Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Approximately 1% of the US population meets criteria for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD refers to the presence of recurrent, unwanted, and anxiety inducing thoughts (obsessions) along with attempts to get rid of these thoughts through rituals or actions (compulsions).
People often think of someone who is terrified of germs or a “neat freak” when they think of OCD. While someone who is mortified of contamination or disorganization may meet criteria for OCD, it can also look very different. Other themes of obsessions include morality, safety, violence, sexuality, and more. You can imagine how off-putting it can be for an adult, let alone a child, to have thoughts about violence or sexuality stuck in their head.
Most of the time people just want to get rid of these thoughts and the associated anxiety. So, they find ways to do just that. These methods are called compulsions. For example, the person who never feels certain they locked their car door goes back to the car 5 times to confirm they locked the doors. Or, the person who gets out of bed because they did not do their night time ritual of touching the door knob three times and tapping their heels twice before getting into bed. Or, the person who asks for repeated reassurance (compulsion) that they are not bad (obsession) for having a mean thought.
There are so many ways OCD presents itself, and it does a great job at training people to get rid of discomfort NOW! The problem with this is that people’s worlds shrink drastically when they are trained by OCD, or any type of anxiety for that matter. “I can’t go there anymore because I might get germs.” “I can’t relax without checking all the doors and locks in the house even if I give up time with my family.” Fortunately, there is a way to take back your power.
The most evidence-based treatment for OCD is exposure and response prevention (ERP or ExRP). ERP is a systematic process by which people learn to increase their tolerance for the discomfort associated with their obsessions. This includes approaching anxiety inducing thoughts or situations gradually until people have enough confidence to attack the most difficult of situations.
It’s not easy, but it is well worth the effort. Below are some links where you can find more information and inspiration.
Contact us if you are ready to start your journey. We would be honored to help you.