What is OCD: Symptoms, and Treatment
What is OCD: Symptoms and Treatment
Experiencing OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) can be distressing and overwhelming. The way it is experienced can vary from person to person. However, the following are common characteristics of OCD and how it may affect you in your life.
At the core of OCD are intrusive, distressing thoughts or obsessions that constantly intrude into your mind. These thoughts are often really disturbing and distressing. They often have recurring themes like fear of contamination, of harming self or others, of doubting your memories, or extreme doubt about everyday actions.
These obsessions provoke intense anxiety and fear. Even if you know your obsessive thoughts are irrational, it feels really hard to let them go because the stakes feel really high. The high anxiety that goes alongside these thoughts makes it feel like something really bad or threatening is about to happen. With OCD, it is important to stress that the anxiety you experience is disproportionate to the actual level threat, but it feels very real and hard to dismiss.
If you have OCD you will likely engage in a range of behaviors or mental acts known as compulsions to get relief from the anxiety caused by your obsessive thoughts. Compulsions can vary widely from one person to another, but some common examples include:
- Checking: Repeatedly checking things to be certain that doors are locked, appliances are turned off, or that nothing harmful was done.
- Cleaning and Washing: Engaging in excessive hand washing, cleaning, or sanitizing to prevent contamination.
- Ordering and Arranging: This involves arranging items in a specific, orderly manner, sometimes following rigid patterns or rules.
- Mental Checking: Repeatedly checking or reviewing past memories to make sure that harm wasn’t caused to someone else.
- Mental Rituals: These are not visible actions but involve mental acts, like mentally repeating specific words or phrases to neutralize distressing, obsessive thoughts.
- Seeking Reassurance: Constantly seeking reassurance from others, such as asking for reassurance that nothing bad has happened or you haven’t done something bad.
- Avoidance: Some people with OCD may avoid situations or places that trigger their obsessions and compulsions.
Compulsions are very time-consuming and often interfere with daily functioning. Compulsions provide only temporary relief from anxiety and the ultmately keep you locked in the vicious cycle of OCD. Many people with OCD feel as if they have lost control over their own thoughts and actions. You may recognize that your obsessions and compulsions are irrational, but they can’t easily stop them. Shame is a core feature of OCD, especially if you experience harm-related OCD. Ultimately, if you have OCD it is likely you feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to prevent harm to yourself or others.
What is Harm OCD?
Harm OCD is a subtype of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) where your OCD obsessions involve distressing and intrusive thoughts about causing harm to others or yourself. These obsessions typically revolve around fears or doubts that you might harm someone, even though you have no intention of doing so. It’s important to stress that people with Harm OCD are not actually at a higher risk of causing harm to others. Your unwanted and distressing thoughts or images are completely inconsistent with who you are as a person. People with OCD are generally the most conscientious people you will meet, that’s why their thoughts are often so distressing. It goes completely against your true character.
Some common themes or obsessions include:
- Fear of accidentally harming someone: This might involve fears of knocking someone over, spreading an illness, or inadvertently harming a loved one.
- Fear of harming oneself: People with Harm OCD might have fears of self-harm or fears of losing control and causing harm to themselves.
- Intrusive violent thoughts: Some people with Harm OCD experience violent, sexualized or aggressive thoughts that they find disturbing, even though they have no desire to act on them.
CBT Treatment for OCD
Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help you to manage your OCD symptoms. One of the most effective, evidence-based treatments is CBT therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for OCD typically involves Exposure and Response prevention (ERP), which is a treatment that helps you to face your fears and learn to control your compulsions.
ERP is a process of gradually exposing you to your fear or worry (exposure), and then helping you find ways to resist the urge to perform your compulsions (response prevention). This helps you to realize that your obsessive thoughts are not true and that you can cope with anxiety without resorting to compulsions. CBT works by helping you to change your thinking patterns and behaviors. With CBT, you will learn how to control your OCD and reduce the anxiety you feel.
OCD can feel really overwhelming and difficult to manage, but with the right treatment, it is possible to live a happy and healthy life.
Coming to CBT therapy is a courageous first step if you have OCD. At Suaimhneas Cork CBT Therapy and Mindfulness, you will find a safe, supportive, non-judgemental space where your experience of OCD is respected and understood.
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Feel free to contact us at Suaimhneas Cork CBT Therapy and Mindfulness if you have any questions or if you would like to to book an appointment. Don’t hesitate to get in touch on our contact form below, or phone us at 086 840 3722.