Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

This disorder is characterized by a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears, called obsessions, that may lead you to do repetitive behaviors, called compulsions. This cycle tends to interfere with daily activities and cause individuals a large amount of distress. 

If an individual ignores their obsessions, distress and anxiety is only increased. Additionally, the compulsive activities may provide temporary relief to an individual, but ultimately, the anxiety and stress come back, sometimes stronger than before each subsequent time. The subject of these obsessions and compulsions tend to center around a certain theme. 

What are some of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Symptoms differ for the obsessions and compulsions. It is possible for individuals to experience either just the obsessions or compulsions.

  • Obsession symptoms --- repeated and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are intrusive and can cause distress or anxiety 
    • Themes such as...
      • Contamination fears 
      • Doubting/having difficulty tolerating uncertainty
      • Needing things orderly and symmetrical 
      • Aggressive/horrific/unwanted thoughts 
    • Compulsion symptoms --- repetitive behaviors that an individual feels driven to perform 
      • Themes such as...
        • Washing and cleaning
        • Checking
        • Counting
        • Orderliness
        • Following a strict routine
        • Demanding reassurance 
    • It is also important to recognize that these lists are not exhaustive, and OCD will not look the same for everyone and may not be categorized easily. 

How can OCD be treated?

A variety of psychotherapeutic techniques can be used for OCD. 

One common technique is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which is a form of Cognitive-behavior therapy.

During ERP, individuals are exposed to the thoughts, images, and situations that make them anxious or start their obsessions. For the response portion, the individual makes a choice not to do a compulsive behavior once those feelings have been brought up. 

Though it may seem scary at first, especially because attempts to confront the obsessions and the feelings they bring up may have been attempted in the past, making the choice to not give in and engage in the compulsive behavior; doing this over time can help with the levels of anxiety experienced. The natural drop in anxiety that happens when an individual stays exposed is called habituation.

Here at Madrigal, we are committed to addressing hoarding disorders in a holistic manner.

*This information was adapted from the the Mayo Clinic and the International OCD Foundation. Click here and here to learn more information.*