What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Plenty of people have private mantras or rituals that they practice during the day. For example, you may check your pockets or bag for your phone, wallet, and keys before you leave the house. Or at times of stress, you may repeat to yourself, “this, too, will pass.”

However, if your repeated thoughts and actions are unwanted and intrude on your regular activities, you may have OCD. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder in which intrusive thoughts and fears lead to irrational and uncontrollable urges to complete specific mental or physical actions.

What’s the difference between an obsession and a compulsion?

Obsessions are repeated intrusive thoughts or impulses. Obsessions are usually distressing and cause feelings of anxiety, fear, and disgust. You may even realize that your obsessions are unreasonable or excessive, but be unable to settle them with reason.  Some common obsessions include germs, cleanliness, violence or danger, or religious or sexual preoccupation.

Obsessions lead to compulsions, which are repetitive thoughts or behaviors. Your compulsions may provide you with a sense of relief or alleviate the perceived danger. However, compulsions can end up filling your time, disrupting your life, and preventing you from completing regular tasks. Compulsions can eventually damage your overall health and wellness. Some common compulsions include counting, checking, hand-washing, and touching.

For example, if you have an obsession with germs, you may have an irresistible compulsion to wash your hands. While it’s important to wash your hands, excessive washing can lead to dry, cracked skin, which could increase your chance of infection. You might even feel compelled to use an inappropriate cleaning product like bleach on your skin.

How is OCD treated?

Your provider at LifeStance Health creates a customized treatment plan following a thorough assessment and diagnosis of your condition. In many cases, you benefit from a combination of medication and therapy.

Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can reduce your obsessions and compulsions, which frees up your energy and provides clarity of mind for you to focus on therapy. In therapy, you learn to recognize your thoughts and adjust your behaviors. Your provider may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure and response therapy to help you learn strategies for dealing with intrusive thoughts.

If you’re concerned about OCD, call LifeStance Health or schedule a consultation online today.