Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that impacts both children and adults.
What is OCD?
The National Institute of Health of the United States defines OCD as a long-lasting and chronic disorder “in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.” As the research on this topic mounts and OCD-tests become more prevalent, the rates of OCD are also increasing.
“The first and only Singapore Mental Health Study released in 2011 found that Singapore was the OCD capital of the world, with higher rates of the illness compared with the United States or Europe.” — Singapore’s largest newspaper, The Straights Times
OCD can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms of the illness both overlap and are related to many other illnesses, including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. There is a wide spectrum of severity of OCD and diagnosis can require a series of physical examinations, lab tests, and psychological evaluations.
People with OCD can obsess over many thoughts and activities, frequently those that include maintaining cleanliness (including hand washing and cleaning) and repeating activities and/or motions beyond function (e.g., needing to touch a door knob 3 times before opening a door).
Though not necessary a direct side effect of OCD, many people with this illness suffer with inflamed anxiety and feelings of guilt, self-blame, and depression after cycling through routine obsessive thoughts and related behaviors. Unfortunately, for many people with this illness, without directed and intensive treatment, it is extremely difficult to break these thought-behavior patterns.
Dealing with OCD: Self-management techniques
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is common to cause extreme anxiety and in many cases, requires methodical and professional treatment to change behaviors and unproductive thought patterns and obsessions that lead to compulsive behavior. The required treatment also depends on the cause of the OCD. Though a direct "cause" of OCD has not yet been identified, research hypotheses have included: insufficient serotonin levels, genetics, trauma, and other environmental factors.
For people living with a mild form of OCD, general tips for anxiety management could be helpful, including the following:
- Meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises.
- Daily fitness and physical activities.
- Consistent and adequate sleep.
- Staying engaged in social activities.
- Consuming a balanced diet and nutritious foods.
- Avoiding caffeine, which can mimic feelings of anxiety.
- Seeking professional help. For many, anxiety and OCD are too serious of an issue to deal with by themselves.
Seeking professional help for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder & Anxiety
In many cases, self-management of OCD symptoms is not enough, and professional help is needed. Each case is unique, though the following types of treatment have been shown to be successful in curbing the potentially debilitating symptoms of OCD:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a type of CBT that can be done in-person and over remote therapy/teletherapy
- Hypnotherapy, also known as Hypnosis Therapy
- Medications, specifically serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SRIs)
- Traditional and Intensive Outpatient Programs, more of which are described on the website of the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF)
The Mayo Clinic in the United States notes that expectations of any treatment should be levelled, as while it may be not possible for many people to fully "treat" their OCD, treatment options can "help bring symptoms under control so that they don't rule your daily life. Some people need treatment for the rest of their lives."
Supporting someone with OCD
“Too many people end up in therapy because of someone else’s issues, and its impact on their lives, leaving them feeling stuck and trapped in misery.” – Psychotherapist Elizabeth Van Rein
Living with somebody or supporting someone close to you with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is never easy. Studies show that being in extensive and proximate interactions with mentally ill people can have a negative impact on us. Make sure to check in with yourself and not spiral into needing therapy and support yourself! This article describes how to know if someone’s mental illness is (negatively) affecting you.
Did you know that many therapists offer a free, obligation-free inquiry session?
Many anxiety and OCD experts on RingMD offer free initial sessions. If you’re looking to consult with a provider on RingMD, check to see if they offer a free session in the “packages” section of their profile or send them a direct message through the chat function on the platform.
Wishing you the best in your wellness journey!