What is OCD?
OCD is a chronic mental illness characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts or obsessions and repetitive behaviors or compulsions. Sometimes, these obsessions and compulsions don’t make sense. While some people have either obsessions or compulsions, most people with OCD struggle with both.
A person with OCD repeats behaviors, hoping the obsessive thoughts will stop. However, the relief is only temporary. Trying to ignore obsessive thoughts and behaviors can cause extreme anxiety. Without obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment, OCD can take over a person’s life.
OCD symptoms typically include both obsessions and compulsions. But it’s possible to have one and not the other. Sometimes, a person doesn’t know their behaviors are unreasonable. However, they interfere with daily life, are time-consuming, and reduce the quality of life.
In OCD, obsessions are unwanted and lasting thoughts or intrusive images that cause anxiety. As much as you try, ignoring the urge to do the rituals is impossible.
Obsession symptoms include:
- Fear of being contaminated by touching things other people have touched
- Doubting you locked the door or turned off the stove
- Extreme anxiety when things are not in order
- Imagining driving your car through a crowd
- Thinking about screaming obscenities in public
- Unhealthy sexual images
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors a person is driven to do. These mental acts or repetitive behaviors are supposed to reduce the anxiety of obsessions or prevent bad things from happening. However, the relief is temporary.
Examples of compulsion symptoms include:
- Checking doors over and over to see if they are locked
- Washing your hands until they are raw
- Continuing to check if the stove is off
- Counting in a specific pattern
- Repeating a prayer, word, or phrase silently
- Attempting to replace bad thoughts with good ones
- Making things neat and orderly
Women with obsessive-compulsive disorder typically have obsessions with germs and cleanliness. As a result, they compulsively wash their hands or clean excessively. Women may also struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders such as eating disorders or impulse control disorders.
While men and women both struggle with OCD, women face additional stigma due to societal expectations, which can worsen symptoms. For example, societal norms expect women to keep the house clean. This can intensify obsessions with cleanliness and germs.
People struggling with OCD can spend hours a day on their obsessions and compulsions. This makes managing daily tasks, work responsibilities, and social activities hard.
OCD puts a strain on relationships, including friends, family, and romantic partners. The repetitive behaviors can be confusing and frustrating for people who constantly accommodate for the OCD symptoms.
The intrusive thoughts and repeated behaviors of OCD make it difficult to focus on tasks and be productive at work, school, and other aspects of life. Without obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment, a person may struggle to keep a job or be successful in school.
The fear of OCD being triggered stops many people from having a social life or participating in fun activities. People often feel isolated and misunderstood by others, which can cause emotional distress.
The exact causes of OCD are unknown. However, risk factors increase the risk of developing the disorder.
- Genetics – Studies show having a first-degree relative with OCD may increase the chance of developing the disorder.
- Biology – Brain images of people with OCD often have differences in the frontal cortex and other brain structures that impact behavior control and emotional responses.
- Temperament – Some research implies people with reserved behaviors who experience negative emotions with symptoms of anxiety and depression as kids are more likely to develop OCD.
Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean you will develop obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, your risk is higher than someone without any risk factors.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely used to treat OCD. It helps identify and challenge thought patterns, behaviors, and beliefs. The goal of CBT in obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment is to develop healthy coping skills, modify negative behaviors, and improve problem-solving skills.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was initially used in treating borderline personality disorder. But, it can also be helpful in obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment. DBT teaches skills, including managing emotions, tolerating distress, improving relationships, and being mindful.
Group therapy provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment to talk about the challenges of OCD and learn from others. It offers a sense of belonging, encouragement, and support during recovery.
In some cases, medication may be used to manage OCD symptoms. The following selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed.
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
Medications such as antidepressants can take up to 12 weeks to start working and are often prescribed at higher doses than for depression. Most people find relief from symptoms with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
OCD and its symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Without obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment, your quality of life can drop dramatically. OCD is a chronic disorder that may go away for a while but will likely return at some point.
At Lightwork Therapy and Recovery, our approach to obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment for women also factors in any co-occurring mental health disorders. Addressing all co-occurring disorders is crucial to lifelong recovery.
If you or a woman you love is struggling with OCD, our individualized treatment plan can help you manage OCD symptoms and live a happy and fulfilling life. For more information on our women’s treatment center in Massachusetts, contact us today.