Do you need to check and re-check things? Do you have to wash your hands over and over? Do you feel like you have no control over these behaviors?
Everyone double checks things sometimes. For example, you may make that sure you locked the door or that you turned off the lights before leaving your home. People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can't control their fears- their thoughts and behaviors- even though they know they’re not reasonable. They cause distress. They get in the way of your daily life.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. It is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and concerns (obsessions). In order to decrease them, and decrease your anxiety, you perform repetitive behaviors or have repetitive thoughts (compulsions).
These may center around germs and dirt. Some people worry excessively about violating moral and religious laws and rules. Maybe it’s about having an illness or disease. Some people have intrusive thoughts about harming other people.
These fears might be:
• Fear of being contaminated by shaking hands.
• Fear of touching objects others have touched.
• Doubts that you've locked the door.
• Doubts about turning off the stove.
• Thoughts that you've run over someone while driving.
OCD is a neurologically-based anxiety disorder. Your brain thinks you are in danger, even when there is only a very small chance something bad might happen. Your behaviors are an attempt to keep yourself safe. But this behavior fuels the part of your brain that gives out these danger signals. In order to reduce your anxiety and your obsessions, you have to stop the compulsive behaviors. You may have tried to think or talk yourself out of this and discovered that it just doesn’t work.
The therapy of choice for OCD is Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), which is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I am a graduate of a Behavior Therapy Training Institute of the International OCD Foundation.