It’s become common for people to say, “I’m a little bit OCD,” when explaining their need to check voicemail during dinner, or to sit in a certain chair during a meeting, and so on. But despite the awareness of obsessive-compulsive disorder-like symptoms in popular culture, OCD continues to be a specific, diagnosable condition that impacts the daily functioning of many. With therapeutic assistance, those suffering from OCD can create healthy daily habits to alleviate their symptoms and restore control over their thought processes.
The DSM-IV-TR criteria for OCD diagnosis includes the presence of obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are defined as recurrent, persistent thoughts, impulses or images that are intrusive and cause distress. These thoughts are not better defined as excessive worries about day-to-day problems, and are recognized as products of the sufferer’s own mind. The person often works to ignore, suppress, or neutralize these thoughts. Compulsions, however, are defined as repetitive behaviors and mental acts that one feels driven to perform in response to an obession. While the sufferer believes that these behaviors will prevent a dreaded situation, in actuality they have no realistic connection to what they are designed to neutralize. For example, one might have the compulsion to check if she turned off the stove exactly 10 times so as to avoid causing an earthquake in her town that day.
In order to distinguish these obsessions and compulsions from more common personality quirks, clinicians seek to learn if they cause marked distress, take up more than one hour per day, or significantly impair one’s functioning in relationships or at work. OCD treatment may include cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and prescription medication.
Our therapists are available for consultation on OCD and other disorders.