Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a real illness. It can be treated with medicine and therapy. If you have OCD, you have repeated, upsetting thoughts. You do the same thing over and over again to make the thoughts go away. You feel like you cannot control these thoughts or actions. The upsetting thoughts and images are called “obsessions.” Examples include a fear of germs, a fear of being hurt, a fear of hurting others, and disturbing religious or sexual thoughts. The actions you take over and over again to make the thoughts go away are called “compulsions.”
Examples of these repeated actions include counting, cleaning, and checking on things.
Many people with OCD know that their actions are not normal, and they may try to hide their problem from family and friends. Some people with OCD may have trouble keeping their job and friends because of their actions.
When does OCD start and how long does it last?
For many people, OCD starts when a person is a child or teenager. If they do not get help, OCD can last for a lifetime. OCD may run in families.
What can I do to help myself?
Talk to your doctor about your unwanted thoughts, fears, and repeated actions. Tell your doctor if these thoughts and repeated actions keep you from doing everyday things and living your life. You may want to show your doctor this booklet. It can help you explain how you feel. Ask your doctor for a checkup to make sure you don’t have some other illness. Ask your doctor if he or she has helped people with OCD. Special training helps doctors treat people with OCD. If your doctor doesn’t have special training, ask for the name of a doctor or counselor who does.
What can a doctor or counselor do to help me?
The doctor may give you medicine to help you get rid of your unwanted thoughts and repeated actions. Medicine can also help you feel less anxious and afraid. But it may take a few weeks for the medicine to work. Talking to a specially trained doctor or counselor helps many people with OCD. This is called “therapy.” Therapy helps you learn to stop doing the repeated actions. Therapy also teaches to you ways to lower and cope with your anxiety.
OCD can appear in many different ways. Here is one person’s story:
“I couldn’t touch any doors or countertops in public areas. I knew it didn’t make any sense, but I was terrified of getting germs that could kill me. I almost couldn’t go out in public, I was so afraid. If I thought I had touched anything, I would have to wash myself for hours. Sometimes I washed so much that my skin would get red and raw and bleed.”
“At first I was too embarrassed to get help,but a friend told me to call the doctor.I’m so glad I did. I also worked very hard with a counselor in therapy. I learned to cope with my fear of germs and to stop washing to much.
Remember -you can get help now:
Talk to your doctor about your unwanted thoughts and repeated actions.
How is OCD Treated?
OCD is a type of anxiety disorder, the most common of all the mental disorders. Many people misunderstand these disorders and think people should be able to overcome the symptoms by sheer willpower. But, the symptoms can’t be willed or wished away. There are treatments, developed through research, that work well for these disorders.
Anxiety disorders are treated in two ways – with medication and with certain types of psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk therapy”). Sometimes only one treatment is used or both treatments are combined. If you have an anxiety disorder, talk with your doctor about what will work best for you. If you do choose psychotherapy, make sure the therapist is able to provide you with medication, if needed.
A number of drugs used for treating depression, called antidepressants, have been found to help with anxiety disorders as well. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are used, along with the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other medicines include anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines and beta-blockers.
Treatment with psychotherapy includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavioral therapy. In CBT, the goal is to change how a person thinks about, and then reacts to, a situation that makes them anxious or fearful. In behavioral therapy, the focus is on changing how a person reacts to a situation. CBT or behavioral therapy most often lasts for 12 weeks. It can be group or individual therapy. A special type of behavior therapy, called exposure and response prevention, is often used with OCD. With this approach, a person is exposed to whatever triggers the obsessive thoughts. Then, the person is taught ways to avoid doing the compulsive rituals, and how to deal with the anxiety. Some studies have shown that the benefits of CBT or behavioral therapy last longer than do those of medications for people with OCD.
Keep in mind that it can be a challenge to find the right treatment for an anxiety disorder. But, if one treatment doesn’t work, the odds are good that another one will. Your doctor and therapist will work together to help you find the best approach. New treatments are being developed through ongoing research. So, don’t give up hope. If you have recovered from an anxiety disorder and it comes back at a later date, don’t think that you’ve failed. You can be treated again. And, the skills you learned dealing with the disorder the first time can help you in coping with it again.
Measurable Outcomes & Documented Successes
At Sierra Tucson, we are dedicated to providing evidence-based treatment that leads to measurable positive outcomes. Together with your treatment team, you will develop specific goals that will take you step-by-step toward the outcome that matters most. Sierra Tucson tracks the progress of residents to show actual improvement.