How to Cope with OCD
Living with a mental health disorder like OCD can affect your everyday life. Depending on the severity of your condition, you might struggle to go to school, hold a job, or maintain important relationships. While OCD isn’t curable, there are a variety of treatments that are shown to be effective for most people. Using a combination of self-care, lifestyle changes and professional treatment can help you cope with your symptoms and manage your triggers.
What is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to experience obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted ideas or thoughts that trigger a person to perform a certain action, which are known as compulsions. These behaviors tend to be repetitive and can interfere with a person’s ability to live a normal life.
OCD is a relatively common mental health disorder that affects about 2.2 million adults in the United States. The disorder is most commonly diagnosed in early adulthood. The average onset age of OCD is 19, but 25% of cases occur by age 14. Data shows that roughly one-third of adults who have OCD first started experiencing symptoms during childhood.
People who suffer from OCD can be obsessed with anything, but there are certain anxieties that are more common than others. Usually, people fall into one of four categories: contamination, checking, symmetry, and order. These obsessions can range from fear of germs and contamination to needing to check things over and over again.
Those obsessions lead to compulsions which the person uses to calm their anxieties. For instance, someone who is excessively afraid of germs might be compelled to wash their hands for an extended period of time. People who fall into the ‘checking’ category will repeatedly check doors and windows to make sure they’re locked before leaving their house. People obsessed with symmetry and order might feel the need to rearrange certain items so they match by size or color.
There’s a misconception that people with OCD are crazy, or have no control over their brain. But in reality, many people who suffer from OCD are aware that their obsessions are not rational. It’s also common for people with OCD to try and resist their obsessions and compulsions, but it’s nearly impossible to end them altogether.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of OCD?
Having obsessions and compulsions that interfere with daily life are the hallmark symptoms of OCD. However, everyone experiences the disorder slightly differently. While a majority of people have obsessions and compulsions, some people suffer from one or the other.
Keep in mind that everyone has certain obsessions and compulsions from time-to-time. However, people with OCD spend at least an hour a day dealing with their habits. Their thoughts are difficult to control, and they don’t get pleasure from performing their rituals.
The most common symptoms of OCD obsessions are:
- Extreme fear of germs or contamination
- Wanting everything to be symmetrical or in order
- Obsessing over specific thoughts
- Having unwanted thoughts about harming themselves or others
- Fear of throwing things away, even if they have little value
The symptoms of OCD compulsions include:
- Excessive cleaning or hand washing
- Avoiding handshakes or dirty spaces, like public restrooms
- Arranging things in a very specific way
- Repeatedly checking to make sure doors are locked and things are turned off
- Compulsively counting things
- Doing things in a very specific order every time
Most people who are diagnosed with OCD start showing the symptoms slowly over time. At first, they might seem completely normal, especially in children. As the person gets older, their symptoms can intensify and start to impact their ability to function on a daily basis.
Ways to Cope With OCD on Your Own
Dealing with OCD on a daily basis can be extremely difficult, especially if it impacts your ability to do everyday activities. As a result, learning how to cope with the disorder and manage the symptoms is important. However, there are a variety of effective ways to deal with OCD on your own.
Eat a healthy diet
Keeping your blood sugar at a consistent level throughout the day will help you avoid mood swings, which can contribute to your anxiety. Try to cut out junk foods as much as you can, and stick with protein, complex carbs, and fats that fuel your brain and body.
If you’re dealing with unwanted thoughts, it can be easy to use alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. However, drinking will probably make your OCD symptoms worse in the long run. If you’re on prescription medication, make sure you take it daily and don’t be tempted to take it with alcohol or another drug.
Follow a sleep schedule
It can be difficult to sleep when you have anxiety, but getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy mind. Train your body by creating a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it every day. To avoid anxiety around bedtime, limit your screen time, and create an environment that allows you to relax.
Staying active on a daily basis is an effective way to manage your OCD symptoms and instantly reduce anxiety. In fact, studies have proven that exercise can reduce the severity and frequency of OCD symptoms. You don’t necessarily have to workout at the gym, either. A short walk, yoga class or even taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a great way to get started.
Getting Treatment for OCD
For people who suffer from OCD, getting professional treatment is always recommended. A mental health professional can create a personalized treatment program for your unique situation. For most people, OCD is well managed through talk therapy, medication, and self-care methods.
Additionally, people who suffer from OCD that doesn’t improve with conventional treatments might benefit from transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy. TMS uses electromagnetic waves to change the flow of information between neurotransmitters and neural pathways which can help alleviate OCD obsessions and compulsions.
Studies show that most people see an improvement in their overall function and fewer distressing symptoms after four weeks of TMS treatment. Contact us today at 301-878-4346 or send us a message to schedule a free consultation and learn more about TMS at Pulse.