Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that causes people to experience repeated and unwanted thoughts, called obsessions. These can cause you to engage in repetitive behaviors or compulsions, to try and make your obsessions go away. While it may seem like these behaviors are harmless, they can interfere with your daily life and cause distress.
What Is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that affects one in 40 people. It causes severe anxiety and can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and negative feelings about yourself. OCD is not a choice. It’s a chronic condition that you can manage but not cure.
Before you get started on any type of treatment program, it’s important that you understand what OCD is and isn’t. The first step in treating your symptoms is recognizing them as symptoms rather than something else entirely, like “being too neat” or “caring too much.” Although these statements might be true in some cases, they don’t apply universally to all people with OCD. Having this mental health issue doesn’t make someone less caring or neat. It just makes life harder to live when those behaviors become compulsive rather than helpful behaviors, like cleaning up after yourself.
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have unwanted thoughts and perform repetitive behaviors. While you may feel like you are acting on your own, OCD can be a frightening experience for anyone who has it.
Obsessions are thoughts or images that repeatedly appear in your mind, causing significant distress and anxiety. They might include thoughts about hurting yourself or others, fear of contamination, like germs, intrusive sexual or religious images, or worries about order or symmetry.
Compulsions are behaviors that you do over and over again to try to reduce the anxiety caused by your obsessions. They often take up time but don’t result in any real benefit. Some examples include hand washing excessively, counting objects repeatedly, excessive cleaning/organizing, and hoarding items “just in case” they’re needed later, even if they’re broken.
Identify Your Obsession Triggers
When you’re identifying your obsessions, it’s helpful to remember that they can be triggered by a thought, image, or feeling. For example, if you have an obsession with germs and infection, then seeing someone sneeze might trigger the obsession. Perhaps reading about something like the Ebola virus would trigger thoughts of death and disease in your mind.
As you think about what triggers your obsessions, write down as many of them as possible without judging yourself too harshly. Even if it seems silly at first, don’t forget to write these things down and include them on your list of triggers because they may become more important later.
Do Not Ignore or Suppress Your Obsessions
If you have obsessions, it’s important not to ignore or suppress them. That’s because doing so can make your symptoms worse.
- Do not try to ignore your obsessions
- Do not try to suppress your obsessions
- Do not try to push them away
Doing these things will only make things worse and won’t help you manage your OCD. Doing these things can be difficult, though. So don’t be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional that can help you learn to do these things.
Refocus on Things That Work for You
Focus on the positive. Try to find a way to be productive or do something that helps other people. For example, if you have OCD and are afraid of germs, you may be able to help clean up after a disaster or teach other people how to be careful with their health so they don’t get sick either.
Think about what you can do for yourself. For example, try reading books about overcoming anxiety and depression. It may sound obvious, but sometimes we forget how much knowledge we already have inside ourselves. It’s also good advice for people who are struggling with mental health issues like depression or anxiety; it is suggested that having an active social life actually reduces symptoms of these conditions rather than causing them themselves.
Stay open with others. You can’t fight OCD alone. Talk to those closest to you about the ways in which it affects your life and what kind of support they can provide. If they don’t understand or aren’t able to offer much help, consider seeking out a therapist or other professional who can provide guidance on how best to manage the symptoms.
Try new proactive strategies. Experiment with different tactics for combating your negative thoughts and compulsions. You may find that some methods work better than others for certain situations or trigger types of obsessions and compulsions. For example, if you are plagued by intrusive thoughts about chopping off someone’s finger when using a knife, try using gloves when cooking instead.
Getting a diagnosis like OCD can really change your life. However, learning to manage your OCD can help you have a more productive and happy life. Some people have really intense symptoms, and other people have mild ones. But any type of obsessive-compulsive behavior can create anxiety in your life that will be difficult to live with without intervention. If you or someone you know is struggling with OCD or OCD-like behaviors, we want to help you with a treatment plan to help you learn to manage the symptoms. We can help you learn tools and strategies to be able to live a normal, productive life. Call Acera Health for more information at (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.