What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a pattern of thinking that leads individuals to have unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions) over and over while battling to stop them. Most people have routines and habits that are a part of their everyday lives, but people that battle OCD patterns in thinking and behavior trouble them and get in the way of them feeling calm and happy.
Many that struggle with OCD often feel their obsessions and compulsions do not make sense and are often shameful or embarrassed about it, the difficulty is they often can’t stop the thinking and behavior or ignore the intrusive thoughts altogether.
Formal Definitions of OCD
Most people that struggle with this type of anxiety are not even familiar with its origins or what they would need to do to stop it. It is my hope in this article to assist you in figuring out what is actually happening when you struggle with OCD. So, let’s get down to some of the basics.
“OBSESSIONS are unwanted and upsetting ideas images or thoughts that consistently enter your mind. At times, they may appear to jump into your mind as if they had their own agenda. They need to be repulsive to you, you may see them as irrational or perhaps not and they often don’t even fit who you really are.
“COMPULSIONS, these are the other side of the story, they are behaviors or ask that you feel that you need to engage in even though you realize that their ones that you’ve done before and they’re often quite excessive. Generally people try to resist engaging in whatever their compulsion is but they find it it’s extremely difficult because the obsession is so strong in their mind. You might experience a significant increase in anxiety that does not seem to subside until you engage in the compulsive behavior whatever it might be. It could be hand-washing, checking a door or lock, apologizing to someone, engaging in excessive amount of prayer, etc. HealthyPlace.com has some good deeper explanation on obsessions and compulsions, they gave more detail than I wanted to go into here.
Not all people with OCD are the same in terms of their struggle. Some are more prone to battle thoughts primarily and do not appear to have behaviors, the compulsions, along with their thoughts. An example of this would be someone concerned they offended another co-worker at work at work and when at home after the work-day sitting worrying about it and then thinking over and over the issue so much that their focus, energy, and mood is impacted. Others, deal with both the obsessions and the compulsions. For example, a person who has OCD may have obsessive thoughts about the symmetry of objects (pictures on the wall, rugs, clutter, etc). Because of these thoughts, the person may feel compelled to straighten items in others homes, businesses, and most often their own home. This thinking and behavior goes beyond an initial thought, and instead is troubling the individual so much they feel they ‘must’ engage in the compulsion in order to move on with their day. Hand washing, checking locks, worry about offending others or God, etc are just a few of the long list that those with OCD seem to battle with.
Are OCD and Anxiety Related?
Anxiety is a general term of feelings of angst and struggle fueled by thoughts, perceptions, and stimuli that we encounter day to day. Anxiety is often an outcome or byproduct and symptom that is readily seen by those interacting with the person struggling with OCD. Anxiety is created from the inner batter of thoughts and compulsions that the individual is having. Often these thoughts are irrational to outside observers but to those who have them it is extremely difficult for their brain to move outside of the mental ruts that OCD creates to drive the obsessive thinking.
Are There Things I Can Do Now?
Yes, there are things you can do starting today. By learning how this form of anxiety works, you can learn to manage and control the anxiety and the fear that you experience from OCD. Learning to manage these thoughts will allow you to control the behavior as you engage in much more consistently. You will use the knowledge about how obsessions and then compulsions work to help you then resist those particular thought process. Here are a few steps. The steps are covered in very significant detail in the book, “Brain Lock” one of my favorites regarding obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Step 1: Relabel – What one must do is to ensure you call the obsessions and the compulsions what they really are. Most people get wrapped up in whatever the compulsion is and upset with the anxiety in their mind rather than just calling it what it is. By calling them what they are, obsessions and compulsions you start to understand that they do not really mean what they say or at least what they’re saying to your mind their faults messages that are coming from the brains predisposed and often biologically driven process.
Step 2: Reattribute – attribution is the process within which you more clearly attribute whatever you’re thinking or feeling to the source, the maladaptive processes within the brain. You must remember that the compulsion or the urge to feel right and you’re mine is caused by a biological predisposition and patterned thoughts inside your brain and the beauty of this is that you can learn to ignore that urged a new forward. You must begin to say to yourself as you’re thinking, “It’s not me–it’s the OCD and I can absolutely stand up to it.”
Step 3: Refocus – Refocusing your mind can be extremely difficult. Clients I have treated report that this third step is one of the most difficult with respect to diminishing and escorting the thoughts and urges out of your mind. Remember learning to resist the obsessive-compulsive thoughts will take time and effort and you most assuredly can refocus your mind in a different way. Remember, you can refocus your mind and your mind’s attention away from the urges and on to some other activity or task. Do not wait for the thought or feeling to disappear, because it will not be obsessive compulsive mine will continue to ruminate and chew on the same thought process over and over. Now, if you do what your OCD is telling you to do you’ll simply fall victim to the compulsion which will allow you to let go of the up session but just like it many times before you would’ve gone to the OCD cycle again and be back right where you started frustrated, anxious, and disappointed. Set your course, stay focused, and move forward.
Step 4: Revalue – To begin revaluing or reevaluating what’s happening, it’s important that you realize that the urge or feeling is really not worth caving in to because if you are in fact revaluing what’s happening you will be remembering that it is in fact the OCD this recruiting you quietly into thinking that way and that it’s facilitated by years of pattern thinking and a biological predisposition towards overthinking and obsessing. The outcome then, is that one would perceive it as much lower value, actually devaluing, the obsessive-compulsive feelings and urges. You can ward off the obsessive thoughts, in order to do so you must try and amplify this revaluing process in an active way. Don’t give up, it takes energy but can absolutely happen for you.
What Can Be Done, Is There Help?
Yes, counseling and therapy has proven in clinical studies been extremely helpful for those battling OCD. Clients can take assessments to better measure the intensity, type, and patterns of these obsessions and compulsions to better guide them and assist the therapist in counseling them with respect to the type of OCD they are dealing with. Medication has also proven to be a significant help for those that needs some additional assistance to helping to slow the speed of the thoughts/compulsions down in order to focus and engage in counseling. Each individual is different; the most conservative approach is to receive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and then if the symptoms do not subside with therapy and counseling to couple the therapy with medication. Clearing exercises and meditation when conducted by a licensed counselor and therapist that is proficient in assisting individuals overcome old emotions and experiences, which are stored in the unconscious, has proven by research and experience to be extremely effective in assisting anxious obsessive-compulsive individuals in quieting their mind and calling their bodies.
If you are struggling with any form of OCD … cleanliness/contamination, safety obsessions, scrupulosity, relationship OCD, or any other form of OCD-based anxiety I can and will help you. I’ve counseled scores and scores of individuals in the St. George Utah and surrounding areas and assisted them and finding more peace and being able to have a clear and quiet mind. I am absolutely confident that in just a few counseling sessions you will learn more about standing up and overcoming your anxiety than you have in all the year past combined, battling it alone and frustrated. When you know better, you feel better … and when you feel better you live better.
Copyright: No part of this article in section or full may be reproduced without permission from the author Justin Stum, MS LMFT. The one and only exception is for educational purposes and only if the contact information below for the author is fully cited here in article.
Justin Stum, MS LMFT, 640 E. 700 S., Suite 205B, St. George Utah 84770, 435-574-9193, https://www.justinstum.com