September 4, 2011
By Tanya Glover
Coping With Your OCD
As someone who suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder I understand how frustrating it can be to deal with. Each night I lie down in my bed and get comfortable and I am not there for one minute before I wonder if I have turned off the oven or if all the doors are locked. I obsess over small things like if my cat’s water bowl is full or if the closet light is turned off. This is what OCD is all about and over the years I have found ways to cope with this condition that I would like to share in hopes of others being able to benefit from my experience.
What is OCD?
OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is a type of anxiety disorder. While there are some people who would call themselves neat freaks, that does not mean that they have OCD. This disorder is basically an obsession (fear of touching another person because you are afraid of getting germs) with a compulsion (constant hand washing due to fear of germs). The obsession is a thought issue while the compulsion is the routine done in order to calm your obsession. As I said above, for me it is checking. I check doors, lights, and ovens. I even have to triple check to make sure my four year old is sleeping in a position where his face is not buried in his pillow as I am obsessed with the thought of him suffocating. The symptoms can be different for everyone. Some people have obsessive thoughts about something they think may have happened. For example, a woman drives by a pedestrian and looks back to see if he made it across the street but he is already out of sight. She may turn around to make sure she did not hit him (irrational thought as if she hit someone she would have noticed). She finds that she did not hit anyone and continues on her way. However, the thought grips her again and she must turn around to make sure she really didn’t hit anyone. This could go on for hours for someone suffering from OCD.
At What Stage in Life Does OCD Set In?
Typically, if you have OCD it will be noticeable at a fairly young age. Rarely does an adult have a sudden onset of OCD symptoms when they were never there before. For me, I realized there was something wrong when I was only 10 years old. I was given the job of caring for a dog for someone in my apartment complex while she was away on vacation. I had to walk across the entire complex at night and walk the dog. Once I did my job and locked the door I could not stop going back and checking to make sure it was really locked. This went on for over an hour until my father came looking for me because I took so long. My parents never saw the signs and just figured I was an odd child. It was not until I was nearly 20 that I was diagnosed with OCD. For those of you with children, make sure that if you do see any peculiar behavior you take it seriously. It may be more than an oddity.
Medical Treatments for OCD
Once you are diagnosed with OCD your doctor or therapist may want you to try drug treatment. Typically, the first types of drugs that are tried are antidepressants. The reason for this is simple. One theory of why people develop OCD is that they have low levels of serotonin in their bodies. Antidepressants can help raise the levels of serotonin in your body and therefore take away some of the symptoms of OCD. For some people this type of drug treatment works. If you decide to give it a shot then be sure to give the meds a chance to work for you. It may take up to a week for you to notice a difference. If you do not think it is working, do not just stop taking the medication. Talk with your doctor first as all that may be needed is a dosage change. Also, there are some antidepressants that you do not want to quit cold turkey; you must be weaned off instead. My personal experience is with taking the drug Paxil. I took it for over a month and did not like the side effects so I spoke with my doctor and I was taken off the drug. My choice was to go it drug free but this is not the best decision for everyone with OCD so be sure to discuss the options with your doctor before making any decisions.
How I Survive With OCD
If I am to be honest, it is not always an easy task. There are some nights (night time is when mine kicks in hardcore) I just want to cry because I do not want to get up again to check everything in the house for the 10th time. However, I have actually learned to retrain my thinking in order to cut out some of the unwanted compulsions.
· Make a check list of everything you need to do before bed or work; whenever your OCD affects you the most. Then go through the house and as you check everything, mark it off on your list. This may not stop the obsessive thoughts but it can help curb the compulsion to act on the obsession.
· Share your condition with your family and friends. They can help put your mind at ease when a hard moment hits. It also helps to talk out loud about your condition because by admitting to it you are in a way freeing yourself. It will not stop your OCD but at least you know that your behaviors are unreasonable and irrational.
· As difficult as it may be, if you feel the compulsion to check something do not do it! Repeat to yourself that this is your illness talking and you know for sure that the door is locked/the oven is off/the lights are out. That may not work well for some people and there are times it does not work for me either, but it is worth a shot.
Therapy for OCD
Therapy is a good place to start dealing with your OCD. This is especially true when using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). This type of therapy is aimed at changing the way you think and therefore changing the way you behave. A therapist can give you insight into your problem and come up with a plan to help you to better cope with it. In some instances, the best treatment is a mixture of therapy and medication. Each can help you to treat your symptoms in different ways and both together can be more effective depending on the degree of your OCD. If you feel that your life is out of control and your OCD effects everything in your life negatively, it may be beneficial for you to seek professional treatment.
You Don’t Have to Suffer in Silence
While this may be an embarrassing illness for you to admit, please know that you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people all across the world suffer from OCD. This is a very common anxiety disorder and by reaching out for help you are taking the first and most important step to overcoming this debilitating illness. Talk out loud about it. See a professional for help. Join a support group. (Many support groups can be found online.) Try the tips listed above as well. Just do what you must to take back control of your life and you may just see that there is a light at the end of the OCD tunnel.