OCD is a disorder when people often feel compelled to do things repeatedly, such as check doorknobs to make sure they are locked or to check appliances to make sure they are off. People may also wash their hands repeatedly and for very long periods of time. Sometimes people feel things are not “just right” and move or do things to get a “just right” feeling.
OCD can come in many forms. Another way OCD often comes is in the form of thoughts, which is a form that is often invisible to others. These are often called “intrusive thoughts” and often come in the form of “taboo thoughts.” Some examples of these are:
I just had the thought of harming my child, even though I’ve never done anything dangerous before. Am I actually a violent person?
I just thought that child was cute, and I felt a sensation in my genitals. Am I actually a child molester?
I just had an image of a sexual act with someone of the same sex even though I consider myself heterosexual. Am I actually gay?
I just smiled at that person across the room. Did I just cheat on my boyfriend?
Whatever form the thoughts come in, they can be horribly, horribly distressing and create an incredible amount of fear. In addition, people with these thoughts often do not reach out for help due to the shame they feel and due to the fear of what people will think of them or how they will react when they hear about them. I work with the brave people with these thoughts all the time. I understand the process that keeps these thoughts going and what makes them so terrifying to the person experiencing them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the treatment most recommended for people with OCD. The specific form of CBT that is recommended is called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). I have been working with brave individuals with OCD using CBT/ERP for years, and I am consistently inspired by the amazing work my patients do in treatment!
For more information about OCD and treatment for OCD, visit the International OCD Foundation website.
For a great description of ERP for OCD versus other treatments for OCD written by OCD experts, read this OCD Foundation newsletter (2019).