Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages, races, genders, and beliefs. It occurs when a person becomes looped into a cycle of obsessions and compulsions that are time consuming and cause significant distress or impairment in functioning.
Obsessions are unwanted intrusive thoughts, images, urges, or sensations.
Compulsions are behaviors (overt or covert) that individuals engage in to attempt to get rid of their obsessions and reduce their anxiety.
Most individuals struggling with OCD are aware that their fears are unrealistic or exaggerated. Spending time attempting to provide reassurance and talking through how realistic one’s fears are is typically counter therapeutic and quite frankly, alienating. Instead, treatment includes a combination of Cognitive Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention.
Cognitive Therapy provides space for the client to learn more about the condition and understand how the mechanisms of OCD operate. It provides a cognitive conceptualization for what is unfolding for someone during a spike of anxiety due to an obsession. It involves psychoeducation to help a person separate themselves from the emotional or moral implications of what the disordered thinking seems to represent. Additionally, it helps the sufferer reframe their reflexive reactions to an obsession and challenges their response to the risks. This process changes the focus of treatment to making choices (in the matter of choosing to do a ritual or not), instead of reacting from a place of obligation.
The more one’s sense of control increases, so does one’s willingness to tolerate discomfort. This is where Exposure and Response Prevention comes in-- purposefully exposing oneself to the fear and not engaging in compulsions. Essentially, the person is learning how to change their relationship with discomfort, becoming less emotionally responsive, or habituating, to the obsession. One creates a hierarchy of fear related to the anxiety provoking topic and is guided through exercises to help the individual manage his/her anxiety adaptively.
Seeking out the risks on purpose can feel very scary and intimidating. If it didn’t, symptoms would not culminate as OCD. Therefore, working with a professional helps the sufferer navigate an internal landscape of doubt and fear so that they may eventually live a more satisfying life. OCD is a beast- it requires more than insight to create a change in your life. Active therapy asks you to be invested in choosing the desire to recover over your brain’s desire to choose the path of least resistance, which is often the automatic response to avoid discomfort.
If you're ready to take an active role in your recovery, contact me today!