Hollywood and television often portray OCD as a quirky and harmless disorder. But for real-life OCD patients, this anxiety disorder is anything but funny or harmless. OCD can cause significant distress in a person’s life and make it difficult for them to establish healthy routines, maintain relationships, or even leave their homes. For one in forty adults and one in one hundred children, OCD is a very real and painful disorder. But fortunately, OCD is also a treatable condition. For most OCD sufferers, a combination of therapy and medication will help alleviate symptoms. In more severe cases, deep brain stimulation techniques can help.
What is OCD?
There are five main types of anxiety disorders. The most common is a generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. Next on the list of most common anxiety disorders is OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with OCD will experience anxiety when an intrusive thought, urge, or image comes into their mind. These intrusive thoughts are called obsessions. Obsessions can cause a range of disturbing feelings, like anxiety, disgust, and fear. To alleviate these feelings and prevent obsessions from occurring, a person with OCD will develop a ritual to make themselves feel better. These rituals are called compulsions. But what separates “normal” fears and routines from OCD?
Most people will experience intrusive thoughts, desires, or images at some point in their lives. Also, many people are comforted by routines and maybe sticklers for details. This does not mean they have OCD. The difference between healthy routines and regular fears is that the people who experience these things can stop themselves from being overwhelmed by anxiety and compulsive routines. In those with OCD, they are unable to stop themselves from engaging. Often, they realize their fears and obsessions aren’t rooted in reality, and that their compulsions are excessive. But without outside intervention and help, an OCD patient can’t help themselves. These obsessions and rituals severely disrupt their routines and lower their quality of life.
What are the Symptoms of OCD?
Most people with OCD will experience a combination of obsessions and compulsions, though, in some instances, they may only deal with one symptom cluster. In OCD, these symptoms dramatically impact a person’s ability to function. Work, school, and personal relationships are all affected in untreated OCD cases.
Obsessions typically have themes, and the most common ones include:
- Experiencing sudden, violent thoughts toward themselves or others
- Having an irrational fear of germs and contamination
- Intrusive thoughts about things that are taboo and forbidden
- Needing items to be in perfect order or facing a particular direction
- Having to touch objects a certain way or in a specific order to feel less anxious
A compulsion, the other side of the OCD coin, is repetitive behavior. People with OCD will feel an irrational urge to perform a compulsion or OCD ritual to alleviate their feelings of anxiety or fear or to prevent an obsession from occurring. Some of the most common types of compulsions in OCD are:
- Compulsive, repetitive hand washing to alleviate feelings of contamination
- Putting objects in a precise order that they can’t deviate from
- Locking, unlocking, and relocking a door to get rid of anxiety about home invasions
- Counting compulsively, either out loud or in their head
In some instances, people with OCD will engage in physical tics to deal with obsessions. They may blink rapidly when a distressing thought or image enters their mind, or stand and sit several times if they feel anxious. For an official diagnosis of OCD, the following criteria must be met:
- Obsessions and compulsions take up at least an hour of the person’s time each day
- The person can’t control their thoughts and compulsions
- They do not experience joy or pleasure engaging in compulsions, but relief from anxiety
- Their daily life is severely disrupted from compulsions and obsessions
Do OCD Symptoms go Away on Their Own?
OCD symptoms, like many mental health disorder symptoms, will ebb and flow in severity. Times of stress, uncertainty, and change can all influence symptoms. Without treatment, many people with OCD will attempt to avoid certain triggers that may cause their symptoms to flare. OCD patients who experience worse symptoms in social situations may begin to isolate themselves. Without intervention, people with OCD may not learn healthy coping mechanisms for stress and will continue to develop compulsions to alleviate their symptoms. But this feeds into a vicious cycle.
What Medications are Often Used to Treat OCD?
OCD is a type of anxiety disorder, and SSRI medications are the most commonly used to treat the condition. For mild to moderate OCD cases, SSRIs, along with CBT and support groups, are often enough for them to find relief. In rare cases, though, severe and stubborn OCD symptoms may not be alleviated with medication. Deep brain stimulation techniques may be able to help.
Can TMS Alleviate OCD Symptoms?
Studies on OCD have found that symptoms may be rooted in certain regions of the brain. The neurotransmitter dopamine is also thought to play a role in OCD symptoms. TMS, a type of deep brain stimulation technique, is used to target specific areas in the brain that may influence OCD symptoms. TMS treatment can compel the brain to produce neurotransmitters, which can alleviate OCD symptoms. Recently, the FDA approved TMS for OCD treatment.
Unlike other types of deep brain stimulation techniques, TMS offers a targeted approach to treatment. As a result, patients are less likely to experience distressing side effects that are common with other types of treatment. TMS is also non-invasive, and patients can return to work or school the same day after receiving TMS treatment. Patients are also awake during sessions, which rarely last for more than one hour. The most common side effects are tingling on the scalp and headaches.
OCD is the common abbreviation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a condition that features patterns of unwanted fears and thoughts, or obsessions, that lead you to perform repetitive behaviors, or compulsions. These obsessions and compulsions combine to interfere with your daily activities, causing significant distress. Trying to ignore or cease obsessions can increase distress and anxiety. The compulsive acts feel necessary to try to ease your stress. OCD is a vicious cycle. If you have been diagnosed with OCD, you may experience shame or embarrassment about your condition. The good news is that treatments CD medications and therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation can be effective in managing symptoms and the overall disorder.
Symptoms of OCD
While OCD generally includes both compulsions and obsessions, it is possible to experience only one or the other. You may realize that your behaviors and thoughts are unreasonable or excessive; conversely, you may not. Either way, they occupy a lot of time, interfering with the functioning of social needs, school, or work.
Obsessions frequently have themes. These include:
- Fear of dirt or contamination
- Problems tolerating uncertainty
- Requiring things to follow a certain order or symmetry
- Aggressive thoughts about the loss of control and harm to yourself or others
- Other unwanted thoughts of aggressive, sexual, or religious natures
Examples of obsessive symptoms include doubts that you have turned the stove off or locked a door, mental images of driving into a crowd with your car, thoughts of shouting obscenities, unpleasant sexual images, avoidance of situations such as handshaking that can trigger obsessions.
OCD compulsions are the repetitive behaviors you feel you must act out. These are intended to reduce anxiety or prevent a bad thing from happening. Unfortunately, performing these compulsions does not bring any pleasure, and the relief it brings, if any, is only temporary. Symptoms of compulsions from OCD include hand-washing to the point of scouring the skin raw, repeated checking of doors to see if they are locked, likewise checking the stove to be certain it is off, repeating a phrase, word, or prayer, and arranging the contents of your cupboards to all be facing the same way.
Treatments for OCD
Antidepressants are frequently the first attempt in OCD medications to control the condition when seeking OCD treatment in Southern California. This does not necessarily mean you have depression, but certain antidepressants also can be used to treat OCD. These include clomipramine, fluoxetine, and sertraline. SRIs, or Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, have been shown by research to be the most effective medications for OCD.
Another option to pursue for OCD treatment in Southern California is transcranial magnetic stimulation. Along with therapy and OCD medications, OCD symptoms can experience relief by targeting certain areas of the brain. Those eligible for this treatment have generally sought to treat symptoms in many ways without positive results. Contact us today to explore your treatment options for OCD symptoms and seek TMS treatments for OCD.
Updated content on 03/16/21