“You are so OCD!” How many times have you heard OCD used as an adjective? Maybe you use OCD to describe your friend who is always straightening up their belongings or your partner who insists on cleaning the house a certain way. But OCD is not an adjective – ask anyone who is experiencing OCD, and they will tell you it is a time consuming, complex, and at times, debilitating condition.
Then what is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) presents itself in obsessions – or, in other words, intrusive thoughts that persist despite a person’s best efforts to ignore them. While everyone has unpleasant thoughts and worries that pop into their head from time to time, these thoughts get stuck for people with OCD. The compulsions that follow are the tasks or routines that a person does to bring down their stress or anxiety created from the thought that is stuck. The problem with this coping technique is that you are only offered temporary relief by engaging in the compulsions. This experience can leave you feeling that your ritual itself “saved the day” and prevented something terrible from happening. In reality, however, engaging in a compulsion ultimately reinforces the anxiety and increases it over time.
There are a variety of symptoms that someone with OCD can experience. Symptoms can range from physical behaviors like hand washing, confessing, and arranging items, to thinking behaviors that may not be visible to others. An example of a thinking behavior is mentally reviewing things you have said or mentally planning what you might do in the future. In some cases, these obsessions center around avoiding harm or something terrible happening to yourself or others. In other cases, a motivation to subdue a feeling of incompleteness or a feeling that something is not “just right.” For example, a student needs to repeatedly touch their desk until their feeling of distress goes away. The good news is, working with a counselor who specializes in OCD can help you manage this and begin to make your experience of OCD less intrusive and your world bigger.
Here are 3 ways counseling can help:
1. Identifying Your “Why”
Working with a counselor can help you process why you want to make changes in the first place. It is often easy to know that you aren’t satisfied with how things are going, and it can be helpful to identify your motivation to change. What are things that you would do if OCD were not getting in the way? Where would you like to go? What would you like to do? Change is hard. Working with a counselor can help you explore where you are today and where you would like to be. A counselor can help illuminate your motivation and propel you to do the hard work, with the ultimate goal of living a life on your terms, not one that revolves around OCD.
2. Knowledge is Power
Working with a therapist can help you better understand how your thoughts contribute to your anxious feelings and body sensations. Understanding your thoughts can help you shift from avoiding anxiety at all costs to viewing your anxiety as a normal and necessary human experience that is part of reaching your goals.
Another piece of good news is that there are evidence-based treatments for OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for many people with OCD. While it will not cure OCD, it can significantly reduce your symptoms and help you gain more control over your life. Exposure and response prevention (ERP), a component of CBT, slowly and gradually exposes you to a feared situation or object and encourages you to resist the compulsion or ritual you have tried to use to cope with your anxiety.
3. Family Accommodation
It makes sense that family members would want to do anything to help reduce their loved one’s anxiety. With OCD, however, this may come in the form of reassurance, modifying routines, or altering situations. While well-intentioned, these actions can actually increase anxiety and become part of the compulsion or ritual. Working with a counselor to provide education to your family members (parents, spouse, etc.) can help everyone better understand how to best support you without inadvertently accommodating and reinforcing your OCD.
OCD consumes precious time and energy and can limit the ability to live a full, valued life; however, there are treatments that are effective in reducing the symptoms to regain control. Working with a counselor can help you understand OCD better, offer evidence-based treatment to reduce the symptoms, and educate those who support you in your journey as you bravely work to make OCD smaller and your world bigger.
If you or a loved one are concerned about intrusive thoughts and behavioral patterns and are interested in exploring treatment options, please contact Ashley Friemanis at Get Centered today. Please click here to schedule a free 15-minute consultation with Ashley.