Monday, July 22, 2013

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

"Tap three times on the right, tap three times on the left."
"I have to check to make sure the oven is off, the lights are out, the door has been locked.  Okay, check again.  The oven is off..."
"My hands are still dirty from that germ-infested bus ride home from work, I'll keep washing them."
"If I change my morning routine even the slightest bit, my family will all get sick and die."

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

What is it?  OCD (as most commonly used) is an anxiety disorder in that people who are affected by it, have both obessive and compulsive tendancies.  OCD affects 1-2% of the population, and usually becomes present in late teens-mid twenties, although some people say they noticed

What is the difference between an obession and a compulsion?  An obsession is generally a thought that is disturbing and unwanted, unprovked, that come to mind that are either in the form of an image or an impulse that cause a great deal of anxiety or distress.  A compulsion is a behavior that is deliberate, needed, like washing something, checking something, ordering something, or a mental act like counting & repeating.  Compulsions are acted upon by the person affected to "help to reduce the anxiety" caused by the obession, when in turn can cause additional anxiety.

How is OCD diagnosed?  Well first, the person must be willing to see a doctor.  A doctor will run a series of physical, labratory and pyschological exams.  The doctor will talk to you regarding your thoughts, feelings, how you are physically feeling, how you cope, and what triggers set your obsession and compulsions off.  You may also be asked about thoughts of self-harm, harming others, or suicide ideations.   It is so important to be honest with your doctor about all of the above so that a proper testing and a diagnosis can be made.

What kind of treatment is available for OCD sufferers?  There are a couple options, and depending on what your doctor thinks is best, there may be a combination of the variety.  A type of psychotherapy called "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" (CBT) may be used - it's an exposure and response therapy.  It involves the person becoming gradually exposed to their obession, and learning healthy ways to cope.  You may do this therapy alone, or your doctor may invite your loved ones who are closest with you to participate as well.

There are also antidepressants and antianxiety medications that may be prescribed, which can elevate levels of seretonin, which with OCD, can be lacking.  There are a few to choose from, and once prescribed, and the person has been taking them for a minimum of 2 weeks, it's ideal to note how you're feeling, how you are coping with the OCD, and what is and is not working for you.  Your doctor will be able to make adjustments of the medication if you find it's not working out. 

Above all, know that you're not alone.  Our volunteers here at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region are ALWAYS here for you, no matter what.  613-238-3311 anytime of day or night.

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