Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


Some Types of Thinking Minimize the Severity of True OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has become a well known, frequently used term in our culture in part due to television characters such as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory and Monk; and movies such as As Good as it Gets with Jack Nicholson, Matchstick Men with Nicolas Cage, The Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio, and What About Bob featuring Bill Murray. Most people know of OCD but that has not necessarily translated to an accurate understanding of OCD. I frequently hear teens and adults refer to perfectionist qualities as OCD or they label themselves as a “germaphobe”. This frustrates many clients who have been diagnosed OCD because they know exactly how debilitating the disorder can be. This type of thinking tends to minimize the severity of true OCD.


What is OCD?

All of our behavior falls somewhere on a continuum. Whether or not a behavior is seen as troubling or problematic is usually determined by the cultural norms and values, where the behavior falls on a continuum, and whether or not it is bothersome to an individual or those who care about them. What differentiates OCD from other conditions such as anxiety or Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)? Let’s first discuss what OCD is not. OCD is not the same as OCPD which tends to be less debilitating but is still problematic. When a person has OCPD they often exhibit behavioral patterns of being preoccupied with control, order, and perfectionism in various contexts. This may lead to a preoccupation with work and productive tasks to the degree that there is no time for fun, recreation, or friends. The person may have daily lists, rules, or schedules; they may not be able to throw things away even if they have no value and are not sentimental. They may hold inflexible moral and behavioral values and be critical of themselves. The person may be very reserved in their spending habits and they are generally seen as rigid and stubborn. While these symptoms may cause difficulty in being productive, enjoying life, and having rewarding relationships, this individual does not experience the severe obsessions and compulsions that go along with OCD.

As one of my young clients wisely stated, “OCD is not about everything being in the right place and being a perfectionist. It can be that but it is more serious. It’s scary hearing voices (thoughts) inside my head telling me what to do. I don’t feel in control of my life.”
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts and images which are repetitive and relentless in nature. There is often a great deal of shame associated with some of these thoughts because they can be sexual in nature or they can involve thoughts of aggression towards themselves or others. Individuals who have OCD often feel compelled by their compulsions which are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person has to complete as a response to the obsession. The ironic truth is that responding to the obsession may temporarily lessen their anxiety but it only serves to intensity OCD in the long run. While every person is different, there is some commonality in OCD symptoms. Many obsessions and compulsions are related to cleanliness of person or environment for example hand washing and excessive cleaning. Others are related to symmetry, order and counting, as evidenced by touching a light switch a specified number of times when passing it, repetitively checking to see if a door is locked, eating one food at a time, or not eating certain colors of food. While even other thoughts are related to illicit behaviors.
OCD can be incredibly debilitating because the person often spends an inordinate amount of time on the compulsions and obsessions. They may have to wash their hands so many times that their hands become raw and they can’t complete their daily tasks. They have to interrupt their trip to work to go back home and make sure the doors are locked. They may have to get out of bed at night repetitively to check and see if they locked doors. They may have to count or pray before they complete every day, common tasks. A person experiencing mild or moderate OCD might spend 1-3 hours a day obsessing or performing compulsions while someone with severe OCD has almost constant obsessions or compulsions.


Counseling Helps with Strategies to Improve Quality of Life

The good news for individuals struggling with OCD is that you can get help. Counseling gives you the opportunity to educate yourself and your family so that you gain a greater understanding and less judgmental stance towards your struggles. You will have help and encouragement in your healing journey and you can gain the cognitive and behavioral strategies to greatly improve your quality of life and, once again, feel in control.

If you would like to make an appointment or if you would like more information, please feel free to contact me at cecilylrodgers@gmail.com or 817-382-0860.