We can relate to double checking the locks on our doors before bed, running back home to make sure we turned off the stove, or clasping our hands in prayer before eating. These rituals might require some additional thought, but they don’t feel consuming, and they can bring us a sense of peace.
But for someone suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), early morning and late into the evening involves a running dialog of unpleasant thoughts followed by ritual behaviors they feel obligated to perform.
It might be scrubbing the dishes for an hour to prevent their family from being poisoned, or blinking their eyes 50 times before getting on the subway to make sure they won’t die. These compulsive rituals are coping mechanisms their brain has created to control recurrent obsessions (thoughts, mental urges, mental images) from playing in their mind.
“OCD starts with an intrusive thought, and slowly develops into the only thought a person is having. The only way for a person suffering with OCD to stop thinking that intrusive thought (obsession) is to complete a certain action (compulsion) until their fear passes.”
If your loved one struggles with intrusive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors on a daily basis, they might have OCD.
In order to overcome the disorder, your loved one must seek professional mental health treatment. Our team of trained mental health professionals at HBH Therapy will work with your loved one to make their seemingly impossible disorder a highly manageable one.
To learn more about OCD treatment and therapy please read on!
What is OCD?
OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by having a pattern of intrusive thoughts, images, or urges (obsessions), that lead to performing repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions).
The obsessions are time consuming, and significantly impair a person’s daily functioning: leading them to perform compulsive acts to try to shut off the obsession and ease their stress.
“OCD is a very creative disorder. Each individual experiences OCD differently. Someone with a germ phobia might line their spoons in a row to not get sick, or someone might blink 50 times to prevent something bad from happening.”
– Laurie Broussard, LMHC with
Despite their unique efforts to prevent the obsessive thoughts or urges, they keep coming back.
OCD Obsessions and Compulsions: What is the Difference?
Obsessions are involuntary thoughts, images, or impulses repeated over and over again in an individual’s mind. The individual does not want to experience these obsessions, but they cannot control or prevent them: they are typically disturbing and disruptive.
Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that an individual feels compelled to perform over and over again, in an attempt to alleviate the obsession. Despite their demanding and time-consuming nature, these compulsions never completely relieve the obsessions. In fact, the obsessions typically come back stronger.
Fortunately, someone suffering with OCD can work with one of our trained therapists at HBH to develop an individualized treatment plan which breaks the cyclical nature of OCD and eases the overall stress and anxiety levels that can cause the obsessive and compulsive urges.
OCD Sign and Symptoms:
Individuals suffering with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. Given their demanding and time-consuming nature, the symptoms of OCD can interfere with an individual’s interpersonal relationships, work, and school.
Note: If you occasionally experience distressing thoughts or perform repetitive behaviors it does not necessarily mean you have OCD.
In order for someone to be diagnosed with OCD the obsessions and compulsions must take up more than an hour of time each day.
- Fear of getting contaminated by people or the environment
- Disturbing sexual thoughts or images
- Fear of blurting out obscenities or insults
- Extreme concern with order, symmetry, or precision
- Recurrent intrusive thoughts of sounds, images, words, or numbers
- Fear of losing or discarding something important
- Excessive or naturalized hand washing, showering, brushing teeth, or toileting
- Repeated cleaning of household objects
- Ordering or arranging things in a particular way
- Repeatedly checking locks, switches, or appliances
- Constantly seeking approval or reassurance
- Repeated counting to a certain number
What are the Causes of OCD?
Experts cannot say exactly what causes OCD. Research suggests that genetics, brain abnormalities, and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disorder.
Is OCD a Brain Disorder?
Research suggests that OCD involves disturbances in communication between the frontal part of the brain and deeper structures of the brain- these parts of the brain primarily use the neurotransmitter called serotonin to communicate. Increasing serotonin levels in the brain can help alleviate OCD symptoms for people.
Is OCD Inherited?
While researchers have not identified any gene that causes OCD, some evidence suggests that genetics can affect people who develop the disorder. Children with family members who have OCD may be at a higher risk of developing the disorder.
Is OCD an Autoimmune Disorder?
OCD symptoms might develop in children after they’ve had strep throat. PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) is a type of OCD that occurs in childhood following the body’s reaction to infection. The symptoms of OCD suddenly worsen after the infection.
What Does Treatment for OCD Involve?
“The first step of treatment involves building a strong therapeutic alliance between the therapist and patient. As a therapist, I make sure that my patient feels comfortable and safe sharing the extent of their experience with me.”
– Laurie Broussard, LMHC with HBH
Through appropriate treatment with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two, patients with OCD can experience an increased emotional, physical, and mental functioning. From improved engagement at work, to stronger personal relationships, and more joy in their leisure, a person with OCD who seeks professional mental health can transition from surviving to thriving. Some of the treatment methods that our therapists at HBH offer include:
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): A type of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which involves gradually exposing the individual to their fears or obsessions, initially leading to increased anxiety. Through ERP patients are instructed to avoid performing their typical compulsions. When the patients remain in a feared situation, without anything going wrong, they learn that their fearful thoughts are not reality.
“I’ll help my patient safely do something that’s directly related to the obsessive thought they’re experiencing, to gradually build more tolerance to the obsessive thought without having to complete the compulsion. “
– Laurie Broussard, LMHC with HBH
2. Imaginal Exposure: For many people suffering with OCD their struggle is less outward and more inward distressing, unwanted thoughts and mental images. One form of imaginal exposure involves the writing and reading of short stories based on the individual’s obsession. With the patient’s active participation, the therapist can guide the patient to write a short story about the particular situation they feel overwhelmed and anxious about: this intermediate process can help the patient eventually face the fear more directly.
3. Medication: Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), typically used to treat depression, can be effective in the treatment of OCD. The SSRI dosage used to treat OCD is typically higher than the SSRI dosage used to treat depression.
In the treatment of OCD, SSRIs usually take 8-12 weeks to start working, however some patients experience faster improvement.
“A lot of people living with OCD find it very difficult to share their experience and don’t seek treatment for years. It’s crucial that a person seeks treatment as early as possible, to prevent the condition from controlling their life.”
– Laurie Broussard, LMHC with HBH
How Can I Schedule an Appointment with a Therapist?
Life requires all of us to manage many things. For people with OCD, it’s just one more thing that needs to be managed, and it can be! People with OCD can live very fulfilling and functional lives, but they need to take the step toward treatment.
Our trained counselors in Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, Natick and online across Massachusetts will answer all of your questions and concerns, and guide you toward the path of recovery.