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In modern culture, people tend to joke about having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) when they consider themselves a perfectionist or have an unusual, quirky trait. However, OCD is not a joking matter. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a chronic condition that involves recurring, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. OCD is an extreme form of anxiety that impairs an individual’s ability to function normally in daily life. Joking about OCD—like joking about any mental health disorders—invalidates the people who struggle with the condition daily. 

Understanding the Functions of OCD

Two main factors play a role in OCD: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or other mental pictures that cause psychological and emotional distress. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that a person feels the urge to accomplish as a response to their obsessions. The signs and symptoms of OCD can be better understood by further breaking them down into these two factors.

Common signs and symptoms of obsessions may include:

  • Fear of contamination, such as fear of germs from touching objects that others have touched
  • Fear of losing control, including engaging in self-destructive behavior or harming others
  • Intrusive sexually explicit thoughts or images 
  • Perfectionism, such as concern over exactness or fear of losing things
  • Religious obsessions, including concerns of offending God, understanding right from wrong, or morality
  • Superstitious obsessions like ideas about lucky or unlucky numbers or certain colors

On the other hand, compulsions typically occur as an individual’s way of preventing or reducing psychological distress related to an intrusive obsession. It’s important to recognize that compulsions follow intrusive thoughts, therefore, they are connected. 

Common signs and symptoms of compulsions and associated obsessions may include:

  • Excessive washing and cleaning as a fear response to contamination or germs
  • Repetitive checking, such as if you harmed yourself or others, or checking that you did not make a mistake as a response of fear of losing control or doing something wrong
  • Repeating specific body movements, such as tapping or touching, repeating routine activities, or repeating actions in “multiples” as a response to perfectionism
  • Praying to prevent harm or other terrible consequences as a response to a fear of morality
  • Hoarding as a response to perfectionism or inability to decide whether to keep or discard items

What Causes OCD?

Although the root cause of OCD is unknown, OCD is most likely to surface during teenage years into young adulthood. However, several risk factors likely play a role in developing the condition. These factors include genetics, personal chemistry, and the external environment. 

These elements can also be understood as risk factors, such as:

  • Family history of OCD
  • Specific brain structure and functioning
  • Childhood trauma, such as child abuse

Addiction and OCD

Since OCD is an anxiety disorder, it is essential to understand the correlation between anxiety and substance use. These co-occurring conditions are among the most common psychological issues in the United States. Of those with anxiety or mood disorder, nearly 20% also struggle with an alcohol or substance use disorder. These statistics also remain true when considering vice versa, where 20% of those with an alcohol or other substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder. 

When people experience co-occurring disorders such as OCD and substance use, there is no one answer with how or when each condition develops. It depends on the subjective mental health of each person. No matter which begins first, it is crucial to recognize that the symptoms of one condition can worsen the symptoms of the other condition over time. Anxiety-related conditions often lead to a person using alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication, which can lead to substance use disorders or addiction.

Treatment for OCD

Due to the severe psychological and emotional distress that often accompanies OCD, it is critical to understand what treatment options are available for those struggling with it. OCD can be treated effectively through medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. 

Medication for OCD may include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to help reduce the severity of OCD symptoms. It is vital to trial your prescriptions to give them a fair chance at working effectively since medications can take several weeks to work correctly in the brain and body. 

Several different types of psychotherapy are known to treat OCD effectively. Psychotherapy must emphasize the importance of recognizing obsessions and challenging compulsions. Popular psychotherapy methods used to treat OCD include, but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Habit reversal training
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety-related condition characterized by intrusive, repeated obsessions followed by behavioral compulsions. OCD often impairs an individual’s ability to function normally, as their psychological processes are constantly focused on performing actions that can potentially reduce anxiety. In modern culture, it is crucial to understand that OCD is not a joking matter and continues to affect people’s lives, sometimes to a debilitating level. West Coast Recovery Centers understands that treatment for substance use disorders and addiction must also recognize common co-occurring conditions. All co-occurring conditions must be treated simultaneously to ensure long-term recovery from both conditions. If you have been struggling with intrusive thoughts or repetitive behaviors, Treatment is available to help you find clarity and peace from your psychological and emotional distress. Get the help you need by calling West Coast Recovery Centers today to learn more about our programs and treatment options at (760) 492-6509