How To Take Back Your Life From Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

The post is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

In movies and television, a character with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often portrayed as a quirky person with odd habits that no one understands, which may seem strange at first glance. There are many ways OCD can manifest in a person, from habits like hand washing or checking to see if the stove is turned off, to skipping cracks in the sidewalk and repeating phrases. But the reality of OCD is starkly different from the way it’s often portrayed in the movies, and OCD has the potential to take a serious toll on a person’s health.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be more closely understood as a maladaptive or negative way of responding to stress. In the moment of stress when a person turns to a certain behavior, such as hand washing, they’re actually trying to reduce their level of distress and gain some level of control. While the hand washing habit in itself may seem harmless, OCD can become intrusive and obsessive. It’s important to seek help from a therapist or mental health professional if symptoms become overwhelming. One good place to start is this BetterHelp resource on how to treat OCD effectively:

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what obsessive-compulsive disorder is and how OCD can be better managed and treated.

The Different Forms Of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Imagine someone getting in their car to drive to work, and they’re forced to turn back because they need to check whether their stove was left on. Or someone who washes their hands so frequently that the skin on their hands becomes raw and painful. Maybe the habit began as a way to keep their hands clean and reduce the chance of illness, only the frequency has now become an interruption to their life and their ability to work. These are examples of people engaging in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

While OCD is considered heterogeneous in that it displays differently in different people, there are certain kinds of OCD behavior that come up more frequently on average. Some of the major kinds of OCD can be broadly defined as: checking OCD, compulsive cleanliness behaviors, and hoarding OCD.

Checking OCD

This form of OCD often involves continuously checking something to make sure it’s safe. It might be checking to see whether the stove is still on. Someone with this compulsion may need to leave work or an event just to return home and be able to check their stove. Even if there isn’t a pattern of someone in their household being thoughtless about leaving the stove on, there’s still a compulsion to check a certain appliance or area of the house like whether the door is locked.

Checking behaviors can also include checking things to make sure they’re “correct,” such as whether a task was completed correctly. In this sense, they don’t always have to do with safety. A person can also have obsessive thoughts about whether their behavior was perceived as inappropriate and whether they acted “correctly.”

Compulsive Cleanliness Behaviors

With this form of OCD, people are preoccupied with contamination and cleanliness. They may engage in compulsive cleaning behaviors that become so time-consuming they have little room left to live their life, advance their career or spend time with their family. This behavior can take the form of people cleaning their surroundings compulsively and becoming upset by anything that disrupts their sense of cleanliness.

Compulsive cleanliness can also take the form of repetitive hand washing, which a person may use to help relieve their fear of germs or diseases. While washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent illness, the key here is the frequency and compulsion to wash one’s hands.

To distinguish between the two, it’s important to look at whether a person is using hand washing for hygiene, or they’re using the hand washing to gain relief from stress or obtain a sense of control over the germs they fear. For some people, obsessive hand washing can become a serious compulsion that interferes with their ability to hold down a job or have healthy relationships.

Hoarding OCD

Almost anyone who watches television has seen an advertisement for one of the many shows devoted to the stories of hoarders. For an outsider looking at these people’s stories, it’s almost incomprehensible what could make people fill their homes with so many items they don’t use.

But for the people experiencing hoarding OCD, they’re getting a sense of relief and control from the process of acquiring items. They may begin to over-identify with an object, which can contribute to their unwillingness to discard items. Being surrounded by all the items also gives them something external to control.   

How OCD Is Treated

Fortunately, there are ways to effectively treat OCD. But they don’t involve addressing the outward behavior. For example, if someone is engaging in hoarding then working with a closet organizer isn’t going to address the underlying behavior that’s triggering the outward compulsion of acquiring more items than they could ever need or use.

OCD may be treated with exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, an evidence-backed form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In this form of therapy, a person is gradually exposed to the thing or situation causing them distress. The goal in this therapy isn’t to cure someone or to expect the symptoms to completely disappear, but the symptoms can be brought under better control to a point where the symptoms and obsessive thoughts don’t interfere as much in a person’s life.

Through the process of learning what triggers someone, they can then begin to identify what is going in their brain when they reach for the OCD behavior they’re compulsively engaging in. The more a person understands about their form of OCD, the better able they’ll be to interrupt the negative pattern and look to new forms of healthy coping mechanisms.

Learning new ways to cope with stress and increasing one’s overall sense of calm may also enhance the treatment process for OCD. Meditation, breath work, and mindfulness practices that encourage a person to remain more connected to the present moment can be a way to strengthen a person’s sense of relaxation and wellbeing while being treated for OCD.

In Conclusion

OCD may never go away, and that’s okay. The symptoms of OCD behaviors can be improved and the frequency of their occurrence can be decreased with interventions. Please don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional if you or someone you know is experiencing OCD. You don’t have to suffer alone without the hope of being able to change your life for the better. Take the first step of contacting a therapist who can put you on the path to better controlling the negative thought patterns surrounding OCD.

Sanjeev Kumar
Sanjeev Kumar
Myself Sanjeev Kumar a dynamic writer and digital marketing expert, currently contributing his expertise to OurNetHelps. With a passion for crafting compelling content and a deep understanding of the ever-evolving digital landscape i dedicated to creating informative and engaging materials that help businesses thrive online.

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