Why must you do repetitive tasks?
You’ve probably heard someone referring to another individual as have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) if that individual is particular about certain things, like being neat or clean. For the majority of people, even though they like things a certain way, they don’t have OCD. What are the actual symptoms? How is it treated? Can you prevent it?
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is condition that focuses on unreasonable thoughts and fears obsessively and this results in you doing repetitive behaviors compulsively to help decrease your anxiety or stress. If you try to stop or ignore your obsessions, it brings about increased anxiety and distress. This can lead to more ritualistic behavior, which creates this unrelenting cycle. Usually OCD behavior interrupts daily activities. The cause of OCD isn’t known, but thought to be related to your body’s own natural chemistry or brain function, genetics or environmental factors, like an infection. Typically, the condition presents as a teen or young adult. It begins gradually and can vary in severity throughout your life. Some things can elevate your risk for developing it, including family history of the disorder, experiencing traumatic life events or having other mental health disorders. Complications of the disorder are health issues caused by your behaviors, inability to work/go to school/attend social activities, troubled relationships, poor quality of life and suicidal thoughts.
Symptoms usually include both obsession and compulsion types, but it’s possible to have only one or the other. Most individuals with the disorder don’t realize that their symptoms are excessive or irrational. Symptoms are often worse after experiencing stressful events or situations. Obsessive symptoms are repetitive, persistent and unwanted thoughts, urges or images that are invasive resulting in anxiety. These most often arise when you’re trying to do something else. These thoughts, urges or images normally have themes, such as fear of contamination/dirt, needing things to be kept orderly/symmetrically, unwanted thoughts related to aggression/sexual/religious subjects and significant thoughts about harming yourself or others. Compulsion symptoms are repetitive behaviors that you do to decrease your anxiety related to your obsession in effort to prevent anything “bad” from happening. However, when you partake in the compulsion, it doesn’t provide any pleasure and only temporary relief from your anxiety. Usually, not only are compulsions excessive, they aren’t logically connected to the problem they’re supposed to fix. Similarly, to obsessive symptoms, compulsive symptoms have themes, including washing/cleaning, checking, counting, orderliness, following a strict routine and demanding reassurances.
The goal of treating OCD is to bring symptoms under control because usually it’s not possible to cure. Most individuals need treatment for the rest of their lives. The first treatment technique is psychotherapy. The main type of psychotherapy used is exposure and response prevention (ERP), which is a form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). ERP subjects you gradually to the object you fear and teaching you healthy ways to cope. This can be done individually or in family/group sessions. Don’t get discouraged because it takes lots of effort and practice over a long period of time to see an improvement.
The second treatment technique is medication with the most common class of medications used being antidepressants. Often, it takes trying several different kinds to find the right one. The goal is to control the symptoms while taking the lowest dose possible. Sometimes, you might need to take more than one medicine at a time. It’s important to remember that it can take several weeks or months for you to notice a difference. There are many different types of medicines available with some being approved to use in children as young as 6-years-old. While antidepressants aren’t usually addictive, if you stop them suddenly, you can have withdrawal symptoms because your body becomes physically dependent on the medication and when it’s suddenly removed, it causes unwanted physical symptoms (this is also called physical dependence). One other important consideration is that occasionally antidepressants increase suicidal thoughts in individuals under the age of 25. This can happen at any time while taking the medicine, but is more prevalent in the first few weeks after starting a medicine or changing the dose.
It’s also key to learn as much as possible about OCD because this will allow you to feel more comfortable with your treatment plan, which means you’re more likely to follow it. It’s vital to stay focused on your goals even when it’s tough to do so. A helpful thing to do is find outlets to channel your energy to things that you enjoy doing, such as hobbies or activities. Part of having overall good health, which will help with your OCD, is to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep. Make sure you continue with your regular activities, like work or school, so OCD doesn’t take over your life. It can be beneficial to learn relaxation techniques to reduce your stress. Some of these methods include meditation, visualization, muscle relaxation, massage, deep breathing, yoga or tai chi.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a guaranteed way to prevent obsessive compulsive disorder from occurring. The key is to seek treatment as early as possible in order to prevent the disorder from getting worse and causing major disruption to your daily life. If you do have OCD, there are several things that you can do to prevent your episodes from getting worse, such as taking all your medications as directed (even if you’re feeling well). It’s also critical to pay attention to warning signs of issues that could trigger your symptoms and practice what you’ve learned to help manage any symptoms that occur.
OCD can be a debilitating condition if it gets out of hand. So, seek treatment early and you’ll be able to live a more normal life. If you have any questions or concerns about OCD, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s OCD page at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml