What is OCD?

OCD stands  for Obsessive-compulsive disorder and it is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviours you feel compelled to perform. If you have OCD, you probably recognize  that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive  behaviors are irrational—but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.

Like a needle getting stuck on an old record, OCD causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought.  For  example, you may check the stove 20 times to make sure it’s really turned off, or wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw.

Understand. Usually, compulsions are performed in an attempt to make obsessions go away.

For example, if you’re afraid of contamination, you might develop elaborate cleaning rituals. However, the relief never lasts. In fact, the obsessive thoughts usually come back stronger. And the compulsive rituals and behaviors often end up causing anxiety themselves as they become more demanding and time-consuming. This is the vicious cycle of OCD.

Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder fall into one of the following categories:

Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.

• Checkers repeatedly check things (oven turned off, door locked, etc.) that they associate with harm or danger.

• Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen, or they will be punished.

• Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.

• Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.

What are the signs and symptoms of OCD?

Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviors cause tremendous distress, take up a lot of time, and interfere with your daily life and relationships. Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder have both obsessions and compulsions.  however,  some people experience just one or the other..

what are some of the Obsessive thoughts associated with  OCD?

Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include:

•Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others

•Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others

•Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images

•Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas

•Fear of losing or not having things you might need

•Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”

•Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky

What are some Compulsive behaviours?

Common compulsive behaviours in OCD include:

•Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches

•Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe

•Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety

•Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning

•Ordering or arranging things “just so”

•Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear

•Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers

What are some tips to manage OCD?

1: Invest in self care

Your lifestyle plays a big role in how you feel; it can help you manage your anxiety and function better.

2: Exercise regularly

Exercise is a natural and can be a highly effective anti-anxiety treatment. It can help control OCD symptoms by strengthening your nervous system helping you to refocus your mind when obsessive thoughts and compulsions arise. For maximum benefit, try to get 30 minutes or more of aerobic activity on most days. Ten minutes several times a day can be as effective as one longer period especially if you pay mindful attention to the movement process.

3: Stay connected to family and friends as much as possible. 

Obsessions and compulsions can consume your life to the point of social isolation. In turn, social isolation will aggravate your OCD symptoms. It’s important to invest in relating to family and friends. Talking face-to-face about your worries and urges can make them feel less real and less threatening.

4: Get enough sleep

Not only can anxiety and worry cause insomnia, but a lack of sleep can also exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings. When you’re well rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with anxiety disorders such as OCD.

5: Practice relaxation techniques

Stress can trigger symptoms or make them worse. Mindful meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can help lower your overall stress and tension levels and help you manage your urges. For best results, practice a relaxation technique regularly.

Recognise you have more control (and less to fear) than you think.

Refocus your attention

When you’re experiencing OCD thoughts and urges, try shifting your attention to something else.

•You could exercise, jog, walk, listen to music, read, surf the web, play a video game, make a phone call, or knit. The important thing is to do something you enjoy for at least 15 minutes, in order to delay your response to the obsessive thought or compulsion.

•At the end of the delaying period, reassess the urge. In many cases, the urge will no longer be quite as intense. Try delaying for a longer period. The longer you can delay the urge, the more it will likely change.

Anticipate OCD urges

By anticipating your compulsive urges before they arise, you can help to ease them. For example, if your compulsive behavior involves checking that doors are locked, windows closed, or appliances turned off, try to lock the door or turn off the appliance with extra attention the first time.

•Create a solid mental picture and then make a mental note. Tell yourself, “The window is now closed,” or “I can see that the oven is turned off.”

•When the urge to check arises later, you will find it easier to re-label it as “just an obsessive thought.

What are some treatments for OCD?

In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, the following treatments are also used for OCD:

• Medication – Antidepressants are sometimes used in conjunction with therapy for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, medication alone is rarely effective in relieving the symptoms of OCD.

• Family Therapy – Because OCD often causes problems in family life and social adjustment, family therapy is often advised. Family therapy promotes understanding of the disorder and can help reduce family conflicts. It can also motivate family members and teach them how to help their loved one.

• Group Therapy – Group therapy is another helpful obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment. Through interaction with fellow OCD sufferers, group therapy provides support and encouragement and decreases feelings of isolation.

Helping a loved one with OCD

The way you react to your loved one’s OCD symptoms has a big impact. Negative comments or criticism can make OCD worse, while a calm, supportive environment can help improve the outcome of treatment. Try to be as kind and patient as possible.

Tips for helping a friend or family member with OCD

Avoid making personal criticisms. Remember, your loved one’s OCD behaviors are symptoms, not character flaws.

Don’t scold someone with OCD or tell them to stop performing rituals. They can’t comply, and the pressure to stop will only make the behaviors worse.

Do not play along with your loved one’s OCD rituals. Helping with rituals will only reinforce the behavior. Support the person, not their rituals.

Keep communication positive and clear. Communication is important so you can find a balance between supporting your loved one and standing up to the OCD and not further distressing your loved one.

Find the humor. Laughing together over the funny side and absurdity of some OCD symptoms can help your loved one become more detached from the disorder. Just make sure your loved one feels respected and in on the joke.

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