OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder is a crippling and horrific experience. It involves intense anxiety and afflicted individuals often feel ruled by the disorder. OCD includes obsessive or recurrent thoughts, images or impulses which generate psychological unease, fear and worry. Compulsive acts to ward off the psychological disturbance often follow or can occur independently and typically include checking, hand-washing, hoarding, counting or ritualised procedures. However the nature of the compulsions can lead to social alienation, financial disarray and a lack of time for work and recreational activities.
What causes OCD
Research is still occurring to more accurately determine the underlying causes of OCD. However, it appears that genetics can play a role and many scholars are of the opinion that OCD is largely a learned and conditioned response facilitated by modelling the actions of a significant other.
Common in Pregnancy
In addition to symptoms being invoked by stressful life experiences, research indicates that OCD can also commence during pregnancy and following an abortion or miscarriage. A terminated, incomplete and completed pregnancy all involve substantial physical and emotional changes which may be very frightening and feel uncontrollable. As society has infused pregnancy with various positive emotions, it can be very difficult when women resent or feel tormented by their pregnancy and the impact it has on their bodies, their feelings and their relationships with important others.
What treatment options are available?
The most scientifically verified treatment for anxiety disorders is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and many argue it is the most effective treatment for OCD. During CBT, individuals are gradually encouraged to confront their angst provoking thoughts without engaging in a compulsive or compensatory behaviour. For example, an individual may touch the clean side of a dirty tissue and rather than wash their hands, remain in contact with their anxiety and tolerate the feelings until they pass. This process can assist individuals in addressing the fear of psychic disintegration if a ritual is not performed and help build a greater sense of emotional safety internally and in the world. CBT may also involve the identification of thoughts that are unhelpful or maintain anxiety and generating alternative thoughts and ideas that are more adaptive and realistic.
However, the relationship consequences of OCD tend to be more extensively addressed in psychodynamic oriented treatments. The obsessive and ritualised aspects of OCD can put enormous strain on the individual’s family system and the tenacity of the symptoms can lead to sufferers demanding their family members accommodate to their wishes, typically so intense anxiety and anger remain unexpressed. However, such coercive interactions inevitably generate interpersonal conflict and rejection and exacerbate group based stress levels. A focus on obsessions and compensatory behaviours also stifles the opportunity for self-development, clouds an individual’s ability to read social cues, and leads to a distorted view of others, robbing individuals the opportunity to participate in meaningful and rich relationships.