Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
I have a feeling we are all somewhat obsessive compulsive.
Don't we all have things we worry about, or thoughts that sometimes are just hard to shake? Don't most of us have some obsessive compulsive tendencies when we are stressed, anxious or feeling a little overwhelmed?
Haven't you sometimes felt worried you did not lock a door and feel compelled to go back and check?
Isn't it a little obsessive compulsive for a new parent to check a new born baby again to make sure the infant is ok, even though he or she just left the baby's room a few minutes before?
Did you ever have a lapse in memory and forget whether you paid a bill and have to go back and check, even though, there is part of you that knows that you did? Isn't that a little obsessive-compulsive?
Have you ever had an important meeting set for the next morning and had this urge to check the alarm again just to make sure you have it set right? Just a little obsessive-compulsive, right?
When do these situations pop up? When do we find ourselves worrying a little more than normal and feeling a stronger urge to check it out to be sure? Don't these obsessive-compulsive tendencies with obsessive worry and the need to repeat behaviors come more often when we are feeling some anxiety.. maybe when we are taking on too much or overwhelm ourselves?
When we are feeling a little overwhelmed over some issue, when we are not quite feeling ourselves, when we are facing some new situation or something that could be very important, isn't that when some of these obsessive compulsive tendencies to worry come to the surface?
Of course, we tend to diagnosis obsessive compulsive disorder when a person's obsessing and worrying is extreme and their urge to check is ongoing and repeated many times to the point it interferes with normal life, whatever is considered normal.
There are some things a person could say justifies worry. A friend of mine recently had through triple by-pass surgery, and is now rather obsessed with every bite of food he puts in his mouth. When he grocery shops, he thoroughly checks every ingredient. Now grocery shopping takes up to 2 hours to do! Is that obsessive-compulsive?
So the point is, obsessive compulsive can be subjective opinion. When someone is referred to me for obsessive compulsive behaviors, the obsessive worry and compulsive behaviors are usually at a level where they are considered a significant problem in the person's life. It is the degree of symptoms that determines whether we call this obsessive compulsive disorder. I look at the frequency, duration and magnitude of the symptoms as part of the process of determining whether a person is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.
Some may say the behaviors are irrational! Hmmm, another interesting term that begs for definition, but is yet so relative. Most of my obsessive compulsive clients are very troubled by their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior. They see themselves as weird and crazy. But they are not crazy. They just need to find out the source and learn to deal with the symptoms effectively.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is most often seen by the medical field and psychiatrists as being the result of some inherent chemical imbalance. Research indicates in the case of more severe cases of OCD, patients may have a lower level of Serotonin, a neurotransmitting fluid in the brain. In these cases, medication would be necessary and most likely needed for the rest of the patient's life. While I will agree this may be true for the more severe cases of OCD, I have seen many patients respond well to appropriate therapies which help them learn to identify issues and conflicts they have avoided. They learn effective ways of coping with stress and conflicts, practice more to identify and deal with emotions and feelings especially anger, while at the same time, learning to break down their compulsive behaviors.
Obsessive compulsive disorders are often symbolic representations of real conflict taking place in a person's life for which they do not have coping skills or experience to deal with. For example, (I will be brief so as not to confuse you), I had a client who was fearful of contamination. Yes, everywhere she went, she found herself coming into contact with something that sparked her fear and obsessive worries of being contaminated. It might be a truck with a warning on the side she could not fully read. It might be a new cell tower reminding her of a technology she does not know much about, so she fears contamination by some kind of radiation. She might buy a new car and become terrified to find it has "on-star satellite" technology built in so she runs away from the dealership. One could get lost in all of these examples of things she worries about, but the end result is she avoids going places and when she does, has to rush home to bathe and wash her clothes repeatedly to prevent contamination.
OK, so this is an obsessive compulsive disorder, it is definitely intrusive in her life. But is the real issue contamination from some outside source, or is the obsessive-compulsive behavior really just symbolic of some greater conflict, some more painful emotions in her real life?
In the case of this obsessive compulsive client, we were able to desensitize her to many of the places and situations she feared. We were careful to present the things she was afraid of in small steps and educate her as to what they were and they could not hurt her. BUT, what really made the difference in her success was she began to realize what she really felt contaminated by was ANGER. Her obsessive compulsive fears of contamination and her need to compulsively clean herself after exposure was really about her anger with others in her life. These people had controlled her all her life, but even more so, it was anger toward herself for ALLOWING people to control her. Her obsessive compulsive disorder began to weaken as she began realizing there really was a source and she was not crazy. If you ever wish to talk more about these issues, feel free to join us in Support Group on-line or ask for Private Coaching.