OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is a common, chronic psychiatric disorder characterized by frequent and repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and/or feeling the need to continually perform specific, unnecessary actions (compulsions). The obsessions that those with OCD face can be a source of immense anxiety and pressure. The pressure and anxiety caused by these obsessions may only be relieved temporarily by performing compulsions. Compulsions are specific actions that a person with OCD believes they must repeat in order to relieve the stress brought on by an obsession. These actions can vary from one individual to another, however usually involve continually performing rituals that are seen as unnecessary or pointless to someone without OCD.
Types of OCD
The way OCD presents in a person can be as unique and exceptional as people themselves. Although there are no specific classifications or subtypes of OCD, symptoms and obsessions can be grouped into 4 different categories: cleaning and contamination, symmetry and ordering, forbidden thoughts, and hoarding. Most mental health professionals refer to these categories as symptom dimensions.
Cleaning and Containment
The symptoms in this dimension are characterized by persistent fears of illness, contamination, or general uncleanliness both physically and mentally. This will result in the compulsion to repeatedly clean items even if they are already clean or to get rid of items they see as “dirty.” Other compulsions such as unique washing rituals and cleaning a certain item a specific number of times are also symptoms associated with this dimension. These individuals may also take extreme measures to avoid what they see as possible sources of contamination.
Symmetry and Ordering
These symptoms are defined by an extreme preoccupation with symmetry and organization. People that fall in this category of symptoms may devote large amounts of time to arranging and rearranging items until they feel things are, in their mind, just right. They may also spend time performing repeated counting rituals ensuring that they have a specific number that they feel comfortable with. If a person with these symptoms finds that their things have become disordered, they may become extremely stressed and anxious. This is due to a belief that something negative may occur because something in their life is not perfect. These individuals may not only have a specific way of aligning objects, but may also seek symmetry in action as well. For example, if a person with this preoccupation was to get a cut on their right hand they might feel the need to have the same cut on their left hand.
The symptoms associated with this dimension are characterized by overwhelming and intrusive thoughts that are often violent and/or sexual in nature. These thoughts are often followed by or associated with extreme feelings of shame and guilt. Individuals in this dimension are so distressed by their thoughts that they may seek constant reassurance from others that they are not “bad” or capable of doing “bad” things. They may also perform rituals or seek religious/moral extremes in order to “control” their thoughts.
The symptoms in this dimension are characterized by the persistent fear that throwing something away or having less of something will have negative consequences for them or someone they know. Individuals that fall in this dimension may collect multiples of the same item or may even keep an item that is potentially harmful. They may also feel the need to constantly take stock of all their belongings to ensure nothing has been lost. If they do lose an item, this could cause an extreme emotional response even if it was of little material or emotional value.
Causes of OCD
Experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause of OCD but there are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of a person developing the disorder. The first factor that can increase the likelihood of developing OCD is genetics. Studies have found that people who have a parent, sibling, or child that has been diagnosed with OCD are at an increased risk for developing it themselves. Environment can play a key role in the development of OCD. Some evidence has been found that there is a link between trauma and the presentation of OCD symptoms.
Treatment for OCD
Most mental health professionals recommend treating OCD with various forms of therapy and in some cases medication. Both group and individual therapy have proven to help mitigate the symptoms associated with OCD. Our Team at LAT has developed a unique Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) designed for individuals living with mental health conditions including OCD. Our IOP consists of individual and group therapy sessions utilizing evidence-based and experiential modalities to provide every client with the tools and skills needed to help manage their illness, unlearn damaging behaviors, and ultimately build structure and meaning in their lives.
Contact Life Adjustment Team
At LAT we’re dedicated to helping individuals reach their highest potentials. Our practice is based on 40 years of experience in community-based mobile psychiatric rehabilitation outreach, and the very best training, research and expertise in the health and behavioral fields. We believe that with the right kind of support, everyone can learn to lead more emotionally balanced, fulfilling lives, and our clinicians have the knowledge and experience to help you get there. Contact our Clinical Team today to get started!