Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects approximately 2.2 million adults in the US each year, which adds up to 1.0% of the US population. OCD is an anxiety disorder that was once believed to be rare, but recent years have reflected that more people may have OCD than previously estimated.1
OCD involves irrational fears or repeated thoughts (i.e., obsessions) that drive an individual to engage in repetitive behaviors (i.e., compulsions). The obsessions and the compulsions may seem related, as when a person who is afraid of germs and cannot stop thinking about germs begins to wash his hands repeatedly. However, obsessions and compulsions are not always related. For instance, a person may have an irrational fear that her family members are in danger, but she has a compulsion to repeatedly touch her left arm.
Usually,people with OCD understand their obsessive thoughts are not logical and attempt to disregard them. Eventually, anxiety takes over, and a person with OCD will find it very hard to resist the compulsive act in an attempt to reduce anxiety.
OCD does not discriminate and is found in all races, ethnic groups, and genders. It can begin at any stage of life, including childhood.
OCD doesn’t just affect a person’s emotions. OCD behavior can have devastating consequences on all areas of a person’s life. The behaviors surrounding OCD can overtake someone to such an extent that it impacts their personal relationships, education, career, and ability to take care of themselves financially.
Prevalence of OCD
- It is estimated that 2.2 million Americans suffer from OCD.
- Men and women suffer from OCD in equal numbers.
- OCD usually makes its first appearance in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood.
- About 30 percent of OCD sufferers first experience signs of the disorder during childhood.
- Genetics may play a role in the formation of OCD. This disorder does run in families, but researchers are not sure exactly which genes are responsible for this condition. Most professionals agree that some combination of genetics and life experience contribute to obsessions and compulsions.2
Common OCD Obsessions
The objects of obsession for OCD sufferers vary from person to person. Some of the most common include:
- Germs and Contamination. Many OCD sufferers are obsessed with dirt, germs, contamination, disease and other health hazards related to an unclean environment.
- Organization and order. More than just the need to have things in their place, an OCD sufferer will go to extremes labeling things that are obvious and don’t require labeling (e.g., marking where plates or towels go in cabinets and closets), measuring and marking levels of cleaners or food items and arranging items by color groups, height or alphabetically.
- Fear of attack. Fear of being attacked or becoming the victim of a crime may push some OCD suffers to be overly anxious, especially in public places.
- Sexual or violent thoughts. Some OCD sufferers are plagued by unstoppable images or thoughts that are violent or sexual in nature. These thoughts do not mean anything about the person’s intent or personality, but these fears do make it difficult or impossible to focus on work, relationships, or interests other than the obsessive images and thoughts.
“For me, puberty brought on full-blown OCD,” writes Laura O. at HeroesInRecovery.com. “This mainly meant that I constantly lived in a heightened state where I was trying to do the right thing and not do the wrong thing. I was unable to fully focus on anything because I needed to be focused on the constant litany in my head. It seems to me that I must have at times looked insane. This is a period that I still struggle to recall without shame and deep sadness….”
Treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Many people who struggle with OCD experience embarrassment or unwarranted shame and suffer in silence. Few people with OCD actually seek treatment for their debilitating experiences. In the past, OCD was thought to have poor success rates from treatment. Contrary to this belief, today’s OCD treatment programs have proven to be highly successful and treatment protocol has improved greatly.
If you need help for obsessions or compulsions, you may find some of these treatment approaches in a quality program:
- Therapy. Different types of therapy are a major element in any OCD rehabilitation program. These therapy techniques may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, anxiety treatment, family therapy, or group therapy.
- Relaxation Techniques. Some relaxation techniques include practiced meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, physical exercise, or meditation, as well as learning to change one’s inner dialogue.
- Medication.In many cases, antidepressants are used to reduce the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors of OCD by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. On very rare occasions, antipsychotic medication may be prescribed as well.
Therapy is the most often utilized OCD treatment technique. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a supportive, guided method that helps boost confidence and build real-world skills to overcome OCD. Anxiety specialists have experience in OCD and other anxiety disorders and can combine therapies to create a customized plan that works for you.
OCD Treatment Facts
- Signs and symptoms of OCD can worsen or fade over time or come in waves. For this reason, many do not seek OCD treatment until they have been living with the disorder for years.
- There are objective diagnostic tools available that not only help doctors identify OCD but rate its severity so treatment can be personalized.
- Many people try to treat their own OCD but may feel isolated and discouraged without the support of an experienced counselor or coach.
- Some people who suffer from severe OCD choose to supplement treatment with medications such as antidepressants.
- Inpatient OCD treatment offers the most comprehensive care and includes medical treatment as well as psychotherapeutic mental health treatment.
- Exposure-based therapy can be very helpful as it gradually exposes the patient to their feared scenarios, but it is done with the help of a supportive counselor in a calm environment where the patient is able to assert his or her needs during the process.
Rehabilitation for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
It takes courage to make a change, and treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder can ease the transition to a better life.
“It’s been a long journey so far,” Laura O. says. “I still feel so far from my goals, but I’m grateful to know that I can change and that I’m not crazy. I finally have started to understand the way that my brain and my disorders work, and that I’m not just bad. That it was my disorders that were at fault for why I couldn’t so easily just be “normal”. Not that I never purposely did anything wrong, but I know now that it wasn’t just me. I wish that I had known earlier, that I could have realized that my expectations and errant thoughts didn’t need to scare me so much. I wish that it hadn’t gotten so dark. But, just knowing that I don’t ever have to be trapped in that again is enough to give me hope.”
The behaviors that go hand-in-hand with OCD will not just stop on their own. Finding top-notch OCD treatment at the first sign of a problem gives the best chance for a quick and full recovery. The longer a person waits to get rehabilitation for OCD, the more entrenched the fears and compulsions become and the more difficult the behaviors are to dispel. However, it is never too late to make the change.
If you know someone who struggles with OCD behaviors, we can help. Pick up the phone and contact us today. We can provide you with a variety of high-quality OCD treatment programs that match your needs. Don’t wait another day to take back control of your life. Call now.
1 Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Facts and Statistics. 2016.
2 Nestadt, G., Marco G., and Samuels, J. Genetics of OCD.The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 2010.
Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Oaks. For more specific information on programs at The Oaks, contact us today.