Obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD treatment
Obsessive Compulsive disorder or OCD
OCD is the acronym for obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a mental health problem for the individual that involves the person having strong repeated obsessive thoughts about something and then carrying out compulsive behaviour.
The compulsive behaviour doesn’t always have to be a physical action such as hand washing or counting; the compulsive behaviour can also be the thoughts. To break it down lets break it down into the two parts.
What is an obsession?
This is a process of getting negative, strong, unwanted thoughts, fantasies or urges that seem so real to the sufferer. These aren’t just everyday worries these are thoughts that result in extreme anxiety and other very negative emotions such as threat or loss.
What is a compulsion?
This is a behaviour that the individual carries out, in order to stop the unwanted thought from becoming a reality. These compulsions are very strong and need to be carried out to prevent the catastrophic thought from coming true. An example of this maybe that a person thinks they need to make sure the lights are off in the house or they may short-circuit and burn down the house, the family would perish and they would be solely responsible.
The thought is so strong that the individual may use counting to turn off the lights. The compulsive behaviour would be, for example, counting to 7 whilst turning the light switch on and off. When it gets to 7, the subject is then sure that the lights are indeed, off.
The severity of OCD symptoms can vary and I am a believer that we all have OCD to some degree. For example, if your house had been broken into, you may check all the doors and windows are locked before leaving the house, even if the burglary happened years before. Sometimes checking a number of times. This is quite normal, but for others, the symptoms of OCD are far worse.
Some may spend many hours of the day obsessing and carrying out their compulsion, for others, the entire day may be spent worrying and this can have a marked impact on that persons life. Lets look a little further into the patterns.
- Obsession – The thoughts are strong and repetitive. They can consume you with fear and dread. For example, “My hands are contaminated, I need to wash them or I will get a deadly disease”.
- Anxiety/Fear – This obsessive thought gives the individual negative feelings such as anxiety, dread and fear.
- Compulsion – The individual brings in a safety behaviour
- Relief – The individual will have temporarily removed or reduced their anxiety after the compulsion. But because of the obsessive nature of the thoughts, the fear will soon return and the pattern returns.
What are the signs of OCD?
Here are some very common obsessions.
1. Thoughts about unwanted harm or aggression. Either to the self or to others.
2. Sexual thoughts that cause distress
3. Blasphemous thoughts
And example of this sort of obsessive behaviour is a new parent believing that they may harm their baby. The thought is so disturbing that they get the intense fear and anxiety. They actually believe that they are capable of harm.
More examples of obsessive thoughts are:
1. Worrying that you haven’t turned off the lights, iron or cooker, with the potential to cause a fire and harm loved ones.
2. Thinking you will harm someone intentionally. Such as, punching a pensioner or child. Pouring a hot cup of tea over someones head.
3. Sexual thoughts. Such as sexually assaulting a child
4. Religious blasphemy. Intrusive thoughts that go fully against your beliefs.
5. Fear of becoming contaminated. From toilets, bins, other people.
6. Symmetrical worry thoughts. If things don’t appear to be neat or in order, the individual will feel anxiety.
7. Obsessive health thoughts. Such as, “I have had this headache for over a day now, I just know its Brain Cancer!!”
Some Examples of Compulsions include:
1. Repetition of certain behaviour or actions. Such as washing the hands over and over or turning on and off light switches.
2. Touching things. “If I touch this lucky charm, I know it will be ok”.
3. Number compulsion. Turning of the lights seven times. Avoiding unlucky numbers and focusing on safe numbers.
4. Checking. Checking through a text message over and over to make sure there is nothing awful in it. Stopping the car every minute to make sure you haven’t knocked someone down.
5. Arrangement of order. Including objects in the house, books for example. Or storing things in the fridge ordered by a code such as colour or alphabetically.
6. Repetition of safe words. If the person says the word over and over then they will prevent the worst thing from happening.
How is OCD diagnosed?
Normally, the first port of call is to see your doctor or GP. You may already identify with the symptoms, but I always recommend seeing a doctor to get a diagnosis.
Your GP may use the Finberg-Zohar questioning method which will determine if you have OCD or not. Remembering that we all possess a few traits of OCD.
The questions are laid out as below:
- do you wash or clean a lot?
- do you check things a lot?
- do you have thoughts that keep bothering you that you would like to get rid of but cannot?
- do your daily activities take a long time to finish?
- are you concerned about putting things in a special order or are you upset by mess?
- do these problems trouble you?
The results of the questioning may help your GP identify whether you have OCD or not. If you have read through this page and can connect to the content and realise that your thoughts are obsessive and that they cause distress and anxiety and impact upon your everyday functioning then you may start to look into how you treat this condition.
“I have OCD… What can I do about it?”
There are a number of therapies that can help you with your symptoms, counselling, Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. Elements of NLP (neuro linguistic programming) may also help.
As a psychotherapist, and an integrative one at that, I tend to use behavioural therapy as well as hypnotherapy interventions to help the sufferer identify the obsessions as thoughts. We work with the thought processes and then work to adapt the behaviour or compulsions.
It is important to know that some severe cases of OCD may take many sessions to sort out. This is normal. I have worked with some clients for many months. OCD does respond to therapy so if you are fully on board with the process and really want to embrace change then why not give me a call to arrange a consultation at my private practice in Warrington, Cheshire, where I see many people with this condition.
64 Shackleton Close, Old Hall, Warrington, Cheshire, WA5 9QE
01925 354 820