General doubts about OCD
During the month of August, we have talked about general doubts about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
What causes OCD? What are your symptoms? What types of obsessions are the most common? How can it be overcome? What are the main doubts of the readers?
Obsessions and Compulsions, the symptoms of OCD
The main and defining symptoms of OCD are obsessions and compulsions. You can have only obsessions (the so-called Pure Obsessive Disorder) or, when the anxiety is even greater, both (OCD).
Obsessions are repetitive, constant, and intrusive thoughts about a subject. They cause great fear and suffering. They can occupy the whole day, even if there are brief moments of distraction.
Obsessive thoughts cover a large number of possible topics: relationships, the possibility of hurting someone, what others will think of you, sexual orientation, guilt, sin, contamination, counting and ordering, etc.
Compulsions or rituals are repetitive acts that the person performs in order to calm their anxiety. This relief, however, is a short term one and usually becomes counterproductive.
Compulsions can aggravate OCD by suggesting that if these rituals are not performed, something bad will happen. This increases anxiety. And the compulsions are becoming more demanding: you have to do more and more to feel the same relief.
This condemns the person to perform these rituals constantly, wasting a lot of time and energy.
Compulsions can be behavioral (washing hands, placing an object, performing an action…), but also mental (repeating words, numbers, checking…).
Both obsessions and compulsions are one way anxiety manifests. If the treatment focuses on curbing them, this anxiety will find another way to manifest itself, creating new obsessions and compulsions.
Therefore, an effective treatment focuses on the underlying anxiety, because when the anxiety disappears,both obsessions and compulsions will do it as well.
Which is the CAUSE of OCD
There are two fundamental causes that explain the appearance of OCD and its maintenance over time: genetics and circumstances that produce anxiety.
In the first case, genetics predisposes but does not condemn: one can be vulnerable or have a tendency to OCD but not suffer from it.
People with OCD have usually experienced some stressful or traumatic situation in childhood or adolescence: bullying at school, a distressing family situation, psychological or sexual abuse, etc.
The child grows up learning to repress their emotions as a security measure. They begin to rationalize their needs and their way of life, reserving everything for themselves, developing guilt and abandoning their true personality.
This leads to a psycho-biological block that, if not released, will end up generating an obsessive personality. By increasing anxiety, the person may end up developing OCD.
In early adulthood, the first symptoms may begin to appear: obsessions, rituals, or inability to perform certain acts.
If an escape route for the collapsed nervous system is not found, the accumulated anxiety and inhibition lead to a high state of internal tension that can lead to the development of OCD.
When anxiety and obsessive thoughts reach their highest level, OCD appears. The person also develops a series of mental or behavioral rituals that only when performed allow a brief moment of tranquility.
But if the anxiety that causes it continues, the OCD is perpetuated, even if the person tries to control their obsessions and compulsions. Therefore, to combat OCD you have to focus on the anxiety that causes it.
Is it possible to overcome OCD?
Clearly, no one can start therapy with a guarantee of a cure for OCD. Overcoming OCD depends on many factors and circumstances.
However, having OCD does not mean being condemned to a life of unsuccessful treatments and constant medication.
There can be a great improvement with a powerful and holistic treatment, which does not focus on the symptoms (obsessions and compulsions), but on the causes of their appearance and maintenance (anxiety and mental blocks).
At IPITIA, based on our therapeutic experience, we believe that OCD can be significantly improved with the right treatment and with a lot of effort. And, in some cases, there are people who can achieve to live a life free of obsessions and compulsions.
We analyze the causes of the appearance and maintenance of OCD: the anxiety that causes obsessions and compulsions and psycho-biological blocks, as well as emotions inhibited by the rigidity typical of people with OCD.
We work to give people back their lost instinct, to give them new spaces to be themselves, to give them back the ability to face their fears and take a stand in life.
We propose “training” the patient in drive activation and focus, to make the patient go through a series of vital processes that allow them to start putting those biochemical and cognitive aspects that were blocked into motion.
The most important part of the therapeutic process comes when the patient has to consider what their true life goals are and start fighting for them.
We combat anxiety and seek a way out of the environment that causes it, and a recovery of the person’s true desires. Consequently, their anxiety level drops and, with it, their obsessions and compulsions as well.
How do I know if I have OCD?
The person who diagnoses an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the mental health professional (psychologist or psychiatrist).
However, you can see a mental health professional if you suspect that you have OCD.
These are some keys that you can look for:
- High level of anxiety.
- Obsessive and intrusive thoughts that last for hours.
These two symptoms are the most important.
They occur whenever there is an OCD. But you can also have:
- Constant doubts about a topic.
- Avoidance of places, actions or things.
- In the most severe cases, compulsions (rituals performed to calm anxiety or prevent something bad from happening)
- Magical thinking (“if I don’t do this action, something bad will happen”)
If you think you may have OCD, you can contact us.
Questions from our readers
Why can’t I stop having obsessions and compulsions?
People with OCD often feel like their obsessions and compulsions just can’t stop. The reason for this lies in anxiety.
Obsessions and compulsions are a symptom of OCD, but they are not the cause of its appearance. The cause is the anxiety that manifests itself in this way.
The person with OCD has great anxiety as a result of great stress and dissatisfaction. You live in a suffocating environment in which you go through situations (family, work, romantic, etc.) that you do not want, but from which you do not know how to get out, or you even think you can’t.
This produces a high level of ongoing anxiety, which leads to obsessions and compulsions.
We usually find that many people and even many therapies focus on controlling symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. But as the anxiety that produces them is still there, the obsessions and compulsions can’t stop.
In fact, the person may stop having one obsession or compulsion, but start having others, because the anxiety has found a new way to manifest itself.
In order to stop obsessions and compulsions, you have to stop focusing on them, and concentrate on combating the anxiety that produces them.
This will frequently require making important changes in the person’s life, to escape from those situations that produce that anxiety and unhappiness.
Why don’t thoughts go away if I don’t have anxiety?
Sometimes, people with OCD manage to reduce their anxiety and still continue to have some obsessive thoughts.
The cause of this is that the anxiety, although it has been reduced, is still present. And not only anxiety but also mental blocks.
First, it’s important to know that some people with OCD misinterpret having less anxiety with no longer having anxiety.
People with OCD are used to such a high level of anxiety that when this level drops, some people mistake it for a complete disappearance.
On the other hand, although the anxiety decreases, some of the factors that explain the maintenance of OCD are still present and that is why the obsessions do not disappear (although they have been reduced).
For example, you may be leading an unfulfilling life that hasn’t changed even though your anxiety has reduced. Or it could also be that there are aspects of your personality that are inhibited: affectivity, assertiveness…
This leads people with OCD to not be themselves and, therefore, an internal tension is maintained between their behavior and their true desires or needs.
The current situation has improved and the anxiety has decreased (but not disappeared). However, as these elements remain, the obsessions can continue (albeit milder). If the anxiety returns, the obsessions will take hold.
For a comprehensive and effective treatment of OCD, the therapy must address the underlying anxiety, break down the person’s blocks, and help them achieve their life goals.
I have had OCD for years. Will it ever go away?
Many people with OCD spend years suffering from it. During those years, they may have tried different therapies and even given up hope.
When you have suffered from OCD for so many years, it can tend to become chronic. In fact, many mental health professionals say that OCD is chronic and can only be medicated and learned to cope. This further undermines the patient’s hope.
At IPITIA, based on our therapeutic experience, we do not see it that way. With forceful therapy, we have seen many patients have very significant improvement after years of suffering from OCD.
We have also seen even some cases of people who have managed to lead a life free of obsessions.
Of course, OCD does not “go away”, it does not disappear with time. Instead, you need forceful therapy that gets to the root of the problem: the underlying anxiety that causes OCD.
When the anxiety begins to decrease, the obsessions and compulsions decrease as well.
If only the symptoms (obsessions and compulsions) and not the anxiety that causes them are treated, these symptoms may reappear or transform.
Therefore, it is important to carry out a deep and holistic therapy that focuses on anxiety and on achieving significant life changes.
Can time ease OCD?
OCD cannot be relieved over time. In fact, time can make OCD worse.
OCD is a disorder that generates great suffering. It is mainly caused by a high level of internal anxiety.
The person with OCD usually has experienced a stressful or traumatic situation in their childhood or adolescence. They have grown getting used to inhibiting their emotions, adapting to the world and living rationalizing each of their actions.
All this creates mental blocks that, when anxiety increases, can lead to the appearance of OCD.
The person with OCD lives an unfulfilling life. They have grown up repressing their desires and putting the needs of others ahead of their own. All this increases their internal anxiety level.
For all these reasons, time does not cure OCD. Instead, not taking into action prolongs unnecessarily the time of suffering under the tyranny of obsessions and compulsions. And also the time living a life that is not the desired one.
In addition, the earlier OCD is detected, the better the prognosis. Furthermore, the treatment will be faster and more effective.