Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

In the television series "Monk" the detective Adrian Monk brilliantly portrayed by Tony Shaloub can’t resist the temptation to clean everything in sight. His misadventures are often portrayed as humorous and the fact that he is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, doesn’t distract Monk from being a great detective. Unfortunately not everyone who suffers from OCD can cope as well as Adrian Monk.

In fact a majority of them may not even know that they have OCD. It has been estimated that 1 out 50 adolescents and adults are thought to have OCD. Obsessive Compulsive disorder isn’t to be confused with being meticulous or with the common stresses and anxieties that beset everyone.

To be diagnosed with OCD the DSM-IV criteria states that a person has to be suffering either obsessive or compulsive behavior or both. Obsessions are defined as thoughts and images that go well beyond everyday worries. Compulsions are repetitive actions to reduce the anxiety caused by these obsessions. Common symptoms of OCD are repeated hand washing, hoarding, specific counting systems, touching, ordering.

Treatment of OCD is best handled by trained professionals. A combination of psychological treatment and medication or a combination of the two. The person undergoing treatment has to take care of himself and ask the help of family and friends in therapy. If you think that you are obsessing about dirt and compulsively cleaning after touching any surface here are some common treatment techniques:

Exposure and Ritual Prevention. Or ERP this involves gradually learning to tolerate the previous causes of obsessions. For example someone who can’t bear to leave a room dirty will be asked by the psychiatrist to leave litter on the floor. Sessions may last up to 20 weeks for the immunity to take hold. If you are afraid of the influence of rock and roll music try listening to it everyday until you no longer fear it. 

Scheduled Obsessing. The patient tries to schedule the time he or she can worry about his or her obsessions. Try to postpone worrying about the state of the world’s economy until your scheduled ‘worry’ time.

Loop Tape. Record all of your obsessions and anxieties in a tape or CD. Listen to this tape constantly until there is no more anxiety and you mostly feel bored with listening to yourself. 

Cognitive therapy. This type of therapy works by analyzing the thoughts and reasoning behind the obsessions of an OCD patient. You should identify and label each obsession and compulsion for what they are. Try to be an impartial observer and devalue the obsessive feelings.

Medication. Your doctor may prescribe selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). They are the most commonly used and the most researched. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft are some of the well known medicines for OCD. You may have some side effects to one drug but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the others will not work for you. Again consult with an actual expert in OCD to prescribe your medication.

Coping with OCD may be a lifetime struggle but it doesn’t have to debilitating. Like any disease treating this disorder has to be taken a step at a time. The important thing to remember is that you are not be blamed for having this sickness. Overcoming the initial loathing at being unable to overcome your obsessions is the key to an effective treatment.