Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: OCD Definition, OCD Symptoms & OCD Types
Occasionally, everyone has some obsessive thoughts or concerns about their safety or that of their loved ones. However, if a person has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these thoughts can feel so overwhelming that they interfere with normal daily work and responsibilities. Where is the borderline between normal concerns and mental disorder? Let’s find it out!
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. A person’s level of OCD can be anywhere from mild to severe, but if severe and left untreated, it can destroy a person’s capacity to function at work, at school, or even to lead a comfortable existence in the home.
OCD includes a wide range of signs and symptoms. Most of them are in the form of obsessive fear and repeated actions. Some common symptoms include:
The fear of:
- Contacting disease through germs
- Unclean environments or substances
- Injuring oneself or others
- A loved one getting harmed
- Becoming sick
- Losing precious possessions
- Committing a religious offense
Other symptoms include an obsession with:
- Superstitious beliefs about specific numbers
- Counting things
- Symmetry in objects
- Sexual words or images
Some of the repetitive, compulsive actions in people with OCD include:
- Showering and tooth-brushing
- Cleaning the home or office
- Placing things in a particular order based on size or color
- Looking over work for mistakes
- Checking the skin or hair for flaws
- Keeping items that have no value to anyone
Whether these fears are real or not, they consume a great deal of mental and physical energy. If you notice that you or your loved one has any of these symptoms, then you need to persuade them to seek obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment immediately.
Types of OCD
There are infinite types of OCD, it can impact any thought, any subject, any person, any fear, and frequently fixates on what’s important in a person’s life. For example, if religion is important to someone, OCD fixates on unwanted intrusive thoughts around religion, perhaps making the sufferer believe their actions/thoughts will offend their god. Another example is if someone begins a new relationship, OCD can make a person question that relationship, their feelings, their sexuality resulting in almost constant rumination, perhaps with the sufferer worrying that they may be misleading their partner. The drop-down lists below will attempt to explain some of the more common manifestations of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD comes in many forms, but most cases fall into at least one of four general categories.
- Checking, such as locks, alarm systems, ovens, or light switches, or thinking you have a medical condition like pregnancy or schizophrenia
- Contamination, a fear of things that might be dirty or a compulsion to clean. Mental contamination involves feeling like you’ve been treated like dirt.
- Symmetry and ordering, the need to have things lined up in a certain way
- Ruminations and intrusive thoughts, an obsession with a line of thought. Some of these thoughts might be violent or disturbing.
Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for OCD
Cognitive-behavior therapy is a type of treatment that helps individuals cope with and change problematic thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The treatment you are beginning is a specialized type of cognitive-behavior therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) called Exposure and Ritual Prevention. This treatment is designed to break two types of associations that occur in OCD. The first one is the association between sensations of distress and the objects, situations, or thoughts that produce this distress. The second association is that between carrying out ritualistic behavior and decreasing the distress. The treatment we offer will break the automatic bond between feelings of anxiety and ritual behaviors. It will also train you not to ritualize when you are anxious. This treatment program includes three components that we call in vivo exposure, imaginal exposure, and ritual prevention.
In Vivo Exposure: Also known as “real-life” or “actual” exposure. Staying for longer periods of time in the presence of a feared object or situation that evokes anxiety and distress (for example, actual contact with contaminants)
Imaginal Exposure: Mentally visualizing oneself in the feared situations or visualizing the consequences of the feared situations (for example, visualizing driving on the road and hitting a pedestrian)
Ritual Prevention: Refraining from ritualistic behavior (for example, leaving the kitchen without checking the stove, or touching the floor without washing one’s hands)
When to look for an Intensive OCD Treatment Program?
If medication and outpatient psychotherapy haven’t worked for you or your loved one, and OCD symptoms are taking over your life and making it difficult to function, it might be time to find the right IOP or PHP treatment program near you. Having suicidal thoughts despite treatment should prompt you to consider this option. Unfortunately, suicide among people with OCD is far too common, and addressing issues such as worsening symptoms may be thought of as a medical emergency, not just a problem that is lowering your quality of life.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
Published: July 10, 2021
Last Updated: September 17, 2021
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