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Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known more commonly as OCD, is a condition that is comprised of two main characteristics: obsessions and compulsions. The term “OCD” is thrown around pretty loosely sometimes by certain individuals, but it is a very real disorder that plagues many people all over the world. There are a lot of factors that play into this condition, and it can manifest in completely different ways for each person. Living with OCD may, unfortunately, enhance symptoms of anxiety and depression if that is something present, as well, since struggling with multiple mental health issues is not totally uncommon.  If you are struggling with something such as OCD and are in need of a psychiatrist in Southlake, TX, Dr. Messina & Associates ensure to provide quality treatment to each and every client. There are a number of misconceptions when it comes to obsessive-compulsive disorder, so today we are going to take the time in this article to provide a better understanding of this disorder. 


What Are the Main Symptoms of OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can rear its head in several ways and the symptoms can vary exponentially per individual. As mentioned above, obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by the two main factors of obsessions and compulsions. There have been studies that have discovered from brain scans that the neural pathway called the supraorbital-cingulate-thalamic circuit, or the SOTC circuit, is overactive in nearly every person that is dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. There are some common symptoms that we know of and expect, but OCD looks different in every person. On certain days, someone that struggles with OCD may feel completely fine and not weighed down by the symptoms, and the next it might be much less manageable. Let’s dive into what obsessions and compulsions are, and how these two elements may manifest in someone:

Obsessions are repetitive and incessant thoughts or mental images that may cause fear, worry, and intense anxiety. Obsessions commonly appear in individuals as intrusive thoughts that are unwarranted, major anxiety about future events, extreme panic about things not being in order, and a strong fear when it comes to getting sick. These obsessions lead to taking action on them, which is where the compulsions come in.

Compulsions are the repetitive actions taken to control and manage unwanted obsessive thoughts. Compulsions often look like excessive hand washing to avoid getting sick, getting someone else sick, or contamination, constant and repeated organization, repeating words or phrases, and lengthy mental checklists to ensure that everything is the way it should be.

Having specific superstitions is also a large component of OCD, such as not stepping on any cracks in the sidewalk, only doing tasks at specific times, or that something bad might happen if there is any aspect out of alignment. Those with obsessive-compulsive disorder may start to practice avoidance, which is when an individual notices what their obsessions and compulsions are, so they actively avoid certain situations and daily tasks so that these thoughts do not pop up.


Types of OCD

OCD is in a way a sort of blanket term when it comes to this condition, as there are so many different means that OCD can manifest. There are said to be about seven different “types,” or categories, of OCD that are most commonly seen. Someone may even discover that more than one of these categories applies to them. These categories happen to be:

An individual may in fact deal with more than one of these various types of OCD, or possibly just one specific one. Other aspects such as avoidance and reassurance may regularly come into play in an attempt to manage and diminish the specific type of OCD present. Avoidance is when someone avoids certain situations or places out of fear of what might happen or what they might do, and reassurance is the constant searching for comfort that obsessive or intrusive thoughts are not real.


Management for OCD

While OCD can get in the way and affect daily tasks, there are of course ways to manage it and alleviate the various symptoms of it. Finding a trusted and reliable mental health professional is a major first step when it comes to managing OCD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, has proven to significantly help lessen the severity of OCD when consistently practiced. There is also exposure and response prevention, or ERP, which is primarily utilized in cases of OCD. In ERP, it is encouraged to face any anxieties or fears so that a deliberate stand against compulsively acting on the obsession can take place.

When it comes to medications, SSRIs are commonly prescribed to those who struggle with OCD. SSRIs are the main treatment for depression, and they have shown to be effective in OCD treatment, as well. On top of therapy and medication, a solid self-care routine is a crucial aspect that can help significantly in managing OCD, too. Daily mindfulness practices and taking great care of your body by eating healthily, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep can absolutely play a positive role in one’s mental health. Surrounding yourself with those who are loving, supportive, and understanding of what you are going through is a great way to work through any difficult aspects, as well.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects millions of people in the United States alone, so it is imperative to break any lasting stigmas surrounding it and to work on grasping what OCD entails as much as possible. We are learning more about obsessive-compulsive disorder every day, discovering what exactly this condition looks like, and the best approaches in managing it. There is no one size fits all method when it comes to treating OCD, but this pretty much holds true with every mental illness out there. While OCD can be debilitating and make life more difficult for some, it is always possible to overcome and work through such conditions and come out on the other side in a remarkable way.


Getting Help

If you are in need of help, Dr. Messina & Associates is highly equipped and ready to walk with you during the journey of healing.

We specialize in anxiety and depression in children, adolescents, and adults and continues to provide psychological and psychiatric services in-person in our DFW (Southlake) Offices, as well as online. 




Dr. Michael Messina

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