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What Do I Need to Know About OCD?

By February 19, 2021April 6th, 2021Blogs, Parisa Waisi, MFT

What we know about the cause of OCD is that a hyperactive circuit in the brain that includes the orbital frontal cortex (that is involved in planning and decision making), the basal ganglia, (that involves motor acts and motor learning and habits), and the thalamus (that filters the information coming to our system) is impacted in the brain of people with OCD. This circuit is responsible for obsessions and compulsions and what causes it to be abnormal is not fully known yet; however, genetic vulnerability, environmental causes, or infectious causes could all play a role in developing this abnormality.

OCD includes obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts that lead to obsessive ways of thinking. For example, you may think: Did I lock my car? What if I hurt my baby? What if my headache is because of a brain tumor? Did I wash my hands enough to clean myself from germs? etc. Repetitive, intrusive thoughts are exhausting and scary, and to avoid them, you may engage in compulsions to provide temporary relief or distraction. Compulsions are mental or behavioral rituals that tend to lessen the anxiety TEMPORARILY. If you focus solely on compulsions, they may morph into something else, and it is exhausting to cover all these behaviors and control them; therefore, it is essential to understand the underlying anxiety as compulsions are the symptom, not the problem.

You may convince yourself that staying home and avoiding being in public places or going to social events, can help you control your symptoms more effectively. You may engage in ruminations or compulsions and lose yourself in distracting thought processes or complex mental tasks.  Additionally, your symptoms may exacerbate during stressful times in your life.

Whether you relate with one or more of the points mentioned above, what is essential to know is that OCD symptoms can become manageable with your commitment and some help from a mental health professional.

So, what do you need to do? Ask yourself: Who would you be, and what would you be doing differently if you did not have OCD? Do you have the skills, and if not, how can you get the skills? Do you have a secondary gain by having OCD? Does having OCD stop you from facing the reality that might be hard to face? Do you have family or caregivers who are unknowingly keeping you stuck by pampering your needs or giving you ineffective advice because they do not know how to deal with your OCD symptoms?

Oftentimes, OCD makes you doubt everything, including yourself, and therefore, you need to follow a process that guides you step-by-step through the recovery, or else you may begin to doubt yourself along the way and stop your treatment. Remind yourself that you are not your thought. Separating yourself from your thoughts is an important first step. With help, OCD can become manageable.  Get help from a professional who is an expert in OCD and anxiety, as understanding and managing the underlying anxiety is a must in the treatment of OCD. REMEMBER, do not wait to feel motivated to start; motivation is an emotion that often may arise after you start taking action.