Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that most people have at least heard of. It is often mentioned casually in phrases like, “Oh, they are so OCD!” However, OCD is a mental health disorder that many do not fully understand. Because of these misconceptions, there is a lot of misinformation about what OCD actually is.
OCD is characterized by a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. When an obsessive thought occurs, someone will often feel compelled to behave in a certain way. This is to either calm themselves down or, in some cases, prevent the obsessive thought from coming true.
To better understand how to deal with OCD, let’s first go over the signs of OCD.
What Are Signs of OCD
Obsessions are characterized by thoughts, images, or repeated urges that cause someone to deal with crippling anxiety. This is not an exhaustive list of obsessions, but these are some of the most common ones.
- An intense need for order or symmetry
- Aggressive or violent thoughts
- Intense fear of germs or contamination
- Invasive thoughts
- Invasive thoughts related to specific topics, most often sex or violence
These obsessions often instill an intense fear of consequences, causing someone to respond or behave in certain ways. The obsession then lends way to compulsions or specific behaviors.
These compulsions are meant to stop the intense fear from actually happening. While the person may know these fears are unrealistic or not in their control, they can’t help but let the fear become all they think about. Thus, they develop compulsive behaviors or rituals that help them feel like they are in control over these fears.
Compulsions are varied, but here are some of the most common behaviors:
- Constantly cleaning or organizing to maintain order and symmetry
- Hand washing and other hygienic behaviors to prevent germs or disease
- Checking and re-checking
A lesser-known compulsion is motor or vocal tics that help someone to feel as if they can prevent their obsessive thoughts from becoming a reality.
Dealing With OCD
Living with OCD, especially when untreated, can feel like a mountain with many peaks and valleys. Even though it can make life difficult for someone, it can be treated and managed.
OCD can be treated in several different ways. Most often, it is through a combination of self-care, therapy, and medication.
Self-care for mental health, in general, can be highly effective at treating OCD. This can include exercise or any physical activity, eating nutritious meals, and ensuring that you get an adequate amount of sleep.
Added stress makes everything in our lives worse, especially if you have OCD. More stress and anxiety can worsen OCD obsessions and compulsions, causing it to feel like a never-ending spiral. Relaxation techniques are helpful to prevent stress from building up and combat compulsive behaviors when intrusive thoughts occur.
Practice deep breathing exercises to help you use your body’s breathing patterns to stay or become calm. Take breaks from technology and social media so you don’t feel overwhelmed by everything happening in the world. Spend some time working on your favorite hobbies or activities. Find ways to express what you are going through creatively. You don’t have to be an artist to get the therapeutic benefits of creating something.
At the end of the day, OCD is still a mental health condition. So while the above list of self-care items will be helpful, it will likely not be enough to manage OCD entirely.