Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by persistent, intrusive thoughts or mental images (obsessions) that cause distress and/or repetitive behaviors or mental acts (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions take up more than an hour a day of a person’s life and lead to significant impairment.
While OCD was previously classified as an anxiety disorder, the DSM-5 moved it to its own separate category. Anxiety is often still part of a person’s experience with the condition. Obsessions trigger feelings of fear, anxiety, or discomfort. Compulsions are performed to alleviate these feelings generated by the obsessions. The anxiety associated with OCD is typically intense and interferes with your ability to function. For many folks, it can be debilitating.
OCD symptoms include various types of obsessions and compulsions. Each person can differ in the ones that they experience, and how the condition presents in their life.
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts or mental images that cause distress or anxiety. You are unable to control or stop them even if you know they’re irrational or untrue. Common obsessions include:
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental rituals used to try to stop or ease obsessions. They take up a significant amount of time, even if you know they're excessive or unreasonable. These often get in the way of daily tasks and life. Common compulsions include:
Obsessions and compulsions are grouped into categories of OCD. These five subgroups include contamination, checking, symmetry and order, and hoarding.
If you’re in this subgroup, you’re likely experiencing an intense fear of contamination by germs, dirt, or harmful substances. You may engage in excessive cleaning or avoidance behaviors to prevent contamination.
This subtype involves constant checking of things due to fears of harm or disaster. This might include repeatedly checking the light switch or hair straightener. You may do this even though you logically understand that the fears are unlikely to come true.
People with this subtype are consumed by a need for symmetry, exactness, or orderliness. You might spend excessive time arranging items or performing tasks until they feel a sense of balance.
Hoarding involves an overwhelming need to obtain and keep items, even if they have little or no value. This can lead to clutter and difficulty discarding possessions, which affects your living conditions.
This subtype is characterized by distressing and unwanted thoughts or mental images. These thoughts often revolve around taboo or upsetting subjects, leading to significant anxiety. Compulsions in this subtype are often mental rituals aimed at canceling or stopping obsessions.
OCD is treatable. Various approaches can help improve your quality of life and help you manage symptoms and distress. Your treatment plan may include a combination of therapy and medication. Therapeutic approaches may include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Your psychiatrist may also prescribe selective serotonin reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These are common antidepressants that can alleviate OCD symptoms. Possible medications include Fluoxetine, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, and Sertraline.
An OCD therapist, often specializing in CBT and ERP techniques, can provide invaluable support including:
Diagnosis and Assessment: A therapist can accurately diagnose OCD. They can also assess its severity and tailor the treatment plan to your needs.
Therapeutic Techniques: Your therapist will likely guide you through exposure exercises, gradually exposing you to feared situations or thoughts while preventing the accompanying compulsions. This process helps you learn that anxiety naturally diminishes over time without engaging in compulsions.
Medication: Working with a psychiatrist comes with the benefit of having a therapist who can provide both medication management and therapy.
Coping Strategies: Through treatment, you’ll have the opportunity to build and strengthen your coping strategies. This helps you manage anxiety and urges to perform compulsions. These techniques empower individuals to confront their fears and tolerate discomfort.
Support and Monitoring: Therapists provide ongoing support, guidance, and feedback as individuals progress through treatment. They'll continually assess progress and make adjustments as needed to ensure maximum benefit.
An experienced OCD therapist plays a pivotal role in guiding individuals toward recovery by using tailored strategies and support.
Left untreated, OCD can wreak havoc in your life. Signs that it may be time to reach out for help include:
If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, consider speaking with a licensed mental health professional regarding OCD treatment.
In his career, Dr. Zacharias has helped numerous individuals find relief from distress associated with OCD. With his patient-centered approach, he supports clients in learning to manage symptoms and reduce the control OCD has over their lives.
As a psychiatrist, Dr. Zacharias takes an integrative approach to treatment focusing on your complete mental and physical wellness. He uses assessments, therapy, and medication management to provide comprehensive treatment. He is a firm believer in collaboration and will draw upon your strengths and concerns when it comes to creating a treatment plan. When working with him you’ll receive compassionate support and guidance, as you work toward desired changes.
At Existential Psychiatry, we believe that effective treatment can help you reduce symptoms and distress, while also helping you achieve personal growth. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Zacharias. You will be able to discuss your questions and concerns and determine if his services are a good fit for you. You don’t have to face OCD alone, we’re here to help.
Cleveland Clinic. “OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder): Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, December 14, 2022. Accessed August 14, 2023.
Guazzini, A., et al. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Types and Social Media: Are Social Media Important and Impactful for OCD People?” European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology, and Education, August 15, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.