Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a lifelong disorder identified by two general groups of symptoms: obsessions and compulsions. We all have quirky habits and behaviours, but sufferers of OCD have thoughts that intrude constantly and habits that become all-consuming rituals.
OCD obsessions are intrusive and unwelcome. Distressing thoughts and mental images occur persistently, intruding against the person's will and creating distress and anxiety. In addition, OCD victims engage in bizarre and self-destructive behaviours to avert some imagined catastrophe — behaviours that have no realistic connection to the catastrophes they fear. These rituals can consume hours of time each day and make their own lives, and the lives of those who live with them, miserable.
These ritual behaviours seem to give momentary relief, but the more they are performed, the stronger the obsessive thoughts and feelings become. Common examples of obsessions and compulsive rituals displayed include:
- Dirt and contamination: Fear of contracting a dreadful illness, excessive concerns about dirt, and revulsion at and obsession with the body, leading to compulsive hand-washing, showering, or feeling dishes are not clean enough
- Order and neatness: Abnormal concerns about neatness in one's appearance or in the environment and wanting to create perfect order, leading to a compulsion to wear certain colours on specific days or wanting cupboards at home to be perfectly ordered
- Repetitive rituals: Repeating routine activities for no logical reason, such as asking questions over and over, re-reading material several times over
- Checking compulsions: Repeatedly checking if a door is locked or an appliance is turned off; constantly checking for mistakes, or checking one's body for signs of disease
- Hoarding and saving: Keeping trash, or an excessive fear of losing things, leading to compulsive checking of rubbish to ensure nothing valuable is discarded
- Inappropriate obsessions with sexual thoughts
- Religion: Blasphemous thoughts or excessive concerns with morality and right and wrong
- Aggression and violence: Fear of acting out a violent thought, superstitions etc.
- Other behaviours: Counting and list-making, asking over and over for reassurance, blinking or staring rituals
OCD is almost certainly related to a biochemical imbalance in the brain.
The IMI Approach
This condition is most successfully treated with a multifaceted approach. It is now known that OCD can be treated effectively without drugs by enabling OCD sufferers to change their own brain chemistry. Behaviour therapy techniques can help clients change how they respond to obsessive thoughts and compulsive urges, and eventually physically change the brain mechanism.
At IMI, we offer OCD sufferers cognitive behavioural counselling for increased self-control, resulting in heightened self-esteem. Counselling will also explore anxieties and fears and develop ways to calm them. Knowledge of OCD and how it works makes a huge difference on the impact of obsessive thoughts or urges and gives the client a powerful weapon in the battle against the unwanted thoughts and urges.
To support the process biochemically, sufferers may also be offered herbal stress relief. These supportive nutraceuticals will be customized and prescribed by an IMI naturopath to suit individual needs and to help rebalance the brain biochemistry. Other supportive nutrition and nutritional supplements and homeopathic remedies tailored to the individual's constitution may also offer some support and relief.
Reducing stress can also help. Please refer to the article, Stress, in the Health Conditions section of this website to learn about ways to alleviate stress. While these methods are not specific to OCD, they help to reduce general stress levels, which in turn helps OCD symptoms.
IMI also recognizes that it can be challenging to live with OCD sufferers. It can be useful for family members to receive some counselling and support, and to learn more about OCD and ways to help the client.