Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and disturbing thoughts (called obsessions) and/or repetitive, ritualized behaviors that the person feels driven to perform (called compulsions). Obsessions can also take the form of intrusive images or unwanted impulses. The person with OCD usually tries to actively dismiss the obsessions or neutralize them by engaging in compulsions or avoiding situations that trigger them. In most cases, compulsions serve to alleviate anxiety. However, it is not uncommon for the compulsions themselves to cause anxiety - especially when they become very demanding.
OCD Symptoms According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), OCD is characterized by a combination of obsessions and/or compulsions in most people. Obsessions are persistent thoughts or urges that a person experiences that are strange, intrusive, and not wanted. An obsession isn't simply worrying about something a lot - it is overwhelming and constant. Attempts to stop the thoughts are usually unsuccessful. Some people find the only way to put the thought to bed is to engage in a compulsion. A compulsion is a repetitive kind of behavior - like counting or hand-washing - that a person feels like they must perform in order to prevent something bad from happening, or to stop an obsessive thought. The compulsions are aimed at reducing anxiety and the associated feelings of distress that accompany obsessions.
Treatment for OCD According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are a variety of effective treatment strategies professionals employ to help a person with OCD. Typically these strategies include a comprehensive treatment plan that focuses on weekly individual psychotherapy, along with certain types of psychiatric medications (if appropriate). Specific types of therapy used to treat this condition include cognitive-behavioral and behavioral techniques, such as Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP) therapy.
Living With & Managing OCD A person who has chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may find that there are some symptoms they may have to get used to living with. Just like the main character in the movie classic, "What About Bob?", there are people who can keep most of their symptoms under control with a combination treatment approach of psychotherapy and medication. But living with the condition presents its own unique set of challenges.