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Overview of OCD

Goal

To understand what OCD is and how it is treated.

What is OCD? (Derisley et al., pp. 21; 23; 27)

OCD is a disorder associated with obsessions and compulsions that can affect people of all ages. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that keep coming back and are difficult to stop. Compulsions refer to carrying out certain behaviors (e.g., checking, ordering) over and over again. These behaviors don’t make sense, yet the individual feels they must carry them out. Other compulsions are carried out to reduce or cancel out an obsession since obsessions are often stressful and distressing. Obsessions and compulsions are often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, guilt, disgust, and shame.

OCD can cause an individual to want to avoid particular situations or things that might trigger an obsession. When these obsessions and compulsions disrupt the individual’s life, cause them distress, and occupy more than an hour each day, they are said to have OCD. Here are some common obsessions and compulsions:

Obsessions Compulsions
Worrying about dirt or germs Checking things over and over again
Worrying about hurting other people or about you being hurt Squaring things up, or arranging things so that they are “just right”
Thinking about doing something wrong Counting
Worrying about bad things happening Touching, tapping, or rubbing things
Having magical thoughts or superstitions Washing and cleaning
Wanting things to be in a particular order Asking questions and asking for reassurance
Feeling as if you must say, do, or remember something Collecting and keeping lots of things that you don’t need
Worrying about offending God Re-reading or re-writing things
Unwanted sexual thoughts Repeating and re-doing things

Treating OCD (Derisley et al., pp. 16; 28; 40)

OCD is a very treatable problem. There are two types of treatments that have been proven effective for helping people with OCD-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and certain medications. This guide is based on principles of CBT. CBT is based on the idea that how we feel is influenced by how we think and behave. The good news is that we can learn how to use our thoughts and behavior (i.e., how to think and do things differently) in order to feel differently about things. In other words, CBT is about learning to use your thoughts and behavior to help you feel better about things that you might feel upset or worried about.

Which of the following are examples of compulsions?

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