Doing Life Together

ID-100234439It’s a term we casually throw around, “I’m so OCD.” But for those who suffer, it’s no causal matter.

It was 9:00p.m. Eric was rechecking every door in the house to make sure it was locked. He didn’t do this once, or even twice a night. Eric had to check the doors at least ten times before he headed to his bedroom. If he didn’t, he felt highly anxious and couldn’t sleep. His wife is concerned because she sees the distress this checking creates in Eric. Eric suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive behavior, a condition that is more than just worry.

Intrusive anxious thoughts called obsessions constantly run through her mind. These thoughts are more than normal worries about life, and difficult to give up. Typically obsessive thoughts are about contamination, self-doubts, the need for order, aggressive or horrifying impulses, or sexual imagery. Efforts to stop the obsessions fail and repetitive behaviors follow as an attempt to reduce anxiety over the thoughts. These repetitive behaviors are known as compulsions. Examples of compulsive behaviors include hand washing, cleaning, counting, checking, repeating words, etc. Compulsions are excessive behaviors and not successful in stopping obsessive thoughts. They offer momentary relief from anxiety.

Obsessions and compulsions interfere with living. Inordinate amounts of time and energy are spent trying to resist the obsessions and compulsive behaviors that follow. It is also possible to have obsessive thoughts, and not follow those thoughts with rituals that dispel anxiety.

People with OCD are not crazy. They know their thoughts and behaviors are strange and excessive. The problem is they can’t seem to stop. When they try, they often experience mounting anxiety.

The cause is uncertain, but we know there there are parts of the brain involved. Treatment involves a type of therapy called Cognitive Behavior Therapy that uses something called exposure plus response prevention. The idea is to expose yourself to the obsession (the thought to recheck the locks), then prevent yourself from rechecking (the compulsion). Medication is often used to help as well.

Treatment can make a difference and help in all aspects of your life. This is not something you can will away or hope you out grow. If you or a loved one, suffer from OCD, help is available.


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