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Understanding OCD: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Their Treatment

Understanding OCD: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Their Treatment



What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder that is driven by undesirable thoughts known as obsessions – which compels repetitive behaviours, known as compulsions. Most experts refer to a condition like OCD as heterogeneous.

However, it varies from individual to individual and the types of OCD that is, the way in which symptoms of OCD are experienced. There are also other types of disorders that contain elements of obsession and/or compulsion. As you’ll understand, the content of an individual’s obsessions isn’t the conclusive factor for having OCD. But it’s certainly what feels significant in the moment.

OCD forces your brain to get stuck on a particular task or a thought and develop anxiety if the action or task is not repeated.

This unwanted repetition isn’t something you find pleasure from, and even though you know that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior are irrational, you are unable to resist it. 

What are Obsessions and Compulsions?

Obsessions are irrational thoughts or impulses that are repetitive in nature. Most of these thoughts are often disturbing and distract you. However, you act on them as there may be a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety if these obsessions are not acted upon. Some of you may even try to avoid or end your obsessions, but that only triggers your distress and anxiety. Eventually, you are pushed to do compulsive acts to try to ease your stress and anxiety. Despite all your efforts to ignore or get rid of troublesome thoughts or cravings, they keep coming back. It leads to a more ritualistic behavior pattern — the vicious cycle of OCD disorder.

Types of OCD

In most cases, they are accompanied by feelings of fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.” Obsessions are time-consuming and affect your ability to function. There are two different types of obsession – 

Autogenous Obsessions – This type of obsession are highly aversive and unrealistic thoughts, images, or impulses that are perceived as threatening in their own right. Autogenous obsessions include sexual, aggressive, blasphemous or repulsive thoughts, images, or impulses. 

Reactive Obsessions – These are evoked by identifiable external stimuli, which are perceived as relatively realistic and rational enough to do something toward the stimuli, and include thoughts about contamination, mistake, accident, asymmetry, loss, etc.

There’s a fine line between worrying about something or someone and being obsessed. Thinking about the safety of your loved one, or wondering about whether you’ve locked the doors aren’t necessarily the symptoms of OCD.

It is only when these thoughts block out everything else and affect your ability to process other thoughts that it is classified as an obsession. These OCD intrusive thoughts are quite unlike general thought processes and hijack the mind to trigger a response. If you have various forms of OCD, most of you may be ashamed and embarrassed about your condition, but a suitable treatment is a must.

Some of the most common obsessions in OCD are:

  • Fear of contamination (through germs, diseases, etc.)
  • Fear of losing control of an impulse
  • Belief on superstitions related to lucky colour, numbers, etc.
  • The constant fear of losing things

Compulsions, on the contrary, are repetitive behaviours you undertake to drive out the obsessions. However, in most cases, these compulsive behaviours end up causing anxiety within you as they can be time-consuming and demanding.

Though these acts are designed to relieve the stress brought on by an obsession, it’s not always the case. Individuals who suffer from these disorders do know that these actions make no sense, but they are tempted to still act on it to relieve their anxiety.

Similar to obsessions, not all repetitive actions are termed as compulsions, the context of the behaviour is important. 

Some of the most common Compulsions include:

  • Washing hands multiple times 
  • Constantly arranging things in a given order
  • Repeating a body movement (example includes tapping your foot)
  • Checking parts of your physical condition or body

Primary Factors/Causes that Trigger OCD

Genetics tends to play a significant role in various types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Hence, a patient is likely to suffer OCD if a parent or blood relative suffers from the condition.

Some research findings also hold genetics as a responsible factor behind OCD. As per the studies, researchers believe that if OCD runs within your family, there are nearly 25 – 30% chances of you developing the condition. 

Few experts also believe that the symptoms shown in early childhood differ from the ones that are seen during adulthood. As per them, the genes play a major role when OCD starts in childhood (40 – 60%), as compared to adulthood (25 -45%).

In some cases, even an illness or ordinary life stress can trigger the symptoms of OCD.

Other times, the symptoms are usually triggered by stress; the issues are caused due to school, work, personal relationships, or life-altering events. It’s also known that OCD co-occurs with other conditions like-

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Major depressive Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Eating disorders

Risk Factors associated with OCD-

Genetics tends to play a significant role in various types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Hence, a patient is likely to suffer OCD if a parent or blood relative suffers from the condition.

Some research findings also hold genetics as a responsible factor behind OCD. As per the studies, researchers believe that if OCD runs within your family, there are nearly 25 – 30% chances of you developing the condition. 

Few experts also believe that the symptoms shown in early childhood differ from the ones that we see during adulthood. As per them, the genes play a major role when OCD starts in childhood (40 – 60%), as compared to adulthood (25 -45%).

In some cases, even an illness or ordinary life stress can trigger the symptoms of OCD.

Other times, the symptoms are usually triggered by stress; the issues are caused due to school, work, personal relationships, or life-altering events. It’s also known that OCD co-occurs with other conditions like-

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Major depressive Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Eating disorders

How Many Types of OCD are There?

Based on the nature of the symptoms experienced OCD can be divided into different OCD subtypes. There are five main categories of OCD and numerous subtypes within each category. So, before you connect with an expert, ensure to know what are the 5 types of OCD:

  • Contamination
  • Ruminations
  • Intrusive Thoughts
  • Checking
  • Hoarding

Contamination

Here an individual’s fear of contracting something is the obsession and  their need to wash and clean is the compulsion. Individuals with Contamination OCD are preoccupied with fears of illness, germs, and dirt. Usually, they can spend hours thinking about these fears on a regular basis. 

Examples: Resorting to washing and cleaning excessively when using public toilets, shaking hands with others, touching doorknobs/handles, visiting hospitals, etc. (Fear of contracting germs).

As a response to such fears, individuals with Contamination OCD are involved in numerous compulsions in the hope of minimizing anxiety and cleansing themselves of any kind of contaminants. They may even engage in compulsions for hours daily. Cleaning or washing is often undertaken multiple times throughout the day. It often is accompanied by rituals of repetitive washing of hand or body until the individual ‘feels clean’. 

Moreover, compulsions can be in the form of avoidance and reassurance-seeking in a way to eliminate fear and suffering. An individual might avoid certain people, places, and activities they consider might be contaminated. In severe cases, they may even avoid their loved ones too. People with Contamination OCD also seek the reassurance of other people, repeatedly asking for confirmation that something has been cleaned thoroughly or not.

Ruminations

Here an individual often experiences prolonged thinking about any question or theme which leads to being mostly unproductive and undirected. Ruminations are often indulged and not objectionable rather than resisted. It happens in all forms and subtypes of OCD in which an individual engages in long periods of time persisting on the topic of their obsessions, like contamination or mental checking. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender, and may appear a lot differently in different people.

The themes experienced while ruminating are philosophical, religious, or metaphysical in nature. Like, life after death, origins of the universe, etc.

Rumination often ends up causing interferences with the individual’s daily routines that relate to work, personal relationships, etc.

Intrusive Thoughts

Do you ever have intrusive thoughts coming into your head, impartial and apparently from thin air? Here an individual experiences obsessional thoughts that are repetitive, and repugnant in nature. Such thoughts may lead to distress, as the nature of the thought might be upsetting. They may also appear often, which can make the concern unpleasant.

Intrusive thoughts may be violent or disturbing in nature. They may be thoughts of a sexual nature, including fantasies. Moreover, these are not warning messages or red flags but merely thoughts. They can also be about behaviors or fantasies that are considered  unacceptable and abhorrent.

For example, thoughts of causing harm to others or loved ones. Intrusive thoughts often end up causing interferences with the individual’s daily living like work, relationships, etc.

intrusive thoughts ocd

 

The very idea of such thoughts can be horrifying to the individuals. However, these individuals are incapable of acting on these thoughts as they find them revolting and would go to great lengths to prevent them from happening. If you think you have more intrusive thoughts than normal or that you often get stuck on such thoughts, you may be experiencing these disorders.

Some categories of intrusive thoughts are;

  • Relationships– Here the individual obsessively doubts the sustainability and suitability of their relationship.
  • Sexual Thoughts – Here the individual obsessively thinks of sex, to the point of it crippling their social interactions.
  • Magical Thinking – Here the individual believes and is fearful that if they think of something bad, something bad would happen.
  • Religious Thinking – Here the individual often fixates on religion and religious matters.
  • Violent Thoughts – Here the individual obsessive fears of acting upon violent acts against loved ones or other people.

Intrusive thoughts often end up causing interferences with the individual’s daily living like work, relationships, etc.

Checking 

Here an individual’s fear of harm, loss, or death is the obsession, and the need to check is known as a compulsion. 

Checking of gas or electric stove knobs, (fear of causing a fire ), water taps (fear of flooding), door locks (fear of robbery), emails or text messages were written with errors, etc. Checking is often undertaken multiple times throughout the day and ends up being extremely time-consuming. It ends up being extremely time consuming and interferes with daily living like work, relationships, etc.

In conclusion of such obsessive fears, individuals experiencing OCD feel the need to do compulsive behaviors and “check” to ensure the item(s) they are concerned over, are left in the proper place, electronic items or lights are turned off, that emails were written correctly, or that they said the right thing, and a lot more.

Hoarding

Here an individual’s inability to dump or trash purposeless or worn out possessions, save or collect things even when they have no space to keep is known as hoarding. Such items are usually of little or no monetary value, though some individuals collect and save large numbers of valuable items, often seen in piles mixed with other less valuable items. An individual will frequently have an emotional attachment to these items, regardless of monetary value.

There are 3 categories of hoarding.

Preventing harm hoarding – Here, the individual wants to prevent harm, and hence, refuses to throw away things. For example, they may not throw away cans or glass objects, thinking that garbage collectors will be harmed due to those objects.

Deprivation Hoarding – Here, the individual doesn’t throw the object away as they believe that they might need the object for later use or purpose.  For example, they may refuse to throw away old newspapers because they believe they haven’t finished reading or might need it later.

Emotional Hoarding – Here, the individual hoards things because they hold emotional value and is highly significant for them. For example, they would keep old toys and clothes from their childhood as those items hold fond memories.

OCPD vs OCD

While the name for these two types of OCD may seem to be similar, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder types and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are quite different. 

OCD usually involves obsessions that are followed by compulsive behaviours. On the other hand, OCPD describes a set of personality traits that will interfere with a person’s relationships.

OCPD is the extreme need to have things in a certain order, constantly striving for perfection, and having control over almost everything in their lives. This also includes personal relationships. OCD is confined to a set of obsessive compulsions and related thoughts. 

Patients who are suffering from OCD will likely look for help because the symptoms are stressing them out. Patients who are suffering from OCPD may not notice that their characteristics and their personality is rigid.

Also, they don’t realize that the need for perfection can be quite problematic; even if it has destructive effects on their well-being and relationships.

How is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder treated?

Generally, a typical treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder includes a combination of psychotherapy (CBT or ERP), and medications or a combination of both for optimal results.

OCD and OCD related disorders are mental health issues that won’t just go away on its own. The symptoms of OCD can be managed, however, it’s not something that can be ignored or controlled. Repetitive thought patterns and behaviours may intrude and begin controlling your life if you continue to ignore your OCD symptoms. If you do not seek treatment, your life will be disrupted by episodes at the advanced stages of OCD.

Accepting that you have a problem and visiting a doctor is the first step towards OCD recovery. They will conduct an examination and analyze the symptoms that lead to physical compulsions. Your primary doctor will then refer you to a mental health specialist like a therapist, psychologist, therapist, or social worker, and they will create an efficient treatment plan for you. If the medical professional thinks you need medication, then they will refer you to a psychiatrist.

Generally, a combination of talk therapy and medication is effective for patients with thought disorders such as OCD. Long term treatment may be required, however, it has been found to be highly effective in improving the quality of life for OCD sufferers.

Psychotherapy

It primarily helps in relieving obsessions and compulsions. The two most effective psychology treatments include – Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP – a type of CBT).

Cognitive-behavioural therapy: OCD is a vicious cycle that includes obsessions, anxiety, compulsions, and relief. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that provides you with tools to think, act, and react to your negative and obsessive thought patterns. Ultimately the goal is to replace any negative thoughts with positive/productive ones. 

Exposure and Response treatment: ERP therapy is designed in a way that helps the individual control and tolerate the anxiety associated with obsessive thoughts and simultaneously not allowing them to act on a compulsion to reduce that anxiety. With consistent practice, the anxiety reduces and the individual feels better. This is a type of cognitive treatment, and here, you will be exposed to situations that trigger your OCD.

The exposure will be gradual, and it will help you cope with the situation and teach you to respond to it, as well. The process of ERP will either be done one on one or in group therapy.  It will help you identify and deal with your OCD triggers better. 

Medications

To cut down the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, experts and medical practitioners often prescribe antidepressants alongside the therapy sessions. One of the most common antidepressants often recommended by experts is called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). It has been known to benefit many individuals by reducing their obsessions and compulsions. 

If the medical professional thinks you need medicines for your OCD related disorders, then antidepressants are prescribed. This doesn’t mean you are depressed, but the medicines are known to help with OCD as well. Your doctor will decide on your medications once they are aware of your age, current health status, and symptoms.

OCD medicines take some time to kick in, and the doctor will make you aware of various side effects like dry mouth and nausea. If you are having any suicidal thoughts as a result of your OCD medication, contact your doctor immediately.

You must stick to your prescription and take your medicines on schedule. Once the timeline for your medicines is done, you have to stop taking them; you need to consult with the doctor, they will tell you how to taper off safely. It’s suggested that you don’t stop taking medication cold turkey because it may trigger a relapse or severe withdrawal symptoms

Other treatments:

There are times where OCD subtypes don’t respond well to therapy or medication. Some of the treatments that can treat severe forms of OCD are:

Deep brain stimulation: This process includes surgically implanting electrodes in the brain, to stimulate it.

Electroconvulsive therapy: This is an intense treatment that includes attaching electrodes to the head and giving you shocks to induce seizures. Through the shock, the brain releases hormones such as serotonin.

The treatment goal for OCD and  OCD related disorders is to retrain your brain and control the symptoms, with little to no medication.

Self-help tips for the management of OCD

The first step to managing the symptoms of OCD is to make yourself aware of the triggers that lead to compulsions and obsessions. Once you have a list of all the thoughts and situations that provoke the symptoms, you can keep track of them and also make note of the intensity of fear and distress that you experience. It really helps to ease your distress when you can anticipate the occurrence of your obsessive and compulsive beforehand.

Here are a few more tips that can help you resist your compulsions arising due to different types of OCD.

Challenge obsessive thoughts

Everybody has to deal with unpleasant thoughts and worries at some point, but with OCD, getting rid of those anxiety-provoking thoughts can be extremely tough. Repressing these thoughts may seem like the best way to deal with them, but doing that is almost impossible. It will worsen the anxiety and cause the thought to come up more frequently.

To deal with such thoughts, one can follow these strategies.

Noting down the obsessive thoughts – This will make the thought lose its power and you will see it disappear gradually.

Schedule a time to worry about them – As suppressing these thoughts may be difficult, you can schedule a ten-minute period once or twice a day to focus only on them. Then, you have to ensure that the rest of the day is free from your obsessions.

Stay connected with your family and friends

When you are alone and isolated from your family and friends, you feel powerless and that can make your symptoms worse. Therefore, it is crucial to spend time with your close ones to make your worries seem less threatening.

Moreover, you can also participate in an OCD support group.  This will not only enable you to come in contact with people who are dealing with similar problems but also share and learn from each other’s experiences.

Make lifestyle changes

Living a healthy life helps a lot in managing worries, fears and OCD compulsions. Some lifestyle changes that you should be focusing on are

Balanced diet and regular exercise – Regular exercise and a balanced diet can be quite effective in keeping anxieties at bay. To derive the most benefit, try to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days of the week.

Adequate rest – Getting proper sleep prepares you for the day as well as prevents anxious thoughts and feelings. Moreover, you will be able to keep your emotional balance better if you are well-rested.

Avoid alcohol and smoking – Although it may seem like drinking and smoking are relieving you of your worries and anxieties, they will rather worsen your symptoms once their effects wear off. The nicotine present in cigarettes is a powerful stimulant and can lead to higher levels of anxiety and OCD symptoms.

How can you support someone with OCD?

You must communicate with your loved ones if they are suffering from OCD, that you understand the difference between the symptoms of OCD and the person. Phrases like “I know this is not you, it’s your OCD” can go a long way and help the patient reduce their stress levels and anxiety. It will also help reduce any guilt or low self-esteem issues.

support someone with ocd

Here are some ways you can support a loved one suffering from OCD-

  • Support and encourage the patient so that they talk about their disorders. This will help you learn how it affects the person, and how to be supportive as well. However, don’t indulge in conversations about the logic behind OCD. People suffering from this disorder know the compulsions and obsessions behind OCD and they know it’s excessive and irrational.

 

  • Motivate the patient to seek professional help. OCD is a condition that won’t go away unless you seek professional help and treatment. You can help the person locate an experienced therapist and offer to be involved during the treatment.

 

  • Normalize OCD discussion in the household. Don’t make it awkward or shy away from talking about the person’s compulsions and obsessions. Let them know that there is nothing wrong with talking about it and seeking professional help. When you spot an OCD patient and make it comfortable for them to talk about it, it will help them break any secrecy about OCD

 

  • Notice improvements and acknowledge them, no matter how small, and motivate the person to reward themselves for their progress.

 

  • Various obsessive-compulsive disorder types can cause exhaustion to the person and it leads to a lack of motivation. If the patient is not encouraged to be better they will consider stopping the treatment. If you want to support someone with different types of obsession disorders, then you have to remind them of the positive results they have gained through the recovery process and encourage them to go on.

There are a variety of treatment options available for OCD based on the type and symptoms you are experiencing. From Neurofeedback treatment, psychotherapy and medications OCD symptoms can be managed and controlled. 

However, based on the nature of your symptoms there are a variety of treatment options available and tailor-made specifically to the type of OCD you are suffering. From Neurofeedback treatment, psychotherapy and medications OCD symptoms can be managed and controlled. 

For more details on how OCD treatment can help you, call us on +919611194949.