Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a complex mental health condition for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s become part of our vernacular. OCD has become a verb, an adjective, and a description for someone who likes tidy surroundings or who washes their hands a lot.
The reality is that OCD is a serious, life-altering mental health issue that affects 1.2% of adults in the United States, with women outpacing men by more than three to one.
Due to the misinformation swirling around about OCD, Dr. Matthew Goldenberg takes a closer look at this mental health issue here. If you suspect you have OCD, the following information should help guide you.
Not only are there common misperceptions about OCD, but the condition itself is also quite complex, as it can affect people in different ways. OCD often gets overlooked or confused with other anxiety diagnoses like generalized anxiety disorder or specific phobias. But there are three general rules of thumb that can help you to understand what OCD is and what it is not.
First is the “O” part of OCD, the obsessions. At its core, the obsessions of OCD are when you have relentless and unwelcome, intrusive and ruminating thoughts, ideas, or fears. Some common intrusive thoughts include fear of contamination by touching objects or surfaces or doubt that you have locked the door, closed the garage or turned off the stove or intense worry that someone you love might be hurt, sick or otherwise unwell. One way to evaluate if your worry or fear is significantly out of proportion to the situation, or maybe you even recognize that most other people would not be this worried about the same situation, that could be a sign of OCD.
Second is the “C” part of OCD, the compulsive actions. Often, in an effort to relieve the pressure of obsessions, you act in specific, repetitive and ritualistic ways.
A classic example of a compulsion is someone who has intense thoughts and fears of germs, contamination and becoming sick. To address and calm these thoughts, this person washes their hands over and over and takes great care not to touch things around them that they perceive are dirty.
This is one example, but there are scores more as people can display compulsions in myriad ways.
Third, are individuals who have both obsessions and compulsions. For example, someone may have obsessive and intrusive thoughts that compel them to count under their breath or perform certain rituals, like turning the lights off and on a specific number of time.
One of the major misunderstandings about OCD is that you can have the “O” the “C” or both and meet diagnostic criteria for OCD. Often those with just the “O” part of OCD, the obsessive thoughts, are shocked to learn that their anxiety and worry is caused by OCD.
Another point of confusion is what separates someone with OCD from a person who merely displays certain rituals or repetitive behaviors. The most basic way to understand it is that in OCD, the thoughts or the behaviors (or both) significantly interfere with a person’s ability to function normally and fully engage in their life and the world around them.
By way of illustration, running back to the house once to check that you turned the stove off does not necessarily mean you have OCD. However, having to run back to check the house over and over, making you repeatedly late for work, or unable to see your friends or not engage in other aspects of your life, because you are so consumed by your thoughts and/or rituals, may meet criteria for OCD.
OCD can take over your life and make you powerless against the intrusive thoughts and obsessions, as well as the urges these obsessions lead you to. A wonderful, caring and loving parent may have thoughts of harming their children that they would never in a million years act on, but they may feel unable to control the thoughts and fear they may lose control of their actions. This loss of control of your thoughts can lead to depression, substance abuse, isolation, and other negative consequences.
If you feel obsessive thoughts and/or compulsions are interfering with your life, or someone you care about, Dr. Goldenberg can help. While it is not possible to say what your treatment plan will look like until you meet with Dr. Goldenberg, we can say that certain medications, such as antidepressants, along with cognitive behavioral therapy, are very effective.
Dr. Goldenberg’s goal is to work with each patient to develop a customized and individual treatment plan, with the right combination of treatments (medication and non-medication) so you can reclaim your life. The initial psychiatric consultation begins with first making an accurate diagnosis or diagnoses and then a discussion of all treatment options. There is no obligation to start medication or commit to any further treatment. At the least, you will better understand if you have OCD and what options are available to you to feel better.
No matter where you are located in California or Alaska, Dr. Goldenberg can provide you with invaluable treatment and support. He always starts with a free 10 minute phone call to make sure his practice is a good fit for your needs and goals. To take the first step and step up that phone call, click here.