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Intrusive, unwanted thoughts

By Haneen Mas’oud , Family Flavours - Sep 29,2019 - Last updated at Sep 29,2019

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Haneen Mas’oud

Clinical Psychologist


Do you find yourself constantly going back to check if you locked your front door or the car? People with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that interfere with daily life have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 


What is OCD?


OCD is an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions), which interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions, according to the American Psychiatric Association. These obsessions and compulsions can be time consuming and very exhausting to the person experiencing them. Rituals like checking, washing and cleaning are most common types of OCD, and are done to relieve the anxiety resulted by the obsessive thoughts.


Causes of OCD


Causes of OCD have not been identified but genetics and having a predisposition to develop OCD symptoms may be a factor along with environmental factors, such as childhood abuse, neglect, psychological and physical trauma, big life events like marriage, divorce and moving out.


Basic types of OCD


OCD patients may experience more than one type of OCD:


• Checkers: Those who feel compelled to repeatedly check objects; doors, locks, ovens and other appliances at home, or even checking in on their loved ones

• Washers and cleaners: Obsessions about contamination by germs, dirt and viruses 

• Orders and repeaters: Those who keep repeating particular actions or thoughts like prayers or arranging items in a specific perfect way

• Pure obsessionals: Some people experience sexual or aggressive obsessions that involve causing harm to others. They are mortified by such thoughts and, as a result, work very hard to suppress or push them away

• Hoarders: Those who collect unimportant items and face difficulties throwing them away, developing a strong attachment to these items while having the fear of needing them if thrown away

• People with scrupulosity: Those who have religious or ethical obsessions, being preoccupied with doing the right thing


Treatment options for OCD


The most effective treatment is Exposure and Response Prevention, a cognitive behavioural therapy that focuses on cognition and behaviour:

• The cognitive part is mainly focused on the faulty beliefs (the obsessions) the individual is experiencing

• The behaviour part includes exposing the individual to experience anxiety, provoking situations in a gradual process under the supervision of a psychologist

Medication can be prescribed to OCD patients to reduce the stress resulted by obsessions. However, a combination of both medication and cognitive behavioural therapy can be very helpful in breaking free from OCD symptoms.

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you have obsessions or compulsions that affect your daily life. Seeking professional help and enlisting the support of loved ones is very important to getting better.


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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