What is OCD?
If you struggle with OCD you experience an “obsession” which is an unwanted thought, mental image, or feeling that will centre around something that is important to you. You perform a “compulsion” which is something you do to neutralize or get rid of the obsession. Compulsions can be physical actions taken and also actions inside your mind – for e.g. saying a prayer or singing a song.
Some Examples of Obsessions
- Contamination –thoughts around touching germs, or body fluids
- Losing control – thoughts of hurting yourself or someone you love, a fear of blurting out an insult or swearing in public, or perhaps the fear of a violent image that shows up in your mind
- Perfectionism – thoughts about a need for things to be even or exact, a need to know or remember something, or a fear of forgetting important information
- Harm – thoughts of being responsible for something terrible happening to someone, or a fear of harming others due to carelessness
Some Examples of Compulsions
- Washing and cleaning – excessive hand washing, showering, cleaning household items, or doing other actions to prevent contamination
- Checking – checking multiple times that you did not make a mistake, or that the door is locked, or checking your physical body repeatedly for signs of illness.
- Repeating – doing a task a specific number of times, or rereading, tapping, touching something.
- Mental compulsions – saying a prayer to prevent harm, or counting to a certain number.
How Can Therapy Help with my OCD?
The good news is that OCD is very treatable. The gold standard for treatment is what is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). In OCD, an individual will keep performing the compulsions because it provides some short term relief from the obsessions. The issue is the compulsions can leave someone very stuck and get in the way of them living their lives to the fullest.
In ERP we gradually expose someone to what they fear and get them to stop performing the compulsion (i.e. response prevention!). Therapy is always a collaborative space, and you are always in control of what we are doing. I always promise to go at a pace that feels comfortable to you, and will never make you do anything you are not willing or ready to do.