OCD Help: Managing Your OCD Symptoms
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), is classified as an anxiety disorder. It is a mental illness consisting of two components: obsessions and compulsions. An obsession is a thought, desire or image of a repetitive nature. There are no limits to what an obsession may be, but they can often be unwanted and distressing, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. These uncontrollable thoughts can give way to a rise in anxiety, which individuals may try to rid themselves of by using specific counter behaviors, known as compulsions, which are ritualistic coping mechanisms that a person uses in order to try and stop obsessive thinking. However, typically the behavior is not a realistic means of neutralizing the obsession, states Beyond OCD. If OCD symptoms are severe, they can become debilitating to the point that they interrupt an individual’s daily life, making it difficult to function. However, it is possible to manage symptoms with the steps outlined in this article.
Managing OCD Symptoms
Step 1: Understanding Your OCD
In order to begin the process of getting OCD help, one must understand the mechanisms behind the disorder. Anxiety is a healthy process that alerts us of potential threat. Those suffering from OCD experience unhealthy anxiety; it arises without the presence of realistic danger. Recognizing that the fears, worries and physical sensations associated with OCD are provoked by anxiety allows people to identify the underlying cause, enabling them to begin altering their circumstances explains Anxiety BC. Additionally, people with the disorder must learn to identify their own negative thought processes and interpretation of ideas. Those with OCD often give negative meaning to the thoughts they experience, and this has the potential to turn that thought in an obsession. The more significance that is given to unwanted thoughts, the more someone will ruminate about it. This increases the likelihood of these thoughts becoming obsessions.
Last, a critical tool for learning to manage OCD symptoms is identifying triggers. A trigger can be any place, object or thought that raises fear and causes obsessive thinking. Individuals should keep track of triggers, the obsessions they provoke, the compulsion used to quell the resulting anxiety and the level of fear (ranked from 0 to10) felt during the experience. By building a comprehensive list, fears can be ordered from least severe (0) to most severe (10), and tackled using a bottom-up approach, explains Anxiety BC.
Step 2: Exposure and Response Prevention
Exposure and response prevention is a type of psychotherapy where those seeking OCD help are intentionally exposed to situations that provoke obsessive thinking. Patients face their fears using a bottom-up approach, meaning that exposure begins with their lowest ranked fear and gradually progresses to their most intense one. Therapy requires that individuals resist the urge to alleviate their anxiety with compulsions, which grants the patient the opportunity to confront the fear, thereby learning healthier coping skills. If the compulsion could not be resisted, re-exposure to the trigger is administered, states the National Institute of Mental Health. However, if a patient’s fear is severe enough, a modeling approach may be used. That is, they first watch someone else – often someone close to them – face their feared obstacle before attempting to do so. This provides reassurance and proof that the perceived threat can be overcome.
While ERP is one of the most common methods used to help individuals manage their OCD, not everyone will respond well to the same treatment. The use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can prove to be helpful for some individuals who live with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Medication and therapy can be utilized together or separate, depending on an individuals needs (National Institute of Mental Health).
Step 3: Reducing Stress
Excess stress has the ability to potentiate OCD symptoms and should be reduced as much as possible. People with OCD should identify their stressors so when stressful situations arise, they are equipped to handle them efficiently. As well, practice of learned coping skills is key to managing OCD symptoms and living a functional life. Continuous development and application of effective coping mechanisms will help aid in the maintenance of good mental health. In addition, people living with OCD should practice healthy habits, such as getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, to lessen stress.
Obsessive compulsive disorder has the potential to cause great distress and disturbance in the lives of those living with it. However, by working to understand their thoughts, expose themselves to fears and replace harmful compulsions with effective, continuously practiced coping strategies, people can begin to better manage their OCD symptoms. A great option for OCD help is enrolling in a Los Angeles OCD clinical study. These medical research studies aim to find a true cure for OCD symptoms and cure the condition. While in the study, participants have access to free medical care and lab work, as well as OCD medication or treatments.
If you are interested in entering a Los Angeles medical trial for OCD, contact the Pacific Institute of Medical Research, which is an independent clinical research site specializing in psychiatry since 1982. Visit us online or call us at (310) 208-7144.