We’ve all heard it- someone saying they are “so OCD” about something.
“I’m so OCD about my closet! Everything just must be hung up and orderly.”
“Ugh. She’s OCD about her make up. It takes her forever to get ready.”
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not an adjective.
It is a mental health diagnosis- one that is often a part of our everyday vernacular, misunderstood, and difficult to get a diagnosis.
According to a recent medical research journal (2021), On average, it takes 13 years from the onset symptoms for someone to get diagnosed and once they receive an OCD diagnosis, it takes almost a year and a half to receive treatment! It’s important to note, according to data, anywhere from 36% to 63% of adults with OCD experience suicidal ideation and around one fourth have attempted suicide.
So, Let’s talk about what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is… and isn’t.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM 5th edition, TR), a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has the presence of obsessions, compulsions, or both. It’s important to remember- someone may have OCD, even if they don’t have both obsessions and compulsions.
Obsessions are defined as recurrent or persistent thoughts, urges, or impulses that are experienced as intrusive or unwanted- obsessions usually are marked by high anxiety and distress. Obsessions are difficult to manage and can feel as though someone doesn’t have control over their own mind.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the individual feels driven to perform in response to the obsession. These actions or mental acts are intended to prevent or reduce the distress, or an attempt to prevent some dreaded event or situation. Compulsions are there to neutralize the obsessions.
What it isn’t:
- OCD is not about being orderly or particular. Those who experience OCD are fighting with their own minds a lot of the time- it is distressing and overwhelming.
- Obsessions and compulsions don’t have to make any sense. Arguing with someone about their obsessions and compulsions will not make them go away.
- OCD is not a life destroying curse… OCD is treatable!
What it is:
- OCD is a mental health disorder. It causes great distress to those experiencing it.
- OCD can be constant or episodic- someone can have consistent obsessions and compulsions over many years/lifetime (without treatment). Or, they can experience episodes of OCD- times where the obsessions/compulsions are very distressing and unrelenting.
- People who have been diagnosed with OCD often suffer from one or more comorbid disorders (major depressive disorder is the most common).
- OCD can be treated! We have excellent treatments available for OCD that have been researched and proven to help manage OCD.
What does treatment for OCD look like?
- OCD has been highly researched. We know how to treat OCD. This is usually done through a combination of medication and therapy. We also know that the presence of suicidal ideation does not predict treatment response- someone who has suicidal ideation can benefit from the existing treatments.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are proven therapeutic models to treat OCD. Through CBT, someone with OCD learns the psychoeducation behind OCD and skills to manage the anxiety and depression that are often present. With ERP, they will go through exposures and learn to face their OCD.
- If a child is struggling with OCD, their therapist will provide them and their parents information about OCD and work with their parents to better help their children at home.
Understanding a problem is the first step toward solving it. Seeking treatment for anything can be incredibly difficult and OCD is no exception. There are OCD specialists to help. If you or a loved one is dealing with OCD, reach out for a consultation with a specially trained therapist.