Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder which is characterized by obsessions (recurrent, unwanted, and unpleasant thoughts) and/or compulsions (repetitive, ritualistic behaviors which the person feels compelled to perform). Most often, OCD causes marked distress, is time consuming, and interferes with a person’s ability to function normally.
Common obsessions include “stuck thoughts”, repeated thoughts about germs or contamination, a fear of acting on violent or aggressive impulses, excessive feelings of responsibility for the safety of others, or the need to have things in a particular order. Obsessions exceed normal worries about real life problems. Compulsions can include excessive washing, cleaning, checking, or repetitive actions such as touching, counting, arranging, ordering, hoarding, or other various ritualistic behaviors. Compulsions are performed with the hope of getting rid of the anxiety caused by the obsessions. A person with OCD may have one or many symptoms.
Parents of children with OCD can experience considerable frustration. People with OCD often recognize that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational or excessive but feel that they have little control over them. Parents sometimes feel controlled by their child’s OCD but are unsure of how to stop this pattern and reduce the stress. The symptoms of OCD may appear similar to other problems such as oppositionality or difficulties with concentration. Professionals with experience treating the symptoms of OCD can help families resolve their frustrations, eliminate confusion of symptoms and help to minimize the impact of obsessions and compulsions.
A person with OCD may assume that they are weak or “crazy” for having the disorder, but OCD is not a sign of either. OCD is a biological disorder which is treatable. Symptoms of OCD may worsen during times of increased stress or conflict and occur in different ways over time. Families often feel very alone in dealing with this problem, but there are actually millions of people who struggle with OCD. While OCD affects people from all walks of life, it impacts a disproportionately large number of individuals with high profile professional positions (i.e., lawyers, doctors, etc.). An equal number of men and women show signs of OCD but it is more common in males during childhood. A combination of patience, understanding, advocacy, and firm guidance are needed to cope with living with someone with OCD.
Treatment for a person with OCD can be very effective and beneficial. A thorough assessment of an individual with symptoms of OCD by a qualified mental health professional such as a psychologist is an important first step. Therapists at Silber Psychological Services are skilled in these assessments, can identify core issues and triggers, and provide treatment for individuals with symptoms of OCD. The severity of symptoms and the extent to which they interfere with normal functioning are an important part of treatment.
Children and adolescents with OCD are often very relieved to discover that their thoughts and behaviors are understood and are treatable. Research has shown that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment modality for OCD. CBT techniques may include exposure with ritual prevention, corrective thinking of distorted beliefs, imagery, and relaxation training. During treatment, parents are educated about the most effective strategies for dealing with their child’s behaviors. Medications are sometimes recommended depending on the severity of the OCD symptoms. Consistent follow through in therapy can eventually lessen the intensity and frequency of symptoms, allowing the person and their family to get back to leading a more normal and satisfying life together.