Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and OCD Treatment
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Statistics by the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that about 1.2 percent of American adults had an OCD diagnosis in the previous year. This comes from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which also finds that the prevalence rate in the US is higher among women than men. But when 2.3 percent of adults face a likelihood of developing OCD in their lifetime, it’s important that communities use appropriate treatment plans to help people who need it. In this article, let’s discuss obsessive-compulsive disorder and available treatment options.
As the name implies, obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health condition characterized by obsessions and compulsions. These are persistent, intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors or mental rituals, respectively. Because of its nature, the disorder is classified in its own category, separate from other anxiety disorders.
When you have OCD, you experience distressing and irrational thoughts that lead to intense anxiety. To alleviate this anxiety, you engage in repetitive behaviors or mental rituals, such as excessive cleaning, checking, or counting.
Even when you know that these actions are unnecessary, you’ll still feel compelled to perform them. Despite the fact that OCD can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life, you can manage it with therapy and medication.
What is the Difference Between OCD and OCPD?
Even though they appear similar, OCD and OCPD are distinct conditions. The former involves intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors driven by anxiety, while the latter is a personality disorder characterized by a pervasive pattern of perfectionism, excessive orderliness, and control.
When you have OCD, you understand that the stressful behaviors and thoughts you experience are irrational and unwanted. But when you have OCPD, you feel the need for orderliness and adherence to specific rules. More importantly, you don’t necessarily experience significant distress with OCPD.
How Common is Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 1.2 percent of adults in the US were diagnosed with OCD in the past year. This is based on data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), and it means that over 3 million adults struggle with the condition. As for who it affects, you can develop the disorder at any age, but it typically starts in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.
Symptoms of OCD
The two main symptoms of the condition include obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions typically manifest as extreme concern regarding exactness, a need to keep things in order, and intrusive sexual or violent thoughts. Because of these obsessions, you engage in compulsive behaviors like checking, arranging, or counting. For a diagnosis of OCD, the symptoms should lead to high levels of distress and impairment in daily functioning.
What Causes OCD?
Although there’s no specific cause that could lead to OCD, research indicates that a combination of factors can.
- Genetics: There is evidence of a genetic component in OCD, as the disorder tends to run in families. Certain genes may contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to developing OCD.
- Neurobiology: When studying people with OCD, researchers have detected changes in brain structure and functioning. These involve areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotions and decision-making, such as the orbitofrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and anterior cingulate cortex.
- Environmental Factors: Experiencing traumatic life events, such as abuse or significant stress, can trigger or exacerbate your OCD symptoms. It’s also possible that infections, particularly streptococcal infections, could result in the onset of OCD symptoms.
Neurotransmitter imbalances, specifically with regard to serotonin, have also been implicated in OCD.
Diagnosis and Tests for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
To receive a diagnosis for obsessive-compulsive disorder, your physician and mental health practitioner will conduct a series of tests to evaluate your mental and physical health.
- In the first step, your physician conducts a medical evaluation. It involves reviewing your symptoms and looking at your medical history to see if there’s a medical reason for your symptoms. They’ll also test your blood for traces of alcohol or substances that could potentially cause a disturbance.
- Your mental health practitioner will conduct a psychiatric evaluation, which involves discussing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Additionally, they’ll speak with your family members and close friends to understand the extent to which symptoms interfere with your ability to function.
- To determine your diagnosis, your psychiatrist will compare your symptoms with the criteria in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Published by the American Psychiatric Association, it outlines specifics like the duration of the symptoms for a confirmed diagnosis. It also details how mental health professionals can differentiate between OCD and other disorders.
After they confirm your diagnosis, they will recommend suitable treatment options or refer you to a mental health facility.
Inpatient Treatment for OCD: What to Expect
URP Behavioral Health takes a holistic and intensive treatment approach to address mental disorders. It involves providing evidence-based treatment to heal your mind, as well as alternative therapies, recreational amenities, and other services to heal your body and spirit.
Each patient receives an individualized treatment plan that’s prepared by an interdisciplinary team of physicians, therapists, psychiatrists, and registered nurses. It outlines the specifics of what therapies you’ll receive, whether you require medication, and other services you may need. You can expect your treatment plan to include:
- Individual and group-based psychotherapy
- Psychoeducation and family therapy
- Medication management
- Exercise and nutritional counseling
- Evidence-based therapies to build coping skills
- Alternative therapies to improve your wellbeing
- Educational support (if needed) to help you achieve financial independence
- Life skill training such as communication, vocational, and anger management
How is OCD Treated?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Because OCD is centered around obsessive thoughts, cognitive behavioral therapy is well suited to treating the condition. It’s designed to help you identify and change the negative thoughts behind your emotions and behaviors.
It’s possible that your therapist will offer a specialized version of CBT, like exposure therapy. The variation involves gradual exposure to triggers and preventing ritualistic behavior. The purpose of using CBT is to eradicate the association between triggering objects, thoughts, or situations and the distress you experience. Moreover, it will also help you avoid engaging in compulsive behaviors as a way to alleviate anxiety.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Another form of CBT, acceptance and commitment therapy, adopts an action-oriented approach to treating OCD. During this form of therapy, you’ll work with a mental health professional to stop struggling with your inner feelings.
Once you stop avoiding your feelings and accept that they’re a valid response to situations, you can start committing to changing your behavior.
Medication for OCD
Research indicates that the most suitable medications for OCD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which is used as an antidepressant. Although OCD is characterized by anxiety rather than depression, SRIs are useful for alleviating the obsessive and compulsive symptoms that OCD includes.
However, some people may develop depression as a result of having OCD. In this case, your psychiatrist will only need to prescribe a single type of medication to address both symptoms.
Psychotherapy for OCD
Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy can take several different approaches. For instance, your therapist can use the psychodynamic perspective to explore the events and relationships in your life.
This is a great starting point to help you understand which triggers lead to anxiety. When you examine those triggers with respect to how you view the world and your sense of self, you’ll begin to understand why you have an automatic response to triggers.
FAQs for OCD Treatment
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding OCD treatment.
Here are a few signs that indicate you should speak to your healthcare provider about your symptoms.
- Your thoughts and behaviors are beyond your control
- You spend large amounts of time concentrating on your thoughts
- You constantly feel anxious
- The symptoms are affecting your relationships and work performance
- You used to be able to manage symptoms with certain lifestyle changes, but they’re getting worse
If you or your loved ones can notice some of these signs, it’s time to see a mental health professional.
To treat OCD, mental health experts use a combination of medication and therapy to offer short and long-term relief. Your psychiatrist will prescribe medication to reduce your anxiety, enabling you to manage basic functions. However, you’ll still need therapy to help you manage symptoms in the long term. Working with a therapist can help you change the distorted thought process causing your symptoms.
If your outpatient ERP therapy isn’t working, it’s possible that you need to increase your level of exposure. Or it could also be due to an inability to attend regular therapy sessions. An intensive option involves enrolling in an inpatient treatment program, which allows you to get regular therapy without any disruptions due to anxiety or other responsibilities. Because a residential program involves daily therapy sessions, it’s a much more intensive approach than taking ERP sessions a few times a week.
The best self-care strategies involve the following:
- Build a strong support system that includes your close friends and family members.
- Join a support group to interact with people who share the same condition. This helps you realize that you’re not alone.
- Most importantly, you should take care of your physical health, which includes eating the right food, getting enough sleep, and exercising every day.
Let us guide you towards healing
We know that seeking treatment can be overwhelming, but our staff is here to make the process as smooth as possible. We’re available 24/7 to address any questions or concerns you may have.