How to overcome OCD: Tips to deal with obsessive compulsive disorder

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Written By Margonoe Tumindax

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Among many mental health illnesses that exist in today’s times, OCD is prevalent and sometimes left undetected. An expert weighs in to tell you how to overcome OCD and much more!

Awareness of the importance of mental health is growing these days and we’ve heard a lot about illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or stress. However, we rarely talk about other forms of mental health issues that silently kill the quality of life of so many people. To promote mental health awareness, it is paramount to illuminate the complexities of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), a condition that silently affects millions worldwide.

By unraveling the intricacies of this illness, understanding its warning signs, and advocating for effective management strategies, we can help those who are dealing with OCD and empathise with the challenges they face regularly.

What is OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition characterised by intrusive, distressing thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours or mental acts (compulsions). These actions are undertaken in an attempt to alleviate anxiety but frequently put individuals in a cycle of temporary relief and persistent fear, psychiatrist Dr Ankita Priyadarshini tells HealthShots.

Understand ways to overcome OCD with these tips!

Warning signs and symptoms of OCD

Some of the warning signs and symptoms of OCD include:

1. Intrusive thoughts

These thoughts are more than passing worries; they are persistent, distressing, and often irrational fears that invade one’s mind. Examples include fearing harm to loved ones, contamination, or doubts about safety, leading to heightened anxiety.

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2. Compulsive behaviour

Compulsions manifest as repetitive, ritualistic behaviour performed in response to obsessive thoughts. These actions may involve excessive handwashing, counting, checking, or arranging items in a specific manner. The rigidity of these behaviours is a key aspect of diagnosis.

3. Impact on daily life

Work performance may suffer, relationships may be strained due to time-consuming rituals, and individuals may avoid certain situations or places that trigger anxiety.

4. Emotional distress

The emotional toll is profound, with individuals experiencing heightened anxiety, guilt, or shame.

5. Avoidance behaviour

To mitigate anxiety, those with OCD may adopt avoidance strategies. This can include steering clear of specific places, people, or activities that trigger obsessive thoughts, inadvertently limiting their life experiences and opportunities.

Also read: Depression: 8 signs for Early Detection and Treatment

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Treatment and management of OCD

Some of the treatment options available include:

1. Medication

Antidepressants, particularly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly prescribed. These medications help regulate serotonin levels, addressing the chemical imbalances associated with OCD. It is important to note that medication alone may not provide a complete solution, and its effectiveness varies from person to person.

2. Therapies

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a cornerstone in OCD treatment. Through structured sessions, individuals work with therapists to identify and challenge negative thought patterns.

3. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)

It is a subset of CBT, that involves gradually confronting feared situations without engaging in compulsive behaviours, allowing individuals to rewire their responses to triggers.

How to overcome OCD
Expressing your feelings and talking to professionals can help curb mental health issues like OCD. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Combination therapy

A combination of medication and therapy often proves most effective. Medication can help alleviate symptoms, making it easier for individuals to engage in and benefit from therapeutic interventions. The synergy between medication and therapy enhances overall treatment outcomes.

5. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Incorporating mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga fosters self-awareness and a sense of inner calm. These techniques empower individuals to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and gain better control over their thoughts and behaviours.

6. Lifestyle modifications

Implementing positive lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep, contributes to overall well-being. These adjustments can complement formal treatment approaches, promoting resilience and mental health.

7. Family involvement

Involving family members in the treatment process can enhance support networks. Educating loved ones about OCD and its management helps create a more understanding environment, fostering empathy and reducing interpersonal stressors.

8. Group therapy

Group therapy sessions provide a supportive community where individuals can share experiences, strategies, and coping mechanisms. This sense of shared understanding can alleviate feelings of isolation and contribute to the overall healing process.

Day-to-day techniques to deal with obsessive compulsive disorder

Some other daily techniques that can be easily practised by people include:

1. Mindfulness practices

Regular mindfulness practices, including deep breathing exercises and grounding techniques, offer individuals tools to stay present and manage anxiety, disrupting the cycle of obsessive thoughts and compulsions.

2. Follow a structured routine

Establishing and adhering to a structured daily routine provides predictability and stability, reducing uncertainty and minimizing triggers that may exacerbate symptoms.

3. Build a support system

Open communication with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups is essential. Sharing experiences and feelings fosters understanding and empathy, reinforcing the sense that individuals with OCD are not alone in their journey.

4. Find hobbies and distractions

Engaging in fulfilling activities and hobbies serves as a positive outlet for energy and attention, redirecting focus away from obsessive thoughts and contributing to a more balanced, enjoyable life.

Ways to prevent OCD relapse

Treating mental health illnesses is never a one-time thing. People need to keep in touch with healthcare professionals to keep their issues from relapsing.

1. Regular check-ups

Consistent appointments with mental health professionals ensure ongoing evaluation and adjustment of treatment plans. Regular check-ups provide an opportunity to address emerging symptoms and make necessary modifications to maintain progress.

2. Early intervention

Recognising and addressing emerging symptoms promptly is crucial in preventing their escalation. A proactive approach to mental health care involves staying attuned to one’s well-being.

Break the stigma around OCD

It is imperative to dispel misconceptions surrounding mental health. OCD is not a mere personality quirk but a legitimate medical condition that demands understanding and support. By acknowledging its prevalence and discussing treatment openly, we can collectively dismantle the societal barriers preventing individuals from seeking help, fostering an environment of empathy and acceptance.

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