Most people have heard of OCD in some way or another. It is commonly referenced in TV shows and movies, for one thing. Additionally, other mental disorders have taken more of a front seat in recent years when it comes to the media.
However, even though people have some understanding of OCD, this is not necessarily the correct understanding. OCD, otherwise known as obsessive-compulsive disorder, is a mental disorder that afflicts as many as 1 out of 100 adults in the United States. It is characterized by obsessive thoughts that are generally paired with compulsive behaviors to assuage those obsessive thoughts. Many people have ideas of what OCD entails that are not necessarily accurate because of the way that it is portrayed in the media. It is generally portrayed as a set of quirks that is humorous and not to be taken seriously. However, for the people who are experiencing it, this is anything but the case. OCD can be an extremely debilitating illness that can severely reduce the quality of a person's life, as well as the lives of the people around him or her. People who have OCD find it to be very hard to overcome, although it is possible to do so with treatment. It is important to understand just how severe OCD can be and how it can actually manifest in a person, so that people are less likely to display ignorance to those who are suffering with OCD. What follows is an attempt to dispel some of the myths people have on OCD.
OCD is commonly portrayed as a disorder where people are obsessed with things being clean or in order. While this is one common type of obsession, it is far from the only one. Many people with OCD do not care about cleanliness because their obsessions are focused elsewhere. While cleanliness is a common obsession, it is far from the only one. People with OCD can develop a wide variety of obsessions, as well as compulsions to go with them.
Some of these people have intrusive thoughts about family members potentially dying if they do not count to a certain number at an exact time every day or carry out certain steps exactly right before going to bed. Some obsessively check things to make sure that they are just right, whether they are checking to make sure that they did not lose anything or they are checking to make sure that they did not leave the oven or any lights on. In fact, some people with OCD actually hoard garbage, which would be the opposite of the common stereotype of an obsession with cleanliness.
The truth is that it is indeed possible for a person with OCD to stop doing their compulsions, but it is not nearly as easy as outside people would seem to think. To someone who does not have OCD, the person who has it is simply making a choice to continue engaging in useless behavior. However, the truth is far more complicated than this. The person with OCD is doing his or her rituals in order to alleviate severe anxiety, not because it is some sort of hobby or easy choice. The rituals are actually feel torturous, but the person who has the OCD feels that he or she needs to do them in order to function. In order to stop doing rituals, the person with OCD needs to go against what their brain is telling them and deal with the anxiety that comes with not doing the ritual, which can be extremely difficult in cases of severe OCD.
There is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach for OCD recovery. Most of the time, however, people take antidepressants and also are in therapy. Though some people have been known to recover with therapy alone or medication alone (the latter more rarely), the combination approach is generally what is found to be most effective. However, what will end up effectively treating OCD varies from person to person, and each individual should be treated as such rather than as a generic case.
For OCD, the types of therapy that have been found to be most effective are cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure and response prevention therapy. Exposure and response prevention is based on the idea that if someone is constantly exposed to the trigger that is causing them anxiety, they will eventually become desensitized to it. As such, a person with OCD needs to be exposed to his or her trigger and not do their compulsion to ease the anxiety. After a period of doing this repeatedly, he or she will no longer feel the need to do the compulsion. If a person with OCD incorporates this practice into their lives on a regular basis, they should soon be relatively free of the compulsions.