Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Psychologists

Obsessive Compulsive DisorderObsessive Compulsive Disorder

A person with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Is often absorbed with details, lists, order, organization, rules or schedules to such an extent that the purpose of the activity is lost and they can be perfectionist to a degree that interferes with completing the task.  The obsessions and compulsions are usually so strong that they cause significant distress in your life.

Understanding Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as defined by the DSM 1V-TR of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is characterized by repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that cause anxiety.  As a result of this anxiety the person engages in ritualized behaviors (compulsions) that are designed to try to relieve this anxiety.  The obsessions and/or compulsions are usually so strong that they cause significant distress in the person’s employment, schoolwork, and/or personal and social relationships.  As a response to the OCD behavior, a person may develop depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and feelings of worthlessness.

If you experience obsessions, the obsessions of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are persistent thoughts, impulses or images that inappropriately enter your mind. These recurring thoughts and impulses cause you significant distress or anxiety and, typically, you may then engage in compulsive behavior patterns in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the distress or anxiety.  These compulsive patterns of behavior are themselves disruptive and a negative cyclical pattern of thoughts and behaviors results.

The person often tries to ignore or suppress these ideas or to neutralize them by thoughts or behavior.  The resultant thought and behavior patterns are often cyclical and can be very disruptive.  Common obsessions include fear of contamination or fear of harming someone.  Worrying about whether the stove has been turned off the stove and making repeated trips back to check, excessive hand washing, excessive cleaning, repeatedly double-checking things, and hoarding behavior are all examples of common Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder behaviors.

The compulsions associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) result from the person’s feeling the need to repeat physical behaviors, like those mentioned above such as repeated ritualistic hand washing and hoarding behaviors. Accompanying these compulsions may be repeated mental behaviors such as counting things or silently repeating words over and over again. These behaviors occur as a response to an obsession and often are done in accordance with strictly applied rules.  The aim of these behaviors is to reduce or eliminate distress or to prevent something that is dreaded.

In one-third of obsessive-compulsive individuals, onset of the disorder occurs by the age of 15. A second peak of incidence occurs during the third decade of life. Once established, obsessive-compulsive disorder is likely to persist throughout life with varying degrees of severity. The exact cause of OCD is still unknown; however, while there is not total agreement on the cause of obsessive-compulsive behavior, recent evidence strongly suggests that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has a significant neurobiological basis.

Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior

While the exact cause an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has not been established, recent findings show a definite relationship to neuro-biological factors.

There is no cure, so to speak, for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD); however, there are several types of effective treatment.  Individual psychotherapy is the most common treatment.  The therapy frequently involves what is called response prevention and exposure. Response prevention therapy consists of keeping the person from acting on his/her obsessions and compulsions. 

While most of my clients prefer not to take medications, I often recommend medication for sufferers of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  Typically, I have found the treatment of obsessive and compulsive behavior is quicker and more effective if therapy is combined with medication provided by your physician.

Additional Information

For more information about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other mental health problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.

 Obsessive Compulsive Foundation
 NIHM: Obsessive-compulsive disorder
 NIMH on obsessive compulsive disorder

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Obsessive Compulsive DisorderObsessive Compulsive Disorder