OCD Compulsions: On Coping and Therapy

There are myriad obsessive thoughts that can begin to encroach on an individual's mind. Compulsive behaviors become evident in an effort to satisfy the obsession. Such OCD compulsions could pose a threat to any aspect of an individual's everyday life.
[Page-Contents]
OCD Compulsions: On Coping and Therapy

Children with OCD
Treatments for Children with OCD
The Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Overcoming Onychophagia
Natural Treatments for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
Most Common OCD Compulsions
Meditating Through OCD
Exposure Response Prevention as Treatment for OCD
Excessive Hair Pulling: A Closer Look at Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania: Diagnosis and Treatment
Hair Pulling: It Is A Disease

Do I Have OCD?
Diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Dealing with Pure O Disorder
The Basics of Pure O
Dealing with Obsessive Thoughts
Brief About Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Do You Have OCD?
Perfectionism and OCD

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) specifies a number of symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder. These symptoms may be generally considered as irrational, persistent, and unwelcome thoughts and behaviors that can potentially hamper the daily routines of an individual.

Recent studies have identified and developed methods to deal with this psychiatric disorder in the most effective way possible.

A Closer Look at OCD Compulsions
However undesirable the actions that individuals with OCD may play out, studies have shown that across the OCD population, individuals share the same patterns in their cognitive processes. However, compulsive behaviors may be manifested in unique forms. Compulsive behaviors include:

- hoarding specific items or materials such as newspapers or wrappers that bear no logical relevance
- repetitive actions such as frequent hand washing
- regularly switching the lights on and off
- repetitive bathing just to satisfy the urge to feel perfectly clean

Coping
Dealing with OCD in a milder context may prove to be successful with self-help strategies alone. For example, rationalizing that such compulsive actions are simply an irrational and debilitating psychiatric disorder can help the individual realize their state of mind early on. To further the effort to curb obsessive thoughts, some individuals may conduct an extensive and intensive research on their unfounded obsessive thoughts to obtain logical explanations that could counter such thoughts.

Individuals with OCD may even plan a strategic course of action to deal with their condition. For example, he or she could begin to resist performing the compulsive behavior when in a public area, therefore limiting the occurrence of the behavior only within one's home. Once successful, further steps are then carried out.

Because OCD compulsions gradually develop in many individuals, reversal of this psychiatric disorder may entail a great amount of time especially in more severe cases. Many therapists suggest a systematic approach in dealing the OCD compulsions until such time that normal daily functioning is completely regained.

Psychiatrists and medical researchers have discovered that OCD compulsions do not just appear without any possible causes or risk factors prior to the onset of the disorder. Thus, proper diagnosis is achieved by a close and accurate medical background check on the individual, as well as previous events of stress or anxieties. In fact, some individuals with predisposed notions of helplessness have a higher risk of developing OCD compulsions.

Indeed, the treatment of OCD compulsion doesn't depend on the therapists' established treatments alone, but the affected individual should also make the commitment to complete the treatment process to entirely eliminate the psychiatric disorder.

girl tired from her obsessive thoughts

Most families with children that have OCD will often testify that finding out that the diagnosis was quite distressing. In such situations, it is common that the family members (i.e. the mother and father) feel guilty that they are responsible for the disorder in one way or another. Thus, it becomes important for these family members to enlighten themselves on OCD and its symptoms as well as how to help their child cope with the disorder.

Background on OCD
The first thing that one should know about OCD is that it is a brain disorder that causes a child to have often irresistible obsessions and impulses. As stated, most parents may in some way blame themselves or their partners for having been careless and letting their child fall prey to OCD. It is crucial that these parents understand that as severe as obsessive compulsive disorder may be, it is not their fault in any way. Once the parents have come to terms that they could not have done anything to avoid it, they often ask what could have caused the disorder.

Genetics
A lot of researches have been done on the genes that may be involved in the inheritance of OCD. However, to date scientists have been unable to pinpoint a particular gene that is responsible for the disorder itself. However, studies indicate that the disorder does have a highly likely genetic component. Thus, it is only a matter of time before the researchers find if the cause of the disorders lies within our genes.

Environment
A strong link has been found by scientists that identifies the child's environment as one of the major factors that may influence development of OCD. This is not to mean that the parents caused the OCD. The OCD environment factor should be taken to mean that certain elements in the child's environment may introduce the obsessive habits that the child may eventually take up.

The Child's Brain function
Perhaps the most important cause is the way a child's brain functions. The brain may be biologically constructed in a way that promotes the development of OCD. A common cause for OCD symptoms has been found with serotonin secretions secreted by the brain. If the child's brain constantly secretes low amounts of serotonin, it may result in the development of OCD.

The exact causes of obsessive compulsive disorder are unknown. Research is currently underway to identify these causes and ways of how to better prevent them.

boy with ocd concentrating on objects on desk

Often children with obsessive compulsive disorder tend to have a difficult time in dealing with the compulsions and obsessions that come with the disorder. These difficulties are also felt by the parents and other family members as well as those who may be otherwise closely related to the child. Thus, it becomes important that the parents find help as soon as possible to help the child to cope with the disorder.

There are several treatments that can be used to successfully control most, if not all, symptoms of OCD. One should carefully consider the advantages as well as the disadvantages of each method before choosing a particular one to follow.

Professional Treatment - One of the best ways that has been proven to help OCD children deal with their compulsions and obsessions is professional help. Professional help can be in many forms:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the most successful therapeutic treatments that have been used for years to treat OCD symptoms. Children with obsessive compulsive disorder often develop the illogical fear of inanimate objects e.g. salt, dirt, water, etc. Depending on the fear and the obsession that the child may have, cognitive behavioral therapy may be used to help the child move past these fears.

Cognitive behavioral therapy involves procedures such as repetitive exposure to the causative agents for fear. Moreover, in order to ensure that the treatments are successful, the treatment has to be reinforced at home.

Cognitive therapy may also involve helping the child understand that their obsessive thoughts are just plain thoughts. Obsessive children often have a ritual to doing everything. The therapist learns this ritual and exposes the child to situations whereby they cannot practice the ritual. A while after the exposure, the child comes to terms with the fact the ritual does not accomplish anything.

A popular form of therapy is play therapy. This therapy can be easily reinforced at home as all it involves is using the child's toys to teach proper behavioral patterns.

Medication
Obsessive compulsive disorder has been linked to low serotonin level secreted by the brain. Medication may be prescribed to the child to boost serotonin levels thus controlling the disorder.

Family Advice
OCD can be quite a trying condition for the child as well as the family members. Initially, family members may not understand why the child conforms to the obsessions and compulsions characteristic of the disorder. Therapists advise that the family members take an active role in the therapy sessions as this will help nurture the child into abandoning the obsessions and compulsions. While OCD is indeed serious, it can be controlled.

obsessive spectrum chart

While we are familiar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), we may not be so familiar with the conditions included in the Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum. Some of these are listed here:

• Body Dysmorphic Disorder is an obsessive preoccupation with a sight defect, be it real or imagined, in a person's appearance, which leads to looking in the mirror excessively and disguising the imperfections through clothing or cosmetics. Frequently involving facial features, the hair, or skin, a lot of time is spent on a daily basis just to get ready and prepared to face the world.

• Hypochondriasis is the dread of having a serious illness. A person afflicted with hypochondriasis usually blows minor symptoms out of proportion and is not convinced with reassurances even if these reassurances come from a doctor. This obsessive fear brings about repeatedly checking for symptoms of sickness and going to a doctor for checkups and unnecessary medical tests.

• Trichotillomania is manifested as compulsively pulling out one's hair resulting in visible hair loss on any part of the body. Feelings of relief and gratification usually follow after a person satisfies his craving of pulling out hair.

• Compulsive Skin Pricking involves repeatedly pricking one's skin until the appearance of damage can easily be noticed. Usually centered in the facial area, a person with this compulsion will tend to pick at moles, pimples, freckles and even normal skin for hours because the pricking motion is felt as something stimulating or soothing.

• Tourette's Syndrome is manifested through tics, either motor tics or verbal tics, and usually appears before a person turns 18. With no apparent cause, the tics are seen as either recurring movements or recurring sounds that happen many times on a daily basis and usually change in nature over time.

• Seen as an obsession related to food and eating, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are considered part of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum where a person with this disorder binges and purges or in extreme cases doesn't eat altogether.

• A person diagnosed with Olfactory Reference Syndrome is obsessed with body odor wherein there is an apparent fear that his genital area, breath, armpits and feet give off foul odors. Due to the fear of having an offensive smell, a person feels considerable distress and usually avoids socializing with other people because of this fear.

The obsessive-compulsive spectrum has a couple of conditions that have the same characteristics with that of OCD and a person may get afflicted with one or more of the conditions where symptoms can change over time. With the help of therapy and medication, these symptoms can be treated for an improved quality of life.

human brain's internal structure

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the most common brain disorders in the world. It affects millions of people around the world. Due to its nature, spotting OCD symptoms can be difficult. In order to understand the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, it is necessary for one to understand what OCD is and how it affects the person with it as well as those around them.

Background on OCD
As stated, obsessive compulsive disorder is a brain disorder. Its main characteristics are compulsions to perform certain acts in a ritualistic fashion such as knocking on a door for a set number of times before entering. Moreover, OCD is also characterized by certain compulsions that may fill the person's mind. These obsessions are often in the form of unwanted thoughts that one cannot seemingly shake off. These thoughts may contain different themes. These include violence, self harm, fear, etc. Such thoughts may cause the person with OCD constant fear and worry.

OCD Symptoms
OCD symptoms may range depending on the age of the affected person. There are some symptoms that are more common in adults than there are in children. Moreover, these symptoms may be carried over by the person from their childhood into their adulthood. To better comprehend the different symptoms, they are divided into two major categories. These are obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessive Symptoms
Some of the obsessive symptoms common in adult sufferers are violence- or fear-themed thoughts such as the fear of water or dirt, and constant anger/aggressiveness. At times the thoughts may manifest themselves in sexual fantasies. Other people with OCD may feel sick or dirty when touched by people. These people tend to form a phobia of other people touching them or what they own. Some fear driving as they have the constant feeling that they will knock someone when driving.

Compulsions Symptoms
Adults and children suffering from OCD will have compulsions based upon a particular theme. The nature of the theme varies. Mostly it involves repetitive actions over some period of time.

Some of the common compulsions include:
- knocking on a door, as mentioned above, for set number of times before entering
- counting steps as one climbs up the flight of stairs
- counting all the black or white dots in a polka dot dress
- hoarding junk that is completely useless

These are just some of the ways through which OCD can manifest itself. Majority of the symptoms listed here are noted in adults but begin during the person's childhood. OCD can be treated through therapy and medication and these compulsions can thus be controlled.

woman displaying obsessive compulsive behavior of biting her nail

Onychophagia is commonly referred to as excessive and persistent nail biting. Onychophagia is an obsessive-compulsive behavior that can cause serious repercussions to both an individual's physical health and social well-being.

Social and Physical Effects
Although many of us at some point engage in biting our fingernails, especially in stressful situations, the real symptoms of onychophagia are much more severe than what is commonly observed in general populations. The behavior can result in bleeding of the affected fingers, which may lead to an infection when left untreated. The physical aesthetics of the hands of an individual with onychophagia also deteriorates as the disorder progresses.

Excessive nail biting, as well as other forms of compulsive behaviors, is just one of the many forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder. Often, individuals with the disorder perform such a behavior without any awareness of the actions until the behavior stops. When such persistent behavior of nail biting is left unchecked, minor to major physical injuries may occur that could also lead to serious complications.

Emotional states, such as heightened anxiety or stress can trigger the onset of the compulsive behavior. Some speculations focus on neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain; however, such claims have yet to be proven by further research.

The wounds and infections caused by excessive nail biting may eventually make the patient realize the extent of the physical damage their behavior has caused, and they will tend to hide their hands and fingers away from sight, especially in public places.

Medication and Psychotherapy
Medication, antidepressants and SSRIs in particular, have been known to treat a wide spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorders, including such disorders as nail biting. Often, medications are administered in conjunction with the duration of the psychotherapy to ensure reversal of the onychophagia.

Treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorders may also include cognitive behavior therapy to reverse the unwanted behavior. In the case of excessive nail biting, habit reversal training (HRT) may be the best approach in the treatment of the disorder.

The first stage of the therapy involves self-monitoring activities such as recording the occurrence and the length of each episode, as well as indicating the intensity of the obsessive urge to perform the behaviors.

In the second stage, the individual's levels of anxiety are targeted, in which he or she is subjected to instructions to relax and regain focus, after which breathing and other relaxation techniques are mastered to be in total control of the compulsive behavior.

Not only do individuals with onychophagia benefit from these techniques, but the therapy would also benefit many of us who wish to control our anxiety levels, thus keeping us from performing unwanted stress-induced habits.

over-the-counter herbs for treating OCD

Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of mental disorder wherein redundant thoughts or ideas are triggered in the mind. There may be a proliferation of medicines for the treatment of obsessive–compulsive disorder but another option is to use homeopathy for OCD, which is seen as a safer alternative.

Common OCD Behaviors
Here are several manifestation of obsessive-compulsive behavior:

• Certain images, numbers and words keep flashing in your mind at all times
• Even if a task has already been deemed perfect, you still are concerned about its accuracy
• Every minute, you check on your looks
• You have a set time for washing your hands

These are only the most common manifestations and many extreme OCD behaviors have yet to be documented. These behaviors are often triggered in an afflicted person's mind due to obsessive thoughts, which the person has no control over. Take the case of the person who washes their hands every five minutes because he is obsessed with the thought of germs, dirt, and infection plaguing him.

The primary cause of obsessive–compulsive disorder hasn't been determined yet, but several studies conducted in the past have shown that deficiency of serotonin in a person's brain may contribute to this disorder.

Natural Treatment for OCD
Conventional medicine has been made available for the treatment of obsessive–compulsive disorder, but this type of treatment more often than not causes unwanted side effects. This is where homeopathy becomes important. Deemed as a safe alternative form of treatment, these medicines are only prepared after a thorough analysis of a person's case. A patient's mental, physical, and medical history is examined as part of this analysis to be able to select the perfect homeopathic remedy for the ailment.

A physician expert in homeopathy should be consulted if a person is interested in going through this kind of treatment. An important factor to consider is that while one homeopathic remedy may cure one person's OCD, the remedy may be useless to someone else.

Homeopathic Herbs for Specific OCD Behaviors
Homeopathic experts recommend the following remedies for people with obsessive–compulsive disorder:

• Arsenicum album for people who think of death repeatedly.
• Natrum muriaticum for people who repeatedly think of unpleasant memories.
• Medorrhinum for people who think somebody is with them even if they are alone.
• Cannabis Indica for people who have hallucinations.
• Pulsatilia for people who have hallucinations of the frightful kind.

The remedies mentioned above are something to consider but it is advisable to have yourself checked by an expert homeopathic doctor so the correct medication can be prescribed to along with the proper dosage.

woman's obsessive behavior of tidying books

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition that is very complex, affecting people in different ways. A person with OCD experiences a cycle of obsession and compulsion. To get relief from an obsession, a person with OCD will perform the compulsive behaviors associated with the obsession. The relief is temporary and the cycle is repeated over and over again.

Common Manifestations of OCD
Compulsions are defined as behaviors that are done repetitively in order to relieve the anxiety and worry brought about by obsessions. Some of these compulsions are more common than others. The most common OCD compulsions that people experience are as follows:

• A well-known symptom of OCD is compulsive cleaning. Brought about by the fear of contamination, a person may shower for hours, use harsh cleaners to scrub their hands, and may even clean certain parts of their homes repeatedly.

• Fear of causing accidents in their own homes causes a sufferer to make sure that their doors and windows are locked and appliances switched off. Some fear causing accidents on the road and repeatedly check to make sure that nobody was knocked over as they were passing by.

• Another manifestation of OCD is the fear of contracting a disease. People with this compulsion go to their doctors repeatedly requesting for medical examinations and wanting assurances that they are not ill.

• In an effort to reduce anxiety or do away with sexual or violent thoughts, a person with OCD may undertake ordering and counting routines such as arranging books according to size or organizing the closet based on the color of clothing.

• Hoarding can also be manifested where a person finds it difficult to throw away items that are usually worthless for fear of still needing that item.

Negative Effects of OCD Behaviors
A person's life gets adversely affected by these compulsions and although they are aware of the negative effects, the compulsions are too strong not to carry out. The following are examples of the negative effects of OCD behavior:

• Due to the performance of rituals, a lot of time is spent and wasted. This may lead to social isolation and even loss of employment.

• People with OCD have the tendency to keep their compulsions a secret because they see it as something abnormal. Because of this, their affliction becomes a source of embarrassment.

• Medical attention becomes necessary for people with extreme cleaning rituals when their skin and hands are harmed by harsh chemicals.

• A large amount of money is spent on doctors and medical tests that are unnecessary by people with fear of sickness thereby causing financial problems to them.

• A person with organization compulsions gets angry easily if someone rearranges something. In the same way, a hoarder becomes distraught if someone suggests they let go of the unnecessary things they hoard.

The compulsions mentioned above are some of the most common compulsions brought about by OCD. Oftentimes, a person with OCD would only seek professional help to get rid of their compulsions at the insistence of family members.

woman sitting in nature meditating through OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be quite stressful, both to the affected person and those close to them. Persons with this disorder often search for ways to help control their compulsions.

In the medical field, there are two main treatment options: prescribed medication and alternative medicine. While prescribed medication may help control the disorder, it may have some unwanted side-effects. Thus, some people have begun to focus more on healthier, alternative medicine. One such treatment for OCD involves meditation.

It has been known for a long time that meditation can help release most, if not all, of the tension that rests within the body. Moreover, it has been found to be quite useful in controlling the compulsions that are characteristics of OCD. Therapists have notably taken up meditation to help with cognitive behavioral therapy in treating the disorder.

Meditation requires a quiet surrounding. You must pick a place where there will be no distractions of any sort. You should start out by choosing a meditation posture that you can maintain with relative comfort for a long time.

Meditation is about one thing. When meditating with the purpose of controlling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms, you have to concentrate on only one main thing. The best way to do so is to start out by concentrating on your breathing.

The mind of a person with OCD tends to focus on several worries. It is common for meditation beginners with this disorder to feel anxious. The best way to control these worries is to simply let your mind wander back to the breathing sequence. You are advised to avoid pushing the thoughts away as this tends to divert your attention from the breathing sequence.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder meditation should be practiced daily for at least thirty minutes. The benefits of this technique are completely mind-blowing. Meditation teaches you how to observe without necessarily having to act. Thus, if you have any obsessive compulsion, through meditation you can let the thought linger without having to act on it.

The great thing about this meditation is that it teaches you how to simply be aware of what is going on around you. While you may still have compulsive thoughts, you are able to focus on the present without letting the thoughts interfere with what you are doing.

obsessive handwashing

Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), as proposed by cognitive behavioral therapists, is a unique approach that focuses on the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Over the course of its existence, ERP has been proven to be the most effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in the intervention and treatment of OCD.

The very core of CBT dwells on the notion that thoughts can greatly affect the behaviors of individuals. Thus, it follows that any unwanted behaviors may possibly be eliminated when thoughts or motivations of such behaviors are reversed.

The Basics of Exposure Response Prevention
ERP therapy targets obsessive-compulsive disorders by focusing on the unwanted behaviors manifested by individuals with OCD. Specific stimuli that trigger compulsive behaviors are identified, and over the course of the therapy, the unwanted responses of these stimuli are gradually reversed and eliminated.

To achieve this goal, the patient is systematically subjected to weak stimuli that are known to trigger the unwanted response. However, the stimulus presented to the OCD patient is weak enough for the subject to be able to feel in control over their reactions. The therapist then encourages the individual to resist the urge to perform the undesired behavior. Often, successful resistance to the unwanted behavior is rewarded by associating such small accomplishments with a more positive feeling.

Specific Examples of ERP Treatment
To start off with the therapy, patients are asked to list the specific obsessive thoughts that result in compulsive behaviors. For example, a patient may list compulsive behaviors such as frequent washing of hands every time they touch a doorknob or engage in a handshake.

The therapist who evaluates the list will then start with the weakest stimulus, and in this example, the touching of doorknobs. The patient is then presented with a doorknob, after which the therapist encourages the patient to resist the urge to wash their hands after touching the knob with just one finger. Once the patient conquers the urge to wash their hands, the therapist subsequently encourages the patient to touch the knob with two, then three fingers, and so on until such time the patient feels in total control.

Imaginal Exposure and ERP
While physical exposure to the stimulus may offer effective results in reversing the unwanted compulsive behavior, presentation of some stimuli may become virtually impossible. For instance, if a patient has the compulsion to avoid a train station for fears of being trapped on the tracks, it would be inconvenient for both the therapist and the patient to continue the therapy at a train station. Thus, imaginal exposure may be a plausible alternative.

Exposure response prevention has shown promising results since it was proposed and established by cognitive behavioral therapists. In fact, self-help among individuals with milder cases has also been proven to be effective. However, more severe cases call for professional help to ensure effective treatment.

woman excessively pulling her hair

Trichotillomania, which is closely associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is characterized by inappropriate or excessive pulling of one's own hair. In many individuals, this disorder may develop gradually and usually takes years before intervention is considered.

Treatments
Although trichotillomania is behavioral in nature, a number of serious cases may be intervened with the prescription of medications such as tricyclic antidepressants or serotonin uptake inhibitors, which are the most common types of drug administered in many cases of trichotillomania.

When it comes to long-term therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has championed the treatment and been successful in reversing many cases of trichotillomania. In many cases, however, CBT is implemented together with the administration of medication to ensure complete reversal of the impulsive behavior.

The approach of CBT is fair and simple: rewarding desired behaviors and punishing unwanted behaviors. During the course of the treatment, CBT involves steps that are more complex and may also be applied in conjunction with additional cognitive therapy.

During the course of therapy, the therapist guides the patient to become fully aware of their actions. In the case of trichotillomania, the therapist encourages the patient to bring into consciousness the destructive behaviors (excessive hair pulling) and its possible effects on each aspect of the patient's everyday routine.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on Trichotillomania
The combination of cognitive therapy and behavior therapy is perhaps the most effective form of treatment in dealing with trichotillomania. At the beginning of the therapy, the patient is encouraged to list all of the emotions and thoughts they may have experienced before the onset of the impulsive hair-pulling actions to the time the action has already stopped.

To measure and evaluate the course of the therapy, the patient's progress is accurately and regularly recorded. Thus, in the process, the therapist may recommend some changes to ensure that the effects of the therapy become optimal.

Often, the therapist intermittently exposes the patient to certain conditions that would trigger impulsive behavior to manifest in the patient's actions, after which the therapist immediately associates the unwanted behavior to feelings of anxiety or stress. Such association of negative emotions to the unwanted behavior will eventually prevent the individual from feeling the urge to manifest the behavior again.

During the therapy, the patient's commitment to the established procedures and schedules is very important to ensure complete reversal of trichotillomania. This means the patient should also be surrounded by his or her support group. Close friends and family members need to encourage the individual to complete the entire duration of the therapy.

woman pulling her hair

Trichotillomania, a known psychiatric disorder characterized by excessive pulling of one's own hair, has recently received much focus as cognitive and behavioral proponents search for effective interventions to help individuals with the disorder.

Psychiatric Treatment
Among all therapies that have been considered in the treatment of trichotillomania, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has shown the most promising results. Treatment may include the major involvement of a therapist, while in some cases, members of the family or even friends may assist the patient during the course of the therapy.

Results of Trichotillomania
Trichotillomania tends to develop and progress gradually over a long period, usually years. The duration of therapy may require years as well. While the impulsive urge to pull one's hair may be alleviated by certain medications, a number of engrained habits may still remain, which leads the therapist to use CBT.

Individuals who have the urge to pull their own hair may eventually realize the effects of gradual hair loss to their self-esteem and social lifestyle. In addition, there is the enormous amount of unproductive time spent doing the undesired behavior.

Teaching Intervention Behaviors
During the course of therapy, the therapist will ask the patient to list all of the affects of their impulsive hair pulling. This may involve occupational, physical, emotional, and even economic aspects. This stage of the therapy is essential for guiding the patient to a stage of self-awareness, encouraging the patient to distract oneself from the behavior when reminded of the consequences.

To show progress of the treatment to the individual, a photograph is taken on a regular basis to record the improvements of the physical condition of the patient's scalp. The therapist may also recommend other activities to distract the patient from the recurring urge to pull their hair. Activities such as physical exercises and even socializing with friends can help the individual focus on other aspects of their life.

During the course of therapy, it is important that realistic goals be set to avoid the possibility of regressing into the old, unwanted habit. Rewarding the patient after every completion of a desired behavior may be a good start. Wearing a hat, rubber gloves, and even playing with a stress ball are good examples of stimulus control - methods applied by changing an aspect of the environment of an individual to avoid the unwanted urge to pull one's hair.

Just like other psychological disorders, trichotillomania can be reversed as long as realistic goals are set and professional help is sought to address the disorder in a more efficient and productive approach.

woman missing her eyebrow due to excessive hairpulling

Pulling Hair is not a normal habit. It's a mental disorder called trichotillomania. It is characterized by having an irresistible urge to pull one's hair to the point that there is noticeable hair loss. Common areas for pulling are the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. But this condition also involves pulling hair in other areas of the body.

This condition is a form of impulse control disorder. Impulse control disorders are a group of mental ailments that involve inability to control or resist impulses. As a result, the person acts in ways that pose danger and harm to oneself or to other people. People suffering from these disorders frequently hurt themselves when they act on the impulses.

Signs and Symptoms
A person with this disease lacks the ability to control the urge to pull out hair from the body. Other than this, there's also a sense of tension or anxiety when the person tries to resist the urge. After hair is pulled, the person feels satisfaction, relief, pleasure and other positive emotions.

Having bare patches on the scalp, eyebrows, and other areas where hair has been pulled out is an obvious sign of trichotillomania. People with this condition also have other associated behaviors such as chewing on hair, eating hair, twirling hair, and inspecting hair root. It's also common for these people to deny the problem and hide the hair loss with the use of hats, scarves and false eyebrows or eyelashes.

Causes
The exact cause of this disease is unknown. Experts theorize that it involves biological as well as behavioral factors. Some studies have found a promising link between neurotransmitters and trichotillomania. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that send messages to the nerve cells. When there is an imbalance in these brain chemicals, the brain's ability to control impulses is greatly affected.

Other experts also point out that stress can also play a role in the triggering of this impulsive behavior. Apart from these, it is also noted that many people with this condition also have other mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Trichotillomania also runs in the family. If a family member has this condition, you are at an increased risk of developing it later in life.

Diagnosis
The doctor will perform a complete medical history and physical exam on a patient who has symptoms of this condition. Since there are no tests that can diagnose this illness, other tests to rule out other medical conditions for hair loss will be conducted. If the diagnosis is positive for this condition, the doctor will refer the patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist who is specially trained for treating this illness.

Treatments

- habit reversal training
The primary method of treatment for this is a behavior therapy that is called habit reversal training. Apart from helping the person identify and avoid triggers of his/her hair-pulling impulse, it also teaches relaxation techniques to reduce the tension that comes with the urge.

- cognitive therapy
Sometimes, cognitive therapy that treats distorted perception and thinking is also used. This is achieved by helping patients develop the necessary skills for modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, relating to others in different ways, and changing behaviors.

- medications
Medications may also be prescribed as part of the treatment. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are typically prescribed for people with this disorder.

obsessed with handwashing

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric disorder that involves a series of human behaviors that are considered as distracting, debilitating, and eventually destructive if left unchecked.

Symptoms of OCD
Yes, many individuals tend to fall into a natural inclination to be preoccupied at one point or another; however, a number of signs and symptoms must be present in an individual to be diagnosed as suffering from OCD. For example, if a certain thought becomes recurring and magnified to the point it causes stress or anxiety, and if that thought is considered as logically inappropriate, then the individual harboring such thoughts may be suffering from OCD. Initially, efforts to distract oneself from the obsession may be successful, but in more severe cases, the individual fails to achieve success.

Psychiatrists note that OCD is an internal condition - obsessive thoughts which the mind dwells on even without the presence of any external source or logic. In conjunction to obsession, compulsion refers to the repetitive behavior of an individual, usually having the internal urge to perform an action to satisfy or neutralize their obsessive thoughts.

Usually, individuals with OCD reach the stage in which their obsessions and compulsions spiral out of control, in which the act of constantly gratifying the obsession by compulsive actions becomes a vicious cycle. Thus, the condition progresses into a disorder when the individual's behavior eventually replaces his or her daily routines - affecting both social life and career.

Do I Suffer from OCD?
Individual differences play a major role in the severity and frequency of this potentially debilitating disorder. For one, an individual may manifest destructive behaviors such as inflicting harm or injury to oneself or another person. In some patients, OCD is manifested by inappropriate sexual behaviors or thoughts, while others inflict harm in fear that they are losing ground in controlling their own behaviors.

Compulsive behaviors are generally categorized into two major classifications: mental and physical. Mental compulsive behaviors involve frequent counting, murmuring, confessing and praying. Physical compulsive behaviors may involve overly frequent washing of the hands or other parts of the body; frequent checking of doors and appliances, ensuring that the doors are locked and appliances are switched off; and even constantly arranging the furnishings and wall displays, making sure they're all aligned and spotless.

People who experience obsessive thoughts and compulsions may not necessarily suffer from the disorder. However, if the obsessive and compulsive thoughts become uncontrolled and progressive, the individuals who find themselves trapped in a cycle should consult a psychiatrist, who in turn will recommend a course of treatment or prescribe medication.

man rubbing his eyes tired due to obsessive compulsions

For proper diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), let's first understand what it is.

Definition of Obsessions and Compulsions
Obsessions are defined by recurrent and persistent thoughts where disturbing impulses or images are conceived in an individual. These are usually very intrusive and very inappropriate, and they trigger marked anxiety and are not necessarily related or linked to problems in the realm of reality.

Compulsions are defined by repetitive activities that are triggered by the distress or mental acts where a person gets the impulse to perform as a possible response to the obsession.

Behavior triggered to reduce the distress is usually quite excessive and always has a disconnect with the intent and purpose of the behavior. They then become unreasonable in the end. Unless the individual is a minor, they must fully recognize how irrational their actions are.

Together, they cause a marked distress and usually cost the individual a lot of time since they may take hours or even more than a day to fulfill. This interferes with the individual's time schedule significantly, eating up into the daily routine negatively such as work, relationships or academic functions and activities. The individual can fail to recognize the mundane nature of their obsessions and compulsions.

Diagnostic Criteria
For one to be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, one has to have either the compulsions or the obsession or both. The individual tries to ignore, suppress or neutralize them with substitute thoughts and actions. They must be willing to understand that there has been no external coercion or thought influence; rather they are products of their mental faculties.

Another criterion for this is the presence of marked distress or interference of day to day functioning. The interference is however not caused by substance abuse like alcohol or hallucinogens, signs and forms of mental illnesses or a general medical condition like syphilis. The extent is measured by how much it eats up into the individual's routine, in the excess of more than an hour a day.

Common Pointers
There are a few red flags that are watched out with individuals having this disorder.

Contamination disorders are evidenced by distress caused by germs, disease and related issues. They have various impulse complications where phobia stimulates excessive action.

Aggressive obsession may include the harm to the individual or others near.

Sexual obsessions include masturbation or sexual habits.

Obsessive hoarding is signified by having things of no relevant value.

Magical thinking includes beliefs holding great significance.

Health or body obsessions are characterized with appearance needs and fear of illnesses.

woman obsessively pulling her hair

Pure Obsessional OCD, commonly referred to as Pure O, is categorized as a milder form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) having lesser overt symptoms in contrast with the more severe OCD types. Because Pure O is less severe in nature, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and even self-help techniques will oftentimes reverse the disorder and do away with medications as much as possible.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Pure O
Pure O, in essence, is not manifested by individuals with overtly compulsive rituals and behaviors such as persistent hand washing or bathing. Most of the time, such compulsions are limited within the person's thoughts, although some individuals may also show subtle forms of compulsive rituals.

Treatment of Pure O involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has also been found to be successful in the treatment of more severe cases of OCD. CBT suggests that a person's actions, desirable or undesirable, are always influenced by his or her thoughts, and that the very thoughts associated with the targeted undesired behavior should be reversed to eliminate the recurrence of unwanted behavior. Among the many CBT techniques, exposure response prevention (ERP) and cognitive restructuring are commonly used.

Exposure Response Prevention and Cognitive Restructuring
Exposure response prevention (ERP) involves exposing the patient to the specific stimulus closely associated with the obsessive thoughts. An individual who fears suffocating their child with a plastic bag, for instance, may be presented with a plastic bag. The therapist then encourages the patient to touch and hold the plastic bag and rationalize or even resist his or her obsessive thoughts associated with suffocating someone with it.

Yet, in some instances in which it is inconvenient or impossible to present the patient with the stimulus, imaginal exposure is then used during the therapy. This method involves writing a story of the individual's fears. These stories can be read or listened to while repeatedly exposing the individual to his/her obsession. The use of "Imaginal Exposure" can assist the individual by decreasing the frequency and sensitivity to their unwanted thoughts and images.

On the other hand, cognitive restructuring involves the process of rationalization as to the logical relevance of such obsessive thoughts and fears. During the course of the therapy, the psychiatrist engages into a series of questioning, asking a number of leading questions to help the patient arrive at a stage of realization regarding the logic of such thoughts. While proven effective, such approach is oftentimes used in conjunction with ERP.

Mindfulness-Based CBT and Pure O
Another new approach to the treatment of Pure O disorder is mindfulness-based CBT, which encourages the individual to begin to embrace or accept these obsessive thoughts without the need to perform any compulsive countermeasures to eliminate the obsession. Thus, the tug-of-war between the obsessive thoughts and having to respond compulsively will be greatly diminished.

Self-help methods have also been proven to show promising results, in which an individual begins to accept the intrusion of such thoughts and then begins to ignore such obsessions and accept the fact that certain aspects of life are normally unpredictable.

man obsessively checking dust on desk

Obsessional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, otherwise known as Pure O, is a psychiatric disorder considered to be a milder form of OCD, which may or may not be overtly manifested by the individual with the disorder.

Overview
Although considered a form of OCD in which obsessive thoughts are present, individuals with Pure O may exhibit seemingly unnoticeable symptoms. For example, a person may dwell on obsessive thoughts of committing violent or destructive behaviors. Part of their obsession may also dwell on violent acts that one might have inadvertently done in the past. Such obsessive thoughts may also be of any violent events happening accidentally. Thoughts such as fearing that they may have committed an action or negligence that will cause events such as fire or family members being exposed to danger will replay in the mind.

While some obsess on thoughts of violence, others may obsess on thoughts that may be non-violent in nature, such as basic bodily processes of swallowing, or even breathing. An individual may even experience intrusive thoughts that he or she may have a different sexual orientation than what they actually once believed. In some extreme cases associated with one's religious belief, an individual may hold the irrational and intrusive thoughts of blaspheming or committing sacrilegious actions.

Compulsive Rituals
To correct such recurrent obsessive thoughts, individuals with Pure O may go to the extremes of checking and reassuring themselves that such fears or beliefs have not occurred or could not happen. They check the news or the Internet for updates if, for example, a house they fear would have burned down really did not burn down. Others may fall into the trap of constantly reminiscing and detailing specific events of a certain day just to reassure themselves that nothing violent had happened.

While some individuals with Pure O begin to withdraw from other people, events, or even objects associated with their obsessions, others feel more free to confess their thoughts with their closest friends or family members, even to the extent of confessing such thoughts to strangers in an effort to obtain reassurance that their fears are unfounded in the first place.

Although obsessive OCD or Pure O symptoms may vary among individuals, this form of OCD is generally considered as less severe in contrast with more destructive and debilitating forms of the psychiatric disorder. In fact, some compulsions may prove to be highly unnoticeable as some individuals master methods to conceal their real condition.

However the symptoms affect an individual with Pure O, professional help might be needed if the disorder begins to interfere with the daily routines, ensuring that it will be properly and effectively dealt with.

man tired from his obsessive thoughts

It's a fact that many of us become preoccupied with obsessive thoughts at some point. However, if such thoughts begin to encroach on our daily routines to the point that other aspects are interfered with, then seeking intervention and treatment to address this unwanted state of mind becomes warranted.

Here is a roundup of some of the most effective methods to help reverse the occurrence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Administration of Medications and Other Treatments
In severe cases when self-help becomes ineffective, psychiatrists may recommend specific therapies, as well as medication to treat the obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In milder cases, however, exercise has been found to be an effective option. It not only promotes optimum physical health, but also helps to maintain psychological well-being. As an individual begins to incorporate regular schedules of physical activity into their daily routine, their body and mind begin to focus on the activities. Endorphins produced during exercise promote a positive state of mind.

To start addressing your obsessive-compulsive thoughts, jot down the specific aspects of your daily habits that you believe have logical relevance. After this, you may begin to reason out the pros and cons of your impulsive behavior. You may even start to explore any scientific basis of your behavior to see if, for example, the frequent washing of your hands may be excessive when compared to the probability of acquiring a bacterial or viral infection. Searching for logical explanations may alleviate your obsessive thoughts.

Talk about Your Experience
In addition to the realistic approach of listing and diminishing your obsessive thoughts, discussing the items on your list with trusted friends or family members will also help you open a new opportunity to create a two-way communication between you and your friends and family. At this stage, they can challenge your obsessive thoughts or behavior by citing the logical explanations and real-life examples.

It is important to note, however, that the persons involved in the course of the self-help treatment or therapy should renew and maintain their commitments, trust, and respect to help the individual overcome the obsessive compulsive thoughts.

Be in Control

woman jumping and overcoming obsessions

Being self-aware of your own actions and their consequences and logical relevance will gradually help you gain a better understanding of your own thoughts. Again, incorporating physical exercise and other productive activities into your daily routines will indeed curb your propensity to dwell on such unproductive and sometimes destructive obsessions.

Thus, keeping yourself busy and occupied with productive activities will significantly help you rise above these challenges.

varying states of obsessive minds

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessions which are repetitive thoughts that drive an individual to behave in a repetitive fashion. There are two noticeable reactions with this disorder. Conscious noticing of the disorder and efforts to stop them is one such reaction. The other is a complete oblivion to the factors and continuing to harbor the obsessions and compulsions. Regardless, both equally increase the distress and anxiety of the individual. This then heightens the urge into acts of compulsion in order to relieve the distress.

Most of the disorders are thematic, such as a phobia of something that you would normally not identify with. Even with the best effort, the cause is not clear and the recurring thoughts and activities become a ritual. The manifestations include following:

Compulsive Washers and Cleaners
This category comprises of people with the phobia of contamination. The individuals who suffer from this disorder spend a lot of time in grooming activities, e.g. showering, washing hands and house cleaning. This is usually harmful because they use harmful and strong chemicals to ensure cleanliness, thus harming their skin.

Compulsive Checkers
Checkers are people who check things as a normal routine. This includes appliances, doors and windows. They feel insecure as paranoia kicks in with the feat that a disaster may befall them if these checks are not done thoroughly. This triggers antisocial behaviors in the individual and makes them very timid.

Ordering and Symmetry Obsessions
They are obsessed with chronology and arrangement of things in order and specifics. They may be in terms of alpha numeric (number and alphabet), chromatic (by color), name and size. They believe perfection is achievable and strive to achieve it. If interfered with, they may get aggressive.

Hoarding or Saving
This is epitomised by accumulation and amassment of things that are of little or no value. These things do not necessarily have any sentimental and emotional attachment to the individual. They have the phobia arising from the possible loss of the item. What happens is they live in clutter, and it may be hazardous to them in the end.

Scrupulosity
This is very rooted in religion and beliefs. This is the phobia of offending a supernatural deity. This is usually manifested in religious rituals, confession and fasting over real or imagined problems. They become dependent on a member of clergy and need constant reassurance.

obsessive handwashing

We've all heard about stories of people who wash their hands a hundred times a day or who check to see if doors are locked over and over and over again. For some people, these are strange and funny stories. But for people who know about OCD, they know that it's a serious disease that isn't a laughing matter at all.

Defining Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are persistent thoughts or impulses that cause severe anxiety. A person with OCD may realize that the thoughts are irrational, but despite that he/she would still go on to suffer because of these. Examples of obsessive thought include anxious thoughts over cleanliness, safety and order.

Compulsions, on the other hand, are extensive repeated measures or rituals that a person with OCD performs to appease his obsessions. For example, a person obsessed with cleanliness would wash his hands too many times a day beyond normal. A person who constantly worries about the safety of his house would check the door locks several times before finally leaving. Other forms of compulsions are done not as a response to obsessions. An example of such is knuckle cracking.

Types of OCD
There are various kinds of OCD. Some experts classify them into four types:
1. aggressive
2. sexual
3. religious, and
4. harm-related obsessions accompanied by:
- checking compulsions
- asymmetry-related obsessions that come with compulsions of repetitive arrangement of objects
- obsessions on cleanliness coupled with cleaning compulsions
- hoarding compulsions

Getting To Know the Symptoms of OCD
The main symptom of OCD is the strange behavior that revolves around the rituals mentioned above. A person suffering from OCD will have symptoms that would affect his social life, education, occupation and relationships. It would take up most of his time, as he would constantly be engaged in rituals to appease the distress coming from the obsessive thoughts.

Individuals with OCD are also likely to develop other types of health problems. Possible overlapping conditions would include trichotillomania (hair pulling), Tourette's disorder (muscle or vocal ticks), eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, panic disorder, anxiety disorder, hypochondriasis, and depression.

Causes of OCD
Many experts believe that this disorder is genetic. Simply put, it runs in the family. However, no study has yet identified a single gene for this disorder. Also, certain factors are said to trigger this anxiety problem. Unemployment, relationship difficulties, school problems, illness and childbirth are possible triggers for the onset of OCD.

Treatment for OCD
Treatment for this disorder varies widely, usually depending on the frequency and severity of the symptoms. Medications used for treating OCD are Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Anafranil (clomipramine). These increase the levels of serotonin in the brain to help avoid obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsions. Psychological therapies are also helpful. Two types used for OCD treatment are cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy.

girl drawing perfectly balanced pictures using a ruler

Perfectionists tend to exert every effort to be perfect in everything that they do. However, perfectionists are unable to reach perfection and as a consequence, depression and anxiety are manifested.

Trying to Reach the Unreachable
Considered the most misunderstood of people, the term perfectionist doesn't mean a thing to them because they feel that they are unable to attain perfection in anything that they do. Though their works are viewed by others people as already perfect in the purest sense of the word, perfectionists still consider that something is missing in their work.

The traits associated with OCD perfectionism usually begin to manifest between the ages of 12 - 21, the age where emotional instability and mental illness start to manifest. At this age, young people are left on their own emotionally with their parents no longer making decisions for them and they need instead to connect with their peers. These factors tend to weigh heavily upon them and at times trigger the onset of OCD perfectionist traits.

The earliest manifestation of perfectionism can be seen in the educational system where perfectionist young adults tend to study their lessons excessively to keep and maintain high grades. Unfortunately, while going through this, anxiety and depression usually sets in and takes its toll and affects their memory to a certain extent and becomes detrimental to their studies. Oftentimes, a perfectionist will spend hours writing and rewriting his homework to get it perfect.

The Misunderstood Struggle for Perfection
On the downside, a perfectionist always falls victim to procrastination because he is unable to work well or is incapable of starting the work. This is caused by the anxiety brought about by thinking how to create the perfect product. "Normal" people tend to deride this kind of behavior, not knowing how much the aim for perfection makes a perfectionist struggle.

The amount of time spent to get a job done is usually longer when it comes to a perfectionist doing that particular job. A job which would take a regular person a half hour to complete may take a perfectionist more than two hours to do and this leads to the perfectionist having to struggle to be at par with his peers.

An ample amount of self-deprecation is observed among perfectionists since they set unreachable and unrealistic goals and then degrade themselves for not having attained these goals.

Looking at it from a different angle, OCD tends to compound perfectionism because once obsessed a perfectionist cannot walk away and turn his back on a project until it becomes perfect from his point of view. This is in comparison to a perfectionist who doesn't have OCD who can calmly walk away from a less than perfect product because they are not obsessed with perceived perfection.

 


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