Worried You Might Have OCD? What You Should Know

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (also commonly referred to as OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people in the United States every year. Estimates put the percentage of men and women struggling with OCD at around one to just over two percent of the United States population. If you have been wondering whether or not you might have OCD, there are signs and symptoms that you can and should keep an eye out for. Once you know more about some of these potential signs of OCD, you can then learn what can be done if you do have this mental health disorder. 

Obsessive Thoughts About Specific Themes

One of the main characteristics of OCD is having excessive thoughts about something. And while all people with OCD experience obsessive thoughts, the themes of those thoughts can vary. A particularly common obsessive thought theme is about germs and dirt. Other themes can include the fear of embarrassment, fear of mistakes, fear of major disaster events (like obsessing about a killer earthquake or tornado, or even religious fears like the fear of the devil or demons. 

Whatever the theme of these thoughts, they must meet the criteria of obsession. This means that they are repeated or chronic patterns of thought and that they cause interference in a person's ability to function in daily life. 

Compulsive Behaviors and Actions

The obsessive thoughts are the first component of obsessive-compulsive disorder. A second but no less problematic aspect of this mental health disorder is compulsive behavior. When a person engages in compulsive behavior, they are doing the same actions on repeat and feel as though they absolutely have to complete these actions in order to relieve their worries or fears (the obsessive thoughts). 

Some examples of compulsive behaviors can include repeatedly washing one's hands, locking the door over and over, checking the house for dangers, and compulsively cleaning, even when surfaces of the home are spotless. Counting can also be a sign of OCD. If a person has to count the number of times they chew their food or the number of times they knock on a door or turn a lock, they are likely dealing with some form of OCD. 

Treatments Available to Help

If you recognize some or all of these symptoms in yourself, you may very well have OCD. Luckily, there are treatment options that can help. The first step is to get a psychiatric evaluation. The psychiatrist or nurse practitioner will ask you a series of questions and have you fill out a variety of questionnaires and forms. These diagnostic tools will be used to determine whether you have OCD, another mental health disorder, or potentially no mental health issue at all. 

Should your psychiatric services provider find that you do have OCD, there are a few different treatment options. Medications that are designed to treat anxiety (of which OCD is a type) can help to reduce obsessive thoughts which in turn can reduce compulsive behaviors. Taking medications will involve continued regular sessions with a psychiatric provider to manage your medications and monitor your progress. 

However, medications alone will not completely rid you of your OCD. Therapy is also an important component of the treatment process. A specific form of therapy known as exposure and response prevention (ERP) can be quite effective in patients with OCD. The idea is to expose patients to the situation they are fearful of or obsessed about, either by making them think about it in detail or putting them in (safe) situations in which they need to face their fears. 

Once in the situation or in the right frame of mind, the idea is to try to stop that obsessive-compulsive response that you would normally have. You have to work hard to choose not to engage in your compulsive behaviors. This is not an easy process to go through, which is why a therapist is needed to provide guidance and support. 

With these facts in mind, you can better determine if you should seek out the help of a psychiatrist for your OCD-like symptoms.