Dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is extremely distressing for some people, especially as it is a condition that many people deal with long-term. Treatment for symptoms of OCD at The Summit Wellness Group through therapy and medication can help to minimize and manage those recurring thoughts and behaviors that are characteristic of OCD to provide clients with an improved quality of life.
Prevalence of OCD
Treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder focuses first on helping the client to recognize that their obsessive thoughts and beliefs are false. In doing this, clients can then begin to work through the repetitive behaviors they once believed were necessary. Those behaviors often take control over every aspect of life, and not doing them can cause extreme distress. Through different techniques such as behavioral therapy, medication, and mindfulness, clients are able to reduce the discomfort and disruption caused by their obsessions and compulsion. Currently, about 1.2% of Americans suffer from OCD, however less than half of them seek any sort of treatment.
OCD is classified as a type of anxiety disorder, and this can greatly increase the risk of developing some sort of substance abuse disorder. Around 24% of people with OCD struggle with alcohol abuse and 18% deal with drug abuse. Because of the distress caused by obsessive and intrusive thoughts, many people may try and self-medicate to escape from them, but ultimately substance abuse can actually make them worse and may also increase the occurrence of other mental health conditions such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. People with OCD may also experience a tic disorder that may involve movement, speech, or certain behaviors.
What Does OCD Feel Like?
Intrusive thoughts are like a plague on the mind, and ruminating on those thoughts until they become compulsions is inevitable. Though some may know and understand that the thoughts in their brain are unrealistic and false, they can’t help but feel that if they don’t lock the front door 13 times and turn the lights on and off 13 times, something really bad is going to happen. Some people may even experience horrific, vivid, and gruesome thoughts that make them question their subconscious desires, while others have an extreme fear of germs and can’t leave their house for fear of immediate death. OCD can be an extremely isolating disorder because many people simply don’t understand that it’s not just some silly habit of extreme and repetitive hand washing and that if not completed, the distressing thoughts will only become worse and worse.
Symptoms of OCD can be split into two categories: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions consist of the repetitive and intrusive thoughts that induce feelings of anxiety, while compulsions are the repetitive behaviors that occur in response to that anxiety. Some of the symptoms of OCD can include:
- Intense fear of germs or contamination leads to excessive and repetitive cleaning.
- Thoughts about sex, religion, or harm that the person knows are wrong and doesn’t necessarily want but can’t stop thinking about.
- Aggressive feelings of harm towards themselves or others.
- Needing everything to be in a specific order.
- Repeatedly checking things, like the stove or locks on doors and windows.
- Compulsive counting.
- An inability to control one’s thoughts, even if he or she recognizes that they come from OCD.
- Spending upwards of an hour each day focusing only on these thoughts or actions.
- Feeling brief relief from performing these compulsions, however, this relief does not bring pleasure and does not last long. Continuation of these compulsions may actually cause severe forms of distress and may increase anxiety.
What Causes OCD?
Research has not found any single specific cause of OCD, however, there is some evidence that a combination of factors (genetics, brain structure/function, and environment) play a role in its development. People with a family history of OCD or other anxiety disorders are at an increased risk for developing OCD, as are those who experienced trauma and obsessive-compulsive symptoms at an early age. There is also some evidence that the compulsions can be learned behaviors, so if a child watches their parent wash their hands excessively and bleach every single surface in the house daily, that child is at an increased risk for believing those behaviors are normal and actually doing them as well. Learning those behaviors and then actually forming those habits can cause OCD to develop.
Importance of Treating OCD
Both OCD and addiction involve a type of fixation on an idea or act, and combining the two can lead to worsened compulsions and drug use. Seeking treatment for OCD, especially at a dual-diagnosis facility when substance abuse is combined, is critical in effectively treating both disorders and helping the client achieve long-term recovery. OCD is also often accompanied by other conditions, so a treatment that highlights all areas of need is the only way to make sure that symptoms are properly managed and relapse does not occur.
At The Summit Wellness Group, we use a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication management, and holistic therapies that focus on anxiety management to treat clients with OCD. Medications such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are effective in reducing negative symptoms of OCD. Medication is often combined with CBT or exposure and response prevention therapy to address patterns of thinking and prevent compulsions from being allowed to take place. Both are effective in reducing both obsessions and compulsions in these individuals.
We have also found that bringing holistic therapies, such as meditation, yoga, and art therapy has helped clients improve overall wellbeing and create positive habits that help to reduce compulsions long-term.
For individuals struggling with comorbid OCD and substance abuse or other conditions, we offer comprehensive treatment programs that target all aspects of distress within the individual in a structured and flexible way. These include:
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): This plan is the most flexible for individuals struggling with OCD and substance abuse as it only requires 9 hours, split up into three days a week at one of our two facilities. We have a day and an evening program to best fit your schedule, making it easy to incorporate into your week.
- Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): For a more intensive program, PHP involves 30 hours of program participation each week while clients are still able to return home at the end of the day.
- Sober Living: This program is great for those who do best surrounded by a support system of people dealing with similar things. Housing is located close to our treatment facilities for convenience.
Symptoms of OCD are distressing, and when combined with substance abuse, they can completely dominate your life. Treatment is the only way to improve symptoms for the long term and regain control. Though many people isolate themselves and wait until their symptoms are at their worst before seeking treatment, early diagnosis and intervention are critical in preventing substance abuse and minimizing symptoms before they reach that point.
If you are experiencing distress due to OCD, or if your life has been negatively altered or impaired in any way, The Summit Wellness Group is ready and dedicated to helping you get your life back. Our treatments are individually designed to meet your specific needs, to tackle all co-occurring conditions together for the best outcome, and to help you remain in recovery even after leaving our program.