Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)




Excessive preoccupation with certain thoughts and a drive to perform certain actions repeatedly are both symptoms of OCD, an anxiety disorder. OCD symptoms can be associated with minimum impairment of functioning or the symptoms can cause severe and significant disruptions in one’s everyday activities.

Take an OCD online self-assessment inventory.

Print out an OCD self-assessment inventory. (This is a PDF file. To view it, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. To take the inventory, print the PDF file and fill in your answers.)

Almost 2 ½ million Americans have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. OCD is an excessive preoccupation with certain thoughts and/or a drive to perform certain actions. People with OCD often suffer needlessly without getting treatment for their symptoms until they finally admit to themselves that the symptoms are unbearable. Are you afraid of shaking hands because you might get germs? Do you frequently go back to your house to check that the door is locked or the stove is turned off? Do you feel intense distress if things are not in an orderly fashion or facing the right way? Do you have repeated thoughts that you may have harmed someone? Do you continuously replay the same thoughts or scenes in your mind? Do you have counting or checking rituals? If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions you may be suffering from the anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

A diagnosis of OCD must include three general criteria. First, there is a presence of either an obsession or compulsion. Second, the person knows that their obsession or compulsion is excessive and unnecessary. Finally, the obsessions and compulsions must interfere with the individual’s daily routine.

OCD obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (actions) are not random but usually have certain general themes.

–The most common themes for obsessions are fear of contamination by germs; need for things to be orderly; aggressive or terrible thoughts; and sexual thoughts and urges.

–The most common themes for compulsions are washing and cleaning, counting, checking, demanding reassurance, performing some action, and keeping things orderly.

Research indicates that the most effective treatment for OCD includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

There are psychiatric medications that help control the OCD obsessions and compulsions. Most commonly, antidepressants are tried first since they have been found to be effective for treatment of anxiety disorders as well as depression.

Antidepressants may be helpful for OCD because they restore normal functioning of the brain. A psychiatrist trained in the use of medications to treat mood disorders is skilled to work with you to determine the right medication, at the right dosage, for the right period of time to treat your particular condition.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective form of psychotherapy for treating OCD symptoms. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, your therapist helps you retrain your thought patterns and behavior routines so that the obsessions and compulsions no longer control your thoughts and actions.

One CBT strategy for treating OCD symptoms is called exposure and response prevention. Exposure involves gradual exposure to a feared situation (such as, walking through door ways) or a feared object (such as dirt). Response prevention involves teaching healthy ways to cope with the anxiety.

The most effective response prevention for anxiety is relaxation achieved by guided imagery or self hypnosis. These techniques can be used to calm anxious thoughts and relax muscle tension. By learning to manage your obsessions and compulsions, you get back control of your life and have a better chance for happiness.

As the severity of the OCD symptoms lessens you are no longer limited by obsessions and compulsions. Once you are not incapacitated by your OCD symptoms, interpersonal psychotherapy is used as the focus shifts to help you develop an improved self image and ability to function successfully.

Learn more about OCD at the Mayo Clinic’s web site. (LINK)