Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder characterized by having obsessions and compulsions. The obsessions cause intense distress for the individual, and the compulsions are in response to that distress. There’s a wide variety of obsessions and compulsions, so it’s important to remember that two people suffering from OCD might have drastically different symptoms. The obsessions can trigger guilt or embarrassment for those going through them. It’s important to remember that these thoughts and/or images are not wanted and are not a reflection of the person suffering from them. They are symptoms of OCD and need treatment.
Imagine every time you drive you see an image of hitting someone with your car. It’s so distressing, and you're fairly sure it didn’t happen…but it feels so real that you just have to go back and check. But once isn’t enough and now you’ve driven around the block fifteen times. You listen for sirens, look for someone hurt, but see no one. You look for proof that it didn’t happen, and drive until it feels safe to stop.
Or you can’t stop thinking about that person on the subway that sneezed…what was wrong with them? They might have had something contagious…the thought of germs on you makes you so distressed that you wash your hands…and wash your hands…and wash your hands… You wash until it feels ‘just right’ and the thoughts stop for just a minute. But you can’t shake the feeling that the germs might still be on you.
Perhaps you can’t stop worrying about screaming something extremely offensive anytime you’re in a meeting at work. What if you did it? What would people think? Would you be fired? Do you actually secretly want to do this? The doubt and distress are so high that you say a prayer, and then another prayer, and then another. If you say the same prayer a certain number of times then it will be ok.
Well, if you have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), then you don’t need to imagine these scenarios. This is something you live with daily. You may know that the thoughts or imagines don’t make sense, but you can’t stop yourself from doing the things that might make you feel better, or ‘counteract’ the fears. The doubt is crushing. You may not tell anyone because the thoughts or images are embarrassing, or you fear they might mean you’re a bad person.
As a therapist who treats OCD, I can tell you what you are experiencing is a mental disorder. It doesn’t mean you're a bad person, it doesn’t mean that you secretly want whatever you think to happen - it means you need treatment for OCD. OCD is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and misrepresented in the media. It’s incredibly important for those suffering to find specialized care, because the good news is, with the right treatment, OCD is very treatable. The best outcomes for OCD are shown using a treatment called ERP (exposure response prevention), a treatment I utilize. I understand the shame, guilt, and hesitancy to reach out for treatment that often accompanies OCD. What you’re experiencing is scary, and telling someone about it might be even scarier. But with treatment, it can get better.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
It's made up of 3 components: Cognitive therapy, Behavioral therapy, and Mindfulness-based therapy. CBT's goal is to put a stop to negative thoughts. This is done by going beneath the surface of the things that may trigger you to feel anxious, scared, or just generally make you feel bad.
Have you ever heard the saying don't believe everything you hear? Well cognitive therapy is similar. Cognitive therapy is about not believing everything you think. Why? Because our way of thinking can be fueled by biases from past events, relationships, and overall general experiences.
Behavioral therapy is about identifying and improve behavior that may potentially be self destructive and unhealthy.
Mindfulness therapy uses mindful meditation as well as other exercises that assist in diving into the inner consciousness and placing extra attention into ones thoughts and feelings.