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Private Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment Programs

What Is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a mental health disorder where an individual is negatively affected by obsessions and compulsions focused on specific themes, such as cleaning, having sex, etc. These thoughts can be intrusive enough to interfere with their ability to function day-to-day.

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“I’m so OCD!” The phrase pops up on Facebook, Twitter, in text messages and in conversations with teens. It’s a disparaging remark people often make about themselves, and it’s become part of the teen slang so many use to put themselves down (while secretly lifting themselves up). Unfortunately, it’s also a phrase that minimizes the true nature of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

As a brochure by OCD Chicago points out, the use of this phrase seems to imply that everyone with a tiny obsession or a bit of a compulsion has OCD, and they all learn to live with it just fine, when in fact, people who do have OCD face severe disruptions in their health and happiness. In other words, OCD is no laughing matter.

Repeating Thoughts

OCD is considered an anxiety disorder, in that people who have the disease face elevated levels of stress and worry, almost every day of the week. For people with OCD, the problem is thematic. The person tends to focus on one specific area such as:
  • Cleanliness
  • Order
  • Personal hygiene
  • Safety
  • Aggression

In some people, these themes begin to drive a series of repeated thoughts or obsessions. Someone with a cleanliness-related obsession might be convinced that all surfaces are covered with germs. Someone with an order obsession might grow tense at the sight of books in a sloppy pile. Someone with a personal hygiene obsession may be convinced that his or her hands aren’t really clean.

As a result of these obsessive thoughts, the people engage in theme-related compulsions. The person obsessed with cleanliness cleans and scrubs over and over. The person obsessed with safety locks and unlocks the doors multiple times. The person obsessed with personal hygiene washes his/her hands until the skin is cracked and peeling.

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There are some people who develop an obsession and compulsion that aren’t so closely related. A person might become convinced that he/she will hurt a loved one, and that person will banish that disturbing thought by counting all of the lines in a paragraph in a book or walking around the room in a particular way, over and over.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness describes OCD as a “disease of doubt.” A person with the disorder is unable to differentiate between what is likely to happen and what might happen or what is unlikely to happen. In fact, a person with OCD may always believe that the worst possible outcome is not only possible, but likely. The person may truly believe that the rituals will keep something terrible from happening.

There are some people with OCD who know that their rituals are strange or not quite healthy. These people may even tell themselves that they’re wasting time as they perform the rituals. But even so, they find that they are unable to stop.

Impact of OCD

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, many young people with OCD worry that they’re “going crazy,” or they’re ashamed of the thoughts they have and the rituals they perform. As a result, they go to great lengths to hide their disease from their parents and friends. Adults with OCD may also hide their disease from the people who can provide help, and they may isolate themselves socially as a result.

In addition, OCD simply takes up a significant amount of time. The rituals the person performs often must be performed properly before the person can be satisfied. It’s a bit like living with a broken record, playing the same commands over and over with no “off” button in sight. To give an example: A woman becomes convinced that the pothole she ran over with her car is actually a person that she has killed. She sees the body clearly in her mind, and begins to wonder when the police will be coming for her. So she circles back to the scene, looking for the body. As she drives through, she doesn’t see the body, and she begins to relax. But as she drives away, she begins to wonder if the person she hit just crawled a few feet away, and she sees the bloodied person in her mind, crawling away. She turns the car around for another look. She may visit the scene 100 times, and never make it to work as a result.

Due to their need to complete their compulsions, the people may be unable to perform basic actions such as getting dressed to go to work. They may be unable to focus while at school, as their minds spin out of control on hazards they face. Slowly, they may stop doing anything that doesn’t relate to their compulsions. This could cause them to lose their jobs, fight with their family members or lose touch with friends. The symptoms may ebb and flow, growing worse one month and better the next, but they never truly go away.

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Some people with OCD begin to compulsively collect items such as junk mail, broken appliances, animals or clothing. They cannot bear to throw anything away, as their obsessions tell them that the item will come in handy one day. People with this compulsion may fill their houses to the brim with items, leaving no space to cook, sit or even go to the bathroom. Every available space is full of items, and often, these items have no real value whatsoever. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, people who exhibit these hoarding behaviors can face:
  • Divorce
  • Loss of child custody
  • Eviction
  • Financial difficulty

People who live with someone who hoards may have an extremely difficult time. They may find entire rooms filled with items, and when they clean the rooms out, the person with OCD simply replaces the items with new supplies. It’s not a problem that can truly be addressed without professional help.

Prevalence and Causes

The National Institute of Health reports that OCD is the fourth most prevalent mental disorder in the United States. Approximately two percent of adults have the disorder. Commonly, the disease develops in childhood, but it may take the person years or even decades to obtain a proper diagnosis of OCD. Many more people may have the disease and they may be living without a diagnosis.
Since the disease is so prevalent, a significant amount of research has been done in the field, trying to determine what causes the disease. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, studies have suggested everything from head injuries to genetics to infections, but no definitive link has been found that can explain why some people get the disease and others do not. More research on this topic is ongoing.

It is known, however, that the disease doesn’t go away on its own. In fact, the longer that the person goes without treatment, the harder it is to provide effective treatment. The obsessions and the compulsions they spark tend to become engrained habits in the person, and those habits can be incredibly difficult to break. That’s why getting help is so important for people with OCD.

Coping With OCD

People who have OCD may consider it an incredibly private disease, and they may resist asking for or receiving any help for something they consider personal and intimate. This may mean that family members must live with the person for several weeks, or even months, until the person decides that the time is right to get treatment. Living with someone who has OCD can be a strain, especially if the person refuses to get help, but there are some things the family can do in the interim to help. These suggestions from the International OCD Foundation may be a good place to start:

  • Don’t help the person perform the rituals. Buying someone with a cleaning compulsion extra cleaning products only enables the behavior.
  • Avoidance isn’t your responsibility. Allowing the person to stay home from work, or answering the door to keep the person from talking to others is also enabling behavior.
  • Stop participating. If you always wash your hands when the person with OCD washes, for example, you may be normalizing the behavior. If you stop, the person might see that this action isn’t truly something everyone does for hours on end.
  • Purchase videos on OCD or pick up handouts from the doctor. Place them around the house and encourage the person to read them.
  • Join your own OCD support group, so you can learn more about the disease and how you can help.

When the person is ready to accept treatment, a visit to the family doctor is in order. Here, the person will answer a series of questions about his or her thoughts and behaviors, and the doctor may run a series of blood tests to ensure that there are no physical causes for the symptoms. If the person is diagnosed with OCD, therapies such as counseling and medications can provide real relief. While OCD is a chronic condition that can’t truly be cured, therapies can keep the disruptive symptoms from interfering with the person’s quality of life. For more information on treatment for OCD, contact us today.

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