How to Deal with OCD

Instructor: Nathan Kilgore

Nathan has taught college Psychology, Sociology, English, and Communications and has a master's degree in education.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by intrusive thoughts often resulting in ritualistic behavior, yet these thoughts and behaviors can be managed.

What Is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by a preoccupation with obsessions and repetitive behaviors. The obsessions can vary in subject. One example is a preoccupation or obsession with cleanliness. Other areas of obsession might include blasphemy, violence, or be sexual in nature.

It must be noted that having obsessive thoughts of violence doesn't mean the one obsessing is violent. In fact, usually the opposite is true. However, these obsessions tend to 'pop' into the mind of the one with OCD. Obsessions are typically intrusive, unexpected, and seem to occur randomly and for no apparent reason.

Obsessive Thought Example

Imagine, for example, you wake up one morning and glance out your window. You see a few men spraying the lawn across the street with a sort of pesticide. You walk downstairs to let the dog outside. On your way to the door, a thought just 'pops' into your mind that you can't let the dog outside because the air is contaminated by the pesticide. You try to reason with yourself, thinking, 'I'm sure it's safe, I live a good distance from my neighbor's lawn and there is a fence around my property that will ensure my dog stays at a safe distance.' Still, you feel conflicted. You find that even though you attempt to push the thought out of your mind, the thought quickly returns with even greater persistence. This is an example of an obsessive thought.

A compulsion is a behavior one does to overcome the anxiety brought on by the obsession. In reference to our previous example, the person with OCD might find relief in giving the dog a treat, as if they are displaying their affection toward the dog. Quite often, compulsions bring only temporary relief from the anxiety.

Coping With OCD

As you might imagine, having intrusive thoughts that are usually contrary to the character and volition of the sufferer can produce high levels of anxiety and discomfort. Unfortunately, those suffering with OCD can find themselves 'stuck' on a particular thought, seemingly unable to gain clarity of thinking or focus.

People sometimes tell those struggling with OCD to 'just stop worrying about it.' Yet the more a person tries to not think of a particular thing, the more they will think about that particular thing. For example, if I held up an apple and said, 'don't think of this red apple,' the more you tried not to think about the apple, the more you would think about the apple. (Go ahead, try it once for 30 seconds and see how long you can avoid thinking about the red apple).

Fortunately, there are a few ways to control behaviors and cope with OCD:

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