Life is beautiful. We are all born with different characteristics, different looks, different personality traits, etc. We even have our own little quirks. For many, life has given them unique obstacles to overcome. Those diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have these obstacles.
OCD may not be the most prevalent disorder, but it is a disorder that many people fight every day. Leaving it untreated can be very intolerable and detrimental to one’s life – especially as time goes on. Who has time for that? There are ways you can learn to balance the effects of OCD and live your life to the fullest.
What Is OCD?
OCD is a lifelong, chronic mental health disorder that can affect all aspects of one’s life. It is comprised of obsessions and/or compulsions that can hinder daily functioning. For example:
Fear of germs, having things in perfect order or in place, repetitive thoughts toward a person or one’s self (sometimes with aggression).
Handwashing, arranging items in a specific order, repeatedly checking things such as door locks, etc.
These thought patterns and behaviors can continue for at least an hour each day. In addition, the obsessions and compulsions usually run within the same theme and increase or decrease in their intensity. Themes may include numbers, counting, symmetry, fears, cleanliness, etc.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 1% of the United States population (2.2 million) report suffering from OCD each year.
How OCD Affects Daily Life
Imagine having to complete a series of behaviors – or rituals – each night before you can go to bed. You have had a long day and you cannot wait to climb into bed and close your eyes. Unfortunately, your compulsions won’t let you. In fact, your thought pattern is solely focused on checking for safety. Before snoozing, you must do a series of checks. You must check all the doors to make sure they are locked and the stove to make sure it is turned off – and you must check them each 22 times.
It feels as though OCD is, in a sense, a trick. The individual must complete certain tasks (i.e. checks, cleansing rituals, etc.) due to a fear or being anxious or uneasy. This occurs with a mindset that if the task is successfully completed then that anxiety or other symptom will disappear contentment and happiness will take over. Wrong! That is not the case at all. OCD is a repetitive cycle. And, without treatment, this cycle will continue.
OCD can lead to an overabundance of stress, anxiety, fear, and even panic – eventually making daily living extremely difficult. Simple tasks such as getting ready for work, cooking, or communicating with family, friends, and co-workers can be discouraging since thoughts become so influenced on the disorder and less on living. In fact, all aspects of life can be affected – school, work, personal relationships, etc.
Treatment & Therapy
As with anything, there are both conventional and unconventional methods of treating OCD.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of treatment. CBT does not focus on the why of the disorder, but rather on changing the behavior. A popular technique used with CBT is the exposure and response technique. This method slowly exposes the individual to his or her fear or compulsion with the therapist. Together, they work toward identifying the behaviors and then changing the response.
Various medications may also work, in combination with therapy, to treat OCD.
Regain Control of Your Life
A healthy body includes a healthy mind. OCD sufferers can take steps to ensure they are in a healthy state which, in turn, will help reduce anxiety and make the individual more physically and mentally strong. Here are a few key components that are necessary for you to take back your control of OCD:
Engage with a Therapist
Find a therapist that you are comfortable with and move forward with treatment. There are many ways to treat OCD. See what works for you. Do not try to go it alone.
Choosing to exercise helps support your brain and reduce stress and anxiety. It increases confidence, self-esteem, and can leave you feeling able to conquer anything. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring – you can choose team sports, running, hiking, bicycling, etc. Find something you love and do it.
Get enough sleep. When you don’t, your cortisol and adrenaline levels can increase, which can contribute to your anxiety.
Food can do amazing things for our bodies – when we use it for its intended purpose. Eat good foods, such as those rich in antioxidants (fruits and veggies), those high in B-vitamins (green leafy vegetables, fish, red meat, dairy), and those that contain omega-3 fatty acids (fish). Fueling your body, rather than eating for pleasure leads to a healthier you.
Relax & Unwind
Take the time to learn meditation techniques or other relaxation methods, such as yoga or Pilates. Learn to stretch and breath and relax your body.
Find a Support Group
OCD is hard on the individual, as well as friends and family members. Including close family into your therapy may also help them understand what you are going through and how to help you in the ways that they can. Education is important for everyone involved.
Living Well with OCD
Finding balance with OCD may seem impossible while dealing with the disorder, but it is definitely possible! No one wants to have to struggle with obsessions or compulsions for forever. And you don’t have to. Bring a proactive attitude as you face life with OCD and you can see how powerful you truly are.
OCD cannot necessarily be healed, but its symptoms can be controlled. Working with a therapist and taking steps to remain healthy can help you find balance and peace amidst this chronic disorder.