OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a mental health disorder that impacts an individual’s everyday life with a series of obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions — unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings.
Compulsions — behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.
While it is common for most people to occasionally experience obsessive thoughts that can lead to extreme anxiety, such as the thought that their mistake could result in a catastrophic consequence, worry about the safety of their family, or show concern over getting ill, OCD affects an individual’s ability to function in their daily routine, negatively impacting relationships and work performance.
These obsessions leave the individual repeating behaviors or thoughts, also known as compulsions, to attempt to neutralize, counteract, or push their obsessions away. These behaviors may include cleaning or washing excessively, repeating or checking your actions, and experiencing mental compulsions such as a mental review or constant counting.
While anyone may develop OCD regardless of age, gender, or race, it is estimated that 1 in 100 adults are fighting OCD every day and 1 in 200 children. OCD can be frustrating and isolating not only for the person experiencing the obsessions and compulsions, but also for the family who may not understand it or know how to help. There are several treatment options so no one has to suffer alone.
Common Treatments for OCD
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy, treatment option for OCD. More specifically, the type of CBT that has proven successful for some individuals is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). During this type of therapy, the individual is encouraged to face their fears and let obsessive thoughts occur without counteracting them with compulsions. Over time, the individual’s anxiety should decrease and they will no longer associate fear with the behaviors they do during Exposure and Response Prevention therapy. They will be able to use what they learned in therapy with a counselor to manage their OCD.
Typically, Exposure and Response Prevention is combined with medications, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, as a first response to managing OCD. Antidepressants are also commonly prescribed. According to the International OCD Foundation, people who benefit from medication see their OCD symptoms reduced by 40-60% on average, but about half of OCD patients have to stop taking their medication due to side effects or for other reasons. If this happens, it’s important to talk with a doctor to learn about alternative treatment options.
OCD can make many feel alone with no one to turn to. Some individuals are aware that their thoughts may not always make sense or they’re ashamed to discuss it with their friends and family because they don’t think they would understand. But support groups provide a sense of community that many long for. Support groups may not be a substitute for therapy, but it can help an individual take the steps they need to get better, find comfort in discussing a disorder others can relate to, and make connections with fellow peers. Find a support group here.
Alternative Treatments for OCD
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
If an individual is experiencing severe OCD that is not improving from medication and Exposure and Response Prevention therapy or if the medication is causing difficult side effects, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be a good solution.
TMS therapy is a noninvasive, non-drug therapy technique that involves sending magnetic waves in pulses to specific parts of the brain. The flow of pulses stimulates cells in the brain, which changes their activity levels, and relieves OCD symptoms. Unlike many medications, TMS therapy does not have serious side effects. The most common side effects reported are a temporary headache and scalp discomfort.
When other forms of therapy such as medication and cognitive behavior therapy don’t produce the desired results, TMS can help. Call the TMS Center of the Lehigh Valley to find out more about how it can relieve OCD behaviors.
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