The repetition helps you keep it together. The rituals, the habits, the unspoken phrases running through your head…they all serve the purpose of helping you get through the day. Intrusive thoughts dominate your inner-monologue. Maybe they’re about germs, and you have to wash your hands. Maybe they’re about checking to make sure that you locked your front door, and you have to go back. Maybe you have to arrange things in a very particular way. Or maybe you’re concerned that you have preoccupying thoughts of hurting yourself, a loved one, an innocent child, or that something bad will happen to you if you don’t do things the right way.
You would never, ever actually hurt someone else, but your mind is held captive by these repeating images. You’re pretty sure that these fears are unrealistic, but you can’t shake the doubt, and you do everything that you can to get rid of that nagging feeling.
What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
OCD is characterized by obsessive thoughts that are so intrusive that it is difficult to function within your daily life. These obsessions lead to repetitive behaviors, or compulsions. OCD categories include, but are not limited to:
- The Checker – Whether it’s door locks, the knobs on the stove, windows and appliances, making sure that you didn’t make a mistake on something that you wrote, or even seeking reassurance from a loved one that you haven’t offended them, The Checker must absolutely make sure that things are okay in order to prevent some type of damage being done. This intrusive thought can often interfere with many other elements of The Checker’s life, making them late for work and other appointments, damaging relationships and their ability to function on the job.
- The Cleanser – This category of OCD is characterized by the fear of being contaminated, usually by germs or blood. The obsession usually involves objects that could be the carriers of the germs/blood, such as public restrooms, doorknobs/handles, shaking hands, eating at a restaurant, excessive cleaning of the home, or just touching normal, every day items. The compulsion usually manifests itself as hand washing, or some other way of cleansing yourself or the object in question. The Cleanser will do this excessively, often disrupting their lives and the lives of others multiple times per day.
- The Confessor – Intrusive, obsessive, and involuntary thoughts dominate the mind of The Confessor. You may deal with mental imagery that revolves around committing acts of violence or sexual harm to yourself, a loved one, a child, or even a complete stranger. Your mind is filled with movie reels full of things that you would never actually do. You do anything to distract yourself. You play games on your phone, you tell yourself it’s not real, but you’re still bothered by the fact that the thoughts even crossed your mind. And you dread tomorrow, hoping that the thoughts aren’t worse than today’s.
- The Categorizer – This form of OCD involves someone with an excessive need for order and symmetry. All of the labels in the refrigerator must be straight, and facing forward. The towels in the restroom must be hanging at the same length. The hardwood floor must be spotless, and everything has its exact place. Any deviation from this is very difficult for The Categorizer to handle. Just like The Checker, The Categorizer can spend an excessive amount of time trying to make things exactly right, which can inhibit their ability to make it to their commitments on time.
How is OCD Treated?
Since this is a very common mental health disorder, OCD treatment is thoroughly researched and available. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered to be the most effective OCD treatment, as a talk based therapy in which sufferers face their fears and intrusive thoughts in a controlled, systematic manner. Since most OCD sufferers typically avoid the objects and situations that trigger their obsessive thoughts, exposure to these things is a key element of OCD treatment. In this sense, CBT is the umbrella treatment, and Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP) is the specific OCD treatment framework.
The idea of facing my fears is terrifying.
The thought of this can be very anxiety provoking, and I completely understand that. My goal is to give you relief and empowerment. I want you to be able to experience your life, free from the fear that binds you. The relief that you get from OCD treatment should not be confined within the four walls of my office. The purpose of therapy is to help you lead a normal life, without having to avoid common situations or perform rituals that help to ease your anxiety.
Exposures can be difficult, but the rewards are tremendous.
OCD only effects part of my life, and I can usually control it.
There is a little voice inside of you that is telling you that this is a problem. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Do not confuse being able to deal with your OCD with being able to thrive with it. You could live with a chipped tooth too, but you should still go to the dentist, right? Don’t just survive…thrive.
One common regret from OCD sufferers is that their kids seem to have picked up on their obsessions and/or compulsions. This is very difficult for a parent to come to terms with, and often a motivator for them to seek OCD treatment.
I’ve heard that therapy can last a really long time, and I don’t want that.
CBT with ERP is designed to be a short term, solution based OCD treatment. I don’t want you in therapy forever either! Using this CBT with ERP framework, I give my clients concrete and understandable steps to take to defeat their OCD. This isn’t therapy where you lie on a couch and tell me about your mother.
You will be given homework with the express purpose of conquering your OCD, I will hold you accountable for that homework, and we will be partners in your progress. It’s as simple as that.
I have used CBT with ERP as an OCD treatment for clients of all ages in my time at the UC-Davis Medical Center, the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and in my own private practice. I have seen the empowerment and relief that can come from facing your OCD and conquering it. I urge you to call me at (424) 262-2014 for a free, 15 minute phone consultation, to discuss how CBT with ERP can benefit you. If you are not quite ready for that step, please sign up for my OCD Newsletter.
You don’t have to live your life obsessing over intrusive thoughts, and being bound by your compulsions and triggers. Get out of your head, and into the world around you.