Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that occurs when a person is caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions: obsessions can take the form of intrusive and recurrent thoughts, often disturbing in nature, which then lead to an individual feeling uncomfortable, fearful or in distress; compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to reduce the distress caused by their thoughts. Individuals who struggle with OCD often find that these cycles are time consuming, mentally/physically draining and interfere with their daily life.
The gold standard treatment for OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that helps individuals gradually expose themselves to uncomfortable thoughts while helping them learn to tolerate the discomfort. With the help of a therapist specializing in OCD treatment, you will learn healthier coping mechanisms and over time these intrusive thoughts will hold less power over you.
It is not uncommon for everyone to experience minor obsessive or compulsive symptoms on occasion. Intrusive or fixative thoughts are also common. However, if you experience obsessions or compulsions that take up more than an hour of your day or your symptoms get in the way of the things you need and want to do, it may be time to consider contacting our experienced, compassionate team at Ariel Wallins Therapy Group. Without treatment to understand and overcome symptoms, obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms may worsen over time, eventually having a detrimental impact on your relationships and quality of life. With treatment, however, symptoms often improve.
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Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental illness characterized by two distinct sets of symptoms; obsessions and compulsions. First, someone with OCD experiences obsessions, which are repetitive, unwanted thoughts and irrational urges to do specific things or repeat particular actions. Although individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder may understand that their obsessions are irrational and illogical, they cannot stop them from occurring.
In general, obsessions are often upsetting and can lead to significant anxiety, especially when they are not addressed. Unfortunately, even if one tries to suppress obsessive thoughts, it will inevitably lead to considerable fear and panic associated with the idea that the harmful thought could “come true” if they do not act on it. Eventually, obsessive thoughts become so strong that the individual will act upon their thoughts by performing compulsions “behaviors or activities” to reduce the intensity and severity of their obsessions.
Compulsions are the behaviors or activities brought about by obsessions. Compulsions are repetitive acts such as hand washing, turning light switches on and off, organizing things, and checking things that someone with OCD must perform to help manage obsessive thoughts. Someone who struggles with long-term obsessive-compulsive disorder will adopt these behaviors and activities as a way to cope with the intensity and severity of their symptoms.
Because of how symptoms of OCD affect the mind, individuals who struggle with symptoms will believe that if they do not perform these rituals in a specific way each day, terrible things may happen to themselves or a loved one. It is also important to note that there is more than one type or category of OCD. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists specific criteria for four main categories of OCD. These include Symmetry and Ordering, Forbidden Thoughts, Cleaning and Contamination, and Hoarding. Like many other mental illnesses, each person with OCD will experience symptoms and challenges related to the condition in unique ways.
Like many mental illnesses, not everyone will experience obsessive-compulsive disorder similarly. There are several specific symptoms that may be similar in most cases; however, OCD symptoms can vary widely depending on the individual and the type of OCD. Someone living with obsessive-compulsive disorder will likely encounter various symptoms, often from one or more dimensions or types of OCD.
Common symptoms from the cleaning and contamination may include persistent worry about germs or sickness, fears about exposure to viruses or other contaminants, compulsions to sanitize, wash, or clean, and specific washing and cleaning rituals.
Symmetry and ordering symptoms may involve an overwhelming need for belongings to be aligned in a certain way, an extreme need for symmetry, and feeling incomplete or uncomfortable when things are disorganized, counting and organization rituals.
This dimension encompasses a variety of thoughts that can be complex and overwhelmingly difficult to manage. Examples of such ideas include persistent questioning, concerns about causing bad things to happen, intrusive thoughts (which are often violent or sexual in nature), worries about sexual orientation or desires, and fears about harming yourself or someone else. This particular dimension of OCD frequently involves intrusive thoughts with minimal outwardly visible compulsions.
In the context of OCD, hoarding is different from a hoarding disorder, a separate diagnosable mental health condition. The key difference between the two conditions is the distress involved with hoarding-related obsessive-compulsive disorder. Unlike a hoarding disorder, someone with OCD hoarding does not generally want the things they collect. However, they feel a powerful and overwhelming compulsion to save them because of their obsessive or compulsive thoughts. Examples in this dimension include fear of accidentally throwing away an essential item, difficulty throwing things away because touching them could cause contamination, needing to collect a certain number of items for protection, and the constant fear that throwing something away could bring harm.
If your obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms hinder your ability to live your best life, don’t wait another day to reach out to our caring and compassionate team here at Ariel Wallins Therapy Group in NYC. Let us tell you more about how our OCD treatment can help you learn how to manage your symptoms and begin a new life free of debilitating obsessions and compulsions.