How can I Overcome OCD?

B. Schreiber

You can overcome obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) by knowing your treatment options, completing a treatment course, and learning to manage OCD symptoms in daily life. Overcoming OCD takes time, patience, and effort but many people have successfully overcome OCD. A treatment course, without or alongside medication, will likely incorporate aspects of cognitive-behavior therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can work, in the case of OCD, by addressing compulsive behaviors and the obsessive thoughts that cause them. Medication works by addressing the biological basis of OCD, in this case irregular brain chemistry.

Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.
Compulsive hand washing may be a sign of OCD.

OCD involves two types of symptoms, both of which need to be treated to overcome OCD. The first are obsessive thoughts which cause anxiety, like a preoccupation with being contaminated by germs, a need for things to be exactly ordered, or worries about doing something violent. These thoughts can generate compulsive behaviors or rituals intended to reduce anxiety, like repeated hand washing, compulsively lining up objects, or avoiding kitchen knives.

Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.
Constantly checking to confirm that doors are locked may be a sign of OCD.

The treatment option most often employed is probably cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which a patient works with a licensed therapist who is experienced with the therapy. It can address both obsessions and compulsions at the same time. It is usually done in sessions that last for a certain number of weeks. The patient is then requested to apply techniques learned in the sessions to thoughts and actions, in order to change them both. It has been estimated that up to 90% of people who complete the therapy show improvement in or overcome OCD symtpoms.

One of the most common treatments for OCD involves seeing a therapist.
One of the most common treatments for OCD involves seeing a therapist.

One way cognitive-behavioral therapy works is by changing stressful reactions to obsessive thoughts. In order to address an obsessive thought, a therapist might ask the patient to begin thinking differently about an obsession. For example, a therapist might first explain that an obsession with germs is not a personality defect but an unrealistic fear that is really the result of a brain irregularity. The patient might then work on turning such a fear into a realization that they are having obsessive thoughts produced by the brain, and not by a real external danger. Changing the thought process changes what was formerly an anxious reaction.

Compulsions can be treated in a similar way. A therapist can guide you through stressful situations that usually produce compulsive behavior, eventually to show that the compulsive behavior isn't necessary. This could be getting used to touching doorknobs without having to wash your hands right away. This type of exposure therapy can produce higher-than-normal levels of anxiety, so it important that it be done with an experienced therapist.

Though drugs are not strictly necessary to see improvements in symptoms, they are often recommended with therapy to overcome OCD. Talking to a physician is the best way to explore medication options. In the meantime, there are many print resources that can help you begin to overcome OCD now.

Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.
Regularly rechecking to confirm that an alarm clock is set may be a sign of OCD.

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