What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric condition characterized by obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive actions that interfere with daily life. It is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as “recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.” In order to alleviate the anxiety that comes with the obsessions, people with OCD often resort to compulsions. These are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that one feels driven to perform because of an obsession or certain rules. The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at reducing anxiety, but these behaviors or mental acts are not based in realistic expectations or are excessive. One’s symptoms must disrupt daily activities, social relationships and/or cause distress and last for more than one hour per day to be diagnosed with OCD. It is estimated that about 2.2 million people in the United States suffer from OCD.
What isn’t Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Everyone double checks things from time to time. For example, occasionally checking to make sure that you locked the front door on your way out is not a disorder. When these checking behaviors and rituals become time-consuming, distressing and interfere with one’s daily activities and quality of life, one may want to consult a mental health practitioner.
What does it look like?
Symptoms vary in severity and length, however there are a few common themes, such as those concerning cleaning (contamination), symmetry, forbidden thoughts and harm. Many individuals experience symptoms in more than one of these dimensions. OCD is sometimes accompanied with eating disorders, depression and other anxiety disorders. Obsessive thoughts can be hard to detect since they are internal. However, compulsive actions, such as washing ones hands to the point where they are bleeding, are more visible. Those affected also may react to certain ordinary situations in distressed ways if it triggers their obsessions and compulsions so much so that they will avoid those stimuli/circumstances if possible. This disorder makes it hard for the person suffering to function at an optimal level and decreases his or her overall well-being. They may not be able to complete certain obligations due to their obsessive tendencies.
What treatments are offered at Union Square Practice for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
A specific type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the main method used to treat OCD. This strategy involves identifying obsessions, exposing the patient, either through imagery (practicing in your mind) or in vivo (in the moment) to the aversive stimuli and helping them withhold from performing any rituals or compulsions until the anxiety subsides. This process takes time and the talented staff at Union Square Practice are well-versed in assisting people with OCD using this method. We always proceed at a pace that you feel comfortable with. We also offer pharmacological and other psychological services if the patient prefers another treatment method.