Dispelling Myths: OCD
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, most commonly known as OCD, is a term often used colloquially to describe someone who obsesses over minor details. But what does this mental illness really mean for people who suffer from it every day? There are two components to obsessive compulsive disorder: Obsessions that are focused on unreasonable fears and thoughts that result in extreme anxiety and compulsions which are repetitive behaviors that the person uses to cope with their fears and anxieties. This creates a loop of behaviors that feed off of each other and can get worse over time. A common example is the obsession relating to a fear of germs and the compulsion to wash your hands in order to rid yourself of germs. Normally this kind of action wouldn’t be a problem, but people with OCD aren’t able to stop themselves from partaking in their compulsions and might end up washing their hands until they are raw.
Myth #1: OCD is about obsessive cleanliness. While we might think about the classic example of people who are terrified of germs or want everything to be neat and clean, there are many other examples of OCD. Like other mental illnesses, OCD can greatly impact an individual’s quality of life. For example, someone might obsess over locking their door. Someone without OCD might check that their door is locked once and be satisfied. Someone with OCD will continue to check to see if their door is locked and consequently be late to work or put off other duties, etc. Myth #2: OCD has causes from childhood difficulties. OCD is not a direct manifestation of childhood difficulties or trauma, like many believe. It can develop at any stage in life and has a large genetic component to its development. It is possible however, for children as young as 4 to develop the disease. About 1 in 200 kids and teens in school have OCD. Myth #3: Stress causes OCD. People might equate OCD as a stress response, thinking that if an individual stressed less, they would be less affected by their OCD. However, OCD is uncontrollable anxiety and people have a lot of difficulty stopping their compulsions. Stress can make OCD symptoms worse, but it does not cause the disease.
Treatments for OCD
There are effective therapies that can help people tackle the root of their OCD and anxiety problems. This involves exposure and response therapy, where the patient works with a therapist to rewire how they respond in situations that trigger their OCD responses. This therapy takes a lot of work, but can be very effective for those who are suffering. There are also some medications that have been shown to be effective, many of which are used to treat other mental illnesses like depression and anxiety (i.e. Prozac). There are many different routes to combat mental health disorders and each patient is different. It is beneficial to find a therapist and/or medication that work for your specific needs and mental health.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, like depression or anxiety, please contact the professional team at Lifeline Connections. You can visit Lifelineconnections.org or call 360.397.8246 for more information.