Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a disorder where the sufferer experiences upsetting and intrusive thoughts, images or feelings. The content of these obsessions can range vastly, along with the severity of the symptoms. The sufferer will engage in compulsive behavior as an attempt to get rid of the distressing obsessions. Compulsive behavior may look like: checking, counting, mental rumination, asking for reassurance, washing, avoiding, etc. The sufferer often feels consumed with the fear their thoughts are “real” or “important,” hence, driving the urge to engage in elaborate and exhaustive rituals. People living with OCD often report they have little to no control over their ability to stop the compulsion, leaving them feeling helpless. OCD is treatable and manageable. The Center for OCD uses Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, with an emphasis in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy integral adjunct to treatment.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) includes obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions can take form in many different ways, including: thoughts, feelings, urges/ impulses, sensations, images and they are highly distressing, unwanted and intrusive. Obsessions often come in the form of “what if (fill in a horrifying thought).” The sufferer experiences intense fear or distress if you do not respond to them through compulsive behavior.
Healthy brains will produce a lot of random and obsessing thoughts. Those who don’t suffer with OCD don’t have an overactive response to the intrusive thought and approach it more with a sense of, “well that was weird,” and continue on with their day. In OCD the suffers fight or flight is activated and the thoughts seem real and important.
It’s important to remember thoughts are thoughts, not facts. Thoughts and feelings are not nearly as important as we are treating them. In fact, some would say they are not important at all. However, it is only normal human behavior to try and rid our selves of any distressing experiences. Engaging in compulsions are the behaviors done to try and reduce this distress. Unfortunately, this is the very behavior that gets us stuck in the OCD-cycle which perpetuates the disorder.
Our thoughts are not a reflection of who we are or what we will do. Despite the intense feeling they are. Taking our thoughts/ feelings/ sensations/ urges/ images a little less serious is a good way to start fighting back.
Compulsions are what keep obsessions alive. No one wants to experience pain and discomfort. Those who suffer with OCD go to great lengths to avoid and prevent this using compulsive behavior which make include mental compulsions, behavioral compulsions, reassurance seeking and avoidance.
Compulsions are also known as safety behaviors- behaviors in which the suffer believes engaging in them will give them a sense of safety or certainty. What they might not know is that these very behaviors are what negatively reinforce the obsessions perpetuating the OCD-cycle and keeping the obsessions alive and well. Please see earlier post to better understand an obsessions.
Compulsions can often leave the suffer compelled to engage or the feared thought will come true, continue happening, become worse, and/or never go away. The can feel like rules and/or rituals. They are exhausting!