you to contact me today. I’d be happy to discuss with you how I can help.