According to the National Institute of Mental Health, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic condition where a person has uncontrollable, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviours (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat. It is estimated that 2.3% of the US population has OCD.
While researchers aren’t sure what causes OCD, they believe genetics, environment, and brain abnormalities all play a role in its development. Researchers are certain, however, that OCD is an anxiety disorder that ranges greatly in severity. Mild sufferers can lead productive lives, while those most afflicted face total disability.
The disorder affects men and women equally. The average age of OCD diagnosis is 19, though cases have developed in people as old as 35.
Common obsessive-compulsive behaviours include repetitive cleaning and hand washing, checking objects, such as door locks or stoves, counting, ordering, and arranging. Hoarding, asking for reassurance, repeating words in their head, and avoidance of situations that trigger OCD are also symptoms.
OCD prognosis and treatment
Even in its lesser forms, OCD is a disruptive force. At its worst, obsessive-compulsive disorder can manifest as harmful OCD. The centre for anxiety disorders states harm OCD is a subset of classic obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The condition is characterised by experiencing aggressive, intrusive thoughts of hurting someone and the responses the person uses to cope with these urges. While 85% of all people experience fleeting thoughts of hurting others to harm OCD sufferers, these ideations become overly intrusive.
Riddled by perpetual agitation, OCD patients are ten times more likely than non OCD counterparts to commit suicide. For that reason, obsessive-compulsive disorder requires immediate treatment. The Mayo Clinic lists self-care and therapy as common interventions for the disorder. There are more complex treatment methods.
It suppresses unwanted behaviour with a negative consequence. For instance, an electrical shock is used to condition the patient’s brain from committing an OCD act.
Rational emotive behavioural therapy
This therapy helps change irrational negative thoughts and improve emotional well-being.
Exposure and response prevention
Here, patients engage in talk therapy which simulates uncomfortably scenarios for the patient within a clinical environment to help reduce any associated negative behaviours.
A tried and true method, systemic desensitisation is a treatment strategy that helps patients overcome their fears by gradually exposing them to the things they are afraid of.
In addition to these treatments, medications such as SSRIs, anxiolytics, and antidepressants are prescribed to OCD patients.
Self-care for OCD
According to HealthCentral, personal therapy practices also effectively manage the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each can be performed at home as an adjunct to traditional treatment.
- Understand your anxiety and triggers.
- Exercise to re-orient your thoughts.
- Challenge the obsessive thoughts with logic.
- Journal about your experiences.
- Wean yourself off compulsive behaviours.
- Delay your compulsive rituals.
- Engage in relaxation techniques.
The good news is that roughly 80% of obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers respond well to treatment. IOCDF.org states exposure and response therapy, along with SSRI dosing, is the most effective OCD treatment.
Although OCD is a chronic disorder, it is manageable. That should offer great hope to those battling its effects.
Joshua Broom is the founder of the mental health and wellness website, Stigma Battle. Joshua is also the author of Living Hell Stigma.
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