What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that causes patients to fixate on smaller aspects of life in an outsized way. These fixations interfere with the individual’s quality of life and ability to execute regular daily tasks.
To be considered for this diagnosis, the patient must be experiencing the obsessions for at least one hour every day and experiencing stress as a result. It is important to understand that OCD is not satisfying for the patient; instead, he or she feels as if they are staving off disaster by performing obsessive tasks– a very stressful scenario.
What OCD is Not
There are a number of stereotypes out there when it comes to OCD. One of the most prominent is that someone with OCD is obsessively clean. Simply being neat or organized does not mean one has an OCD. A clean person cleans their house often; someone with an OCD about cleaning cleans so much they sometimes cannot leave their house or do things like get to work.
Cliches like this about OCD dilute the true suffering of those with the condition. Understanding the truth about OCD is important for the individuals with the condition and society at large.
Signs and Symptoms of OCD
OCD takes on two forms: obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
With obsessive thoughts, an individual thinks constantly about something that might never occur to another person. As an example, they might fixate on the number of germs on a doorknob, whereas a person without the disorder wouldn’t think twice about touching the knob.
Compulsions, on the other hand, often stem from these thoughts. The patient who thinks obsessively about the germs on the doorknob may need to engage in a compulsive ritual in order to touch or turn that knob. Compulsions are deadly serious for the patient, who sincerely believes that failure to perform the compulsions could result in disaster.
The combination of obsessions and compulsions causes symptoms such as:
- Avoidance of certain triggers
- Guilt and stress over compulsions
- Panic attacks
What Causes OCD?
OCD has no single cause, but a variety of risk factors can make someone more susceptible to the disorder. Like some mental health conditions, OCD seems to have a strong genetic link. This means that someone with close biological relatives who have OCD is more likely to develop the disorder.
Even without a genetic cause, people can develop OCD. Trauma, chemical imbalances in the brain, and structural differences in the brain can all trigger OCD.
How is OCD Treated?
OCD is a complex disorder and any intervention should be tailored specifically to a patient’s needs.
Comprehensive treatment for OCD may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy sessions
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
One or any combination of the above may be the best approach for a patient. ERP is a type of CBT and involves careful and systematic exposure to triggers done in tandem with talk therapy. An ERP patient might be asked to not perform a ritual, after a time.
Talk therapy alone is not always successful with OCD. Some patients may also need the help of a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication.
Medications commonly used to treat OCD include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Find OCD Treatment at LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health offers comprehensive and tailored treatment plans that people with OCD need. With both in-person and online OCD treatment options, patients can access the care they need.
Telehealth involves accessing your session via teleconferencing on the internet. All that you need is a secure internet connection, a device that connects to the internet, and a private space in your home from which to have your session. LifeStance Health will provide you with any software needed. Your therapist or psychiatrist will be the only person on the other end, ensuring your safety and privacy.
If you are interested in exploring telehealth and telepsychiatry for OCD treatment, contact our offices today. We can walk you through the details of this effective alternative to in-office treatment.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition that causes people to fixate on smaller aspects of life in a compulsive way, to the point where it interferes with their ability to function.
OCD is a lifelong disorder, but there are a number of treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, that can help manage your compulsions so that they don’t interfere with your daily life as much.
OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder. The repetitive behaviors that people with OCD perform are done in part to try and prevent feeling anxious, and trying to not perform them also creates anxiety.
Perfectionism is not a formal symptom of OCD, but people with perfectionistic tendencies are more likely to have OCD. Perfectionism can also be a symptom of an obsessive compulsive personality disorder.
There’s no formal test for OCD. To make a diagnosis a healthcare provider will ask you about your medical and mental health history, and your feelings, fears, obsessions, and compulsions.
OCD symptoms have been known to intensify over time because our comorbidities (the mental health conditions that trigger and aggravate OCD symptoms) and life circumstances naturally change as we age.
It is estimated that about 1 in 100 children, and 1 in 40 adults in the United States currently have OCD. The condition equally affects men, women, and children of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.