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Obsessions and Compulsions: Understanding the Impact and How Therapy Can Help
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a mental health disorder that will affect approximately 1.6 percent of American adults in their lifetime. OCD is characterized by intrusive and distressing thoughts, known as obsessions, that typically lead to repetitive and ritualistic behaviors, called compulsions.
People with OCD often worry excessively about things, where fears typically fall into categories like contamination and germs, accidents and injuries, and lack of order, symmetry, or completion. As a result of these intrusive thoughts, a person may wash their hands frequently or avoid touching objects that they perceive to be dirty.
A person's obsessive thoughts are often rooted in guilt, fear, and disgust, causing significant distress on their own. But the compulsions (actions) carried out, whether to relieve stress or anxiety or prevent something from happening, present more challenges.
Even if a person feels some relief at first, these behaviors only feed the cycle. Not to mention, many compulsions are time-consuming and disruptive to a person's life.
Living with OCD can be extremely challenging. The constant worrying and obsessions can take a toll on one's mental and physical health. OCD can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts when left unchecked.
Obsessions and compulsions often co-occur with other mental health conditions, including:
- Anxiety (such as a phobia or social anxiety)
- Major depression (MDD)
- Obsessive-compulsive personality (OCPD)
- Tic condition is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle movements.
For many people with OCD, the anxiety and fear associated with their condition are so intense that they cannot lead normal lives. However, with treatment and support, most people with OCD can learn to manage their symptoms and live happy, productive lives.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure and response prevention may be most helpful depending on the nature of one's obsessions or compulsions.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of treatment for OCD. This type of therapy helps you understand and change the unrealistic or distorted thoughts and behaviors that keep your OCD alive.
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) helps individuals confront their obsession and work through the anxiety when exposed to it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to you.