Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts and disruptive coping mechanisms that diminish overall quality of life. Severity and manifestation of symptoms vary between diagnosed people and it’s possible for these factors to change over time. While there are many ways to address and manage OCD, there is currently no permanent treatment. Current treatment measures center around managing immediate symptoms and providing individuals with the tools they need to manage it in their daily life.
Diagnosis and Prescribed Treatment
Many people can express obsessive compulsive behavior and other hallmark symptoms of the condition without actually having it. Temporary emotional strain or other mental health concerns, like schizophrenia, can present similar signs. The first step in seeking treatment for OCD is to get a formal diagnosis from a licensed professional. This establishes a foundation for treatment, as it helps the individual grasp and accept the condition so they can start moving forward. Medication may be prescribed to manage severe symptoms, but is generally not a long-term solution on its own.
There are many forms of cognitive therapy, but all of them center around a methodical approach to help patients gain greater awareness of their mental processes. As a practical and direct strategy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective tools psychologists have to help their patients manage OCD. This kind of therapy helps build mindfulness of thoughts and feelings resulting from trigger scenarios, like social anxiety or phobia, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It motivates the patient to question strong feelings of fear, doubt and guilt when they arise. These feelings are natural in some situations, but can be disruptive and distressing when experienced over prolonged periods.
Repeated exposure to stress-inducing and trigger factors in a controlled environment is another common way to manage the severity of OCD symptoms. Essentially, this process is desensitization conditioning that helps the patient resist the urge to avoid the stimuli or perform compulsions as a result. Sessions can be either real or imagined, with imagined exposure often serving as a precursor for those struggling to engage with the real thing right away. Exposure therapy can be a transformative process for those with crippling phobias, like fear of germs or social interaction.
While it’s never recommended to only rely on self-management techniques to overcome the symptoms of OCD, it is an essential component in any long-term treatment plan. That’s why most therapies focus on helping patients develop mental skills and emotional fortitude that will help them in the future. Adults diagnosed with OCD should talk to their therapist about appropriate exercises and habits to adopt in their home life that will aid in their recovery efforts. Specialized spouse and family counseling can also help patients create an effective support network at home.
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Millions of people live successful and satisfying lives despite suffering from a formally diagnosed mental health disorder. There may not be a cure for OCD, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from seeking therapy so they can start mastering the condition and take back control over their lives.
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