Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD, is characterized by a pattern of unreasonable thoughts and obsessions that cause a person to act compulsively, performing repetitive behaviors. OCD can vary in intensity, and when it becomes unmanageable it can interfere with everyday activities and cause significant anxiety and distress.
OCD usually includes both obsessions and compulsions, however, a person may also experience obsession symptoms without compulsions, and vice versa. Obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted thoughts, urges or images that are intrusive and cause distress and/or anxiety. A person will often try to ignore their obsessions or try to erase them by performing a compulsive behavior or rituals. These obsessions have a tendency to present themselves in a disruptive fashion, often when a person is trying to think of other things or accomplish daily tasks.
Examples of Obsessions:
– A fear of germs or contamination
– Organization, orderliness and symmetrical
– Pervasively aggressive and intrusive thoughts about self-harm or harm to others
– Unwanted thoughts on subjects such as violence, sex, religion, etc.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person feels obligated to perform. People with OCD act compulsively with the intention of preventing or reducing the anxiety related to their obsessions, and/or to stop something bad from happening. Engaging in compulsive behavior may seem to offer a sense of relief from anxiety, however, performing compulsions brings no pleasure and only offers temporary relief. A person with OCD might construct rules or rituals that help control their anxiety when they’re experiencing obsessive thoughts, however these compulsions are often excessive and unrelated to the problem they’re facing.
Examples of compulsive behavior include:
– Washing and cleaning
– Following a strict routine
– Demanding reassurances
OCD is typically treated through a combination of psychotherapy and medication management. Evidence suggests that Exposure Response Prevention, or ERP, is the gold standard and evidence-based approach to treating OCD. ERP is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that aims to create a safe and supportive environment in which clients can challenge their stressors and ingrained fears.