OCD, which stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, is a mental health condition that is characterized by fearful and uncontrolled thoughts as well as behaviors that a person feels they must do to avert disaster.
Some people have both parts of the condition while others only have one or the other. Untreated, the condition can dramatically interfere with normal daily life, but it doesn’t have to. There are many ways to treat OCD so that it is manageable on a day to day basis.
What Causes OCD?
Doctors and mental health professionals aren’t entirely clear on what causes obsessive compulsive disorder. However, they feel that it could be caused by imbalances in brain chemicals. It might also be due to genetics. This means, if a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, has the disease, your risk may be higher. In some cases, environment may be to blame for OCD. For example, researchers believe that certain infections may trigger obsessive compulsive disorder. Regardless of the cause, treating OCD is necessary for living a functional and good quality life.
How Do I Know I Have OCD?
Many people have their quirks and obsessions, but OCD goes beyond that. Many people with the illness are obsessed about avoiding germs and dirt, want things to be orderly and symmetrical, have scary thoughts about harming oneself or others or unwanted sexual or religious thoughts. People with such obsessions will have these thoughts as they do other things, and they will interfere in their normal daily routine. People with these obsessions may avoid shaking hands, touching certain objects, worry about forgetting to do things, have images of hurting themselves or people close to them and avoid social situations.
The compulsive side of the condition involves following certain rules and rituals. This might be counting things, touching things in a certain order, organizing, checking and re-checking, excessive hand washing, silently repeating a mantra and arranging things in a certain way and becoming upset if they are not the way they want them.
How Is OCD Treated?
While suffering from OCD can seem hopeless, there are many effective ways to treat it. If you have any of the symptoms of OCD on a regular basis, you should see your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional. Forgoing treatment can result in job loss, a strain on relationships, lowered quality of life, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicidal thoughts.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the two most common forms of treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder include medications and psychotherapy. Medications can help control both the obsessions and compulsions, and antidepressants are the usual drug of choice. You might have to try several types of medications before you find the one that works best for you. Once you find the most appropriate one, it’s important not to stop taking it unless prescribed by your doctor.
Psychotherapy for OCD involves learning new behaviors for controlling obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. For example, you may be gradually exposed to something that causes your symptoms. This can help you learn to deal with it and cope rather than engaging in OCD behaviors.
Doctors also recommend joining a support group so that you have others who can help you get through life with OCD. Stress relief and relaxation techniques can also be effective for helping you live with obsessive compulsive disorder.
Understanding OCD is your best defense against learning to live with it. It won’t be easy and you’ll probably have times in your life that are harder and times when you seem to be doing really well. Planning for the down times can really help you make it through. Mental health professionals urge people with OCD to stay on top of it, follow their treatment plan and alert their doctor if things change. This makes life with OCD far more manageable.