Q: What is OCD?

OCD is shorthand for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In simple terms, OCD is when one has an obsession and uses a compulsion to help calm the obsession. For example, one might have the obsession that there are germs on their hands. They then will use the compulsive behavior of handwashing to try and calm the obsession.

Obsessions and compulsions can be focused on many areas. Cleanliness, danger, religiosity, and orderliness are some common examples.

For most people, suffering with OCD is an incredibly painful experience. They feel that they must engage in the compulsions because if they don't the obsessions will ruin their life. On the other hand, engaging in the compulsions has it's own extremely steep price to pay. In many ways, having OCD is the ultimate "between a rock and a hard place".

Q: What causes OCD?

At the current time there is no clear answer to the question of what causes OCD. However, it does appear that it is some mix between nature and nurture. Some people, by temperament, are more careful, orderly, conscientious, and perfectionistic than others. If you combine that temperament with situations that the person is unable to deal with or cope with, sometimes OCD is the result.

The reason this happens is because when we are in situations that we are unable to cope with, we often lean on our strengths and rely on them to the point where it's not very helpful. And so someone who is naturally a thinker and an intellectual might start intellectualizing nearly everything and neglecting the emotional side of themselves. Someone who is very socially skilled might become a complete people pleaser. And someone who is naturally skilled at doing the right thing and keeping order might become so rigid and inflexible, trying to be 1000% certain that nothing will go wrong. And that is OCD.

In addition, OCD is a vicious cycle. When someone engages in the compulsions they feel a sense of relief from the obsessions. That makes it more likely that in the future they will engage in the compulsions. Of course this does nothing to solve the obsessions in the long run, as it only provides a temporary relief.  And so it is like feeding the monster to make it stop growling. It works in the moment, but ultimately the food only helps the monster grow bigger so that in the future the growling is even more scary!

Q: Can therapy help with OCD?

Therapy can help someone with OCD in many ways.

Firstly, it can help them learn how to escape the vicious cycle of OCD by managing their thoughts and feelings in a way that they don't end up engaging in compulsions and feeding the monster. For many people, this ultimately "starves" the monster and he begins to shrink, day by day.

Secondly, therapy can help you deal with the underlying feelings of anxiety, guilt, and fear that cause the OCD.

Thirdly, in therapy you can work through any traumas from the past that had a contribution to the development of the OCD and are often helping drive it in the present.

You've suffered from OCD for long enough, it's time you got back in control and started to once again live your life.

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