Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a condition characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts and rituals meant to relieve the anxiety created by those thoughts. Typical obsessive thoughts include fear of germs or contamination; unwanted taboo thought, often about sex, religion, or harming oneself or others; or having things perfectly symmetrical or in some specific order. To allay the anxiety caused by these thoughts, people with OCD might wash their hands or clean compulsively; repeatedly check things, such as making sure the door is locked or the stove is off; compulsively arrange things in a particular way; or count things.
People with OCD often feel like they have to perform certain rituals to keep bad things from happening. These rituals can become time consuming and disrupt one’s life. However, the intrusive thoughts can be extremely distressing, and the rituals offer relief, however temporary. This cycle of intrusive thought, relieving it with compulsive action, and the intrusive thought recurring is self-reinforcing. Every time you engage in the compulsive behavior, it becomes more deeply imbedded in your brain.
The causes of OCD are not well understood. We know that genetics plays a large part. If you have a parent, sibling, or child with OCD, there is a much greater chance that you will have it, although it is typically diagnosed by age 19. Childhood abuse or trauma may also be a risk factor. Sometimes OCD develops as a result of a streptococcal infection, indicating that OCD is at least party biological.
OCD is partly genetic and brain scans show that people with OCD have brains that function different from those without OCD. When you add in early childhood influences, you start to get a picture of a disorder that is deeply rooted in genes, biology, and personal history. These factors are very similar to addiction and, in fact, people with OCD are far more likely to struggle with substance use disorders. Andl like addiction, it appears that OCD can’t be cured in the sense that it goes away and you never have to think about it again. If you have OCD, you may always be prone to obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior.
Although OCD can’t usually be cured, it can be treated effectively. Medication, typically an SSRI, is usually part of the equation. These may help to the anxiety from intrusive thoughts to a manageable level. OCD is also typically treated with exposure and response prevention, or ERP, therapy. The idea behind ERP is simple: you are exposed to the stimulus but aren’t allowed to engage in the compulsive behavior. For example, you might shake hands with someone, or grab a doorknob and then not be allowed to wash your hands before eating lunch. This might cause extreme anxiety at first, but it’s impossible to sustain that anxiety for very long. Eventually, it will subside, and you will learn that nothing terrible will happen if you don’t engage in the compulsive behavior. The intrusive thoughts may persist, but you learn to manage the anxiety and enjoy a better quality of life despite those thoughts.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or OCD, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.