Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of the psychological disorders that most restricts freedom and affects the quality of people’s lives.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage your symptoms and learn behavior patterns that will quench this disorder to the point that it won’t cause significant problems. If you would like to know how we psychologists work in the treatment of OCD, keep reading.
What is OCD and what are its symptoms?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a psychological phenomenon described as a psychiatric syndrome in diagnostic textbooks used in medicine and clinical and health psychology. It is characterized by the loss of control in the face of the emergence of intrusive thoughts and stereotypical actions that are very difficult to suppress, and therefore has elements in common with anxiety disorders and tics.
As a rule, the elements that identify the presence of obsessive-compulsive disorder in patients are two in number, as the name suggests: obsessions on the one hand and compulsions on the other.
Obsessions are fundamentally intrusive images or thoughts, which arise in a person’s consciousness “grabbing” the person’s attention and generating a strongly negative emotional response, related to anxiety. These pieces of imagination can be, for example, the image of a large layer of germs invading our hands and slowly devouring them, or a hole opening under our feet.
Compulsions are stereotypical actions that we feel the need to perform to make the obsession disappear (for now) and you feel relatively good again. These actions can be physical or mental. In addition, it is felt that these behaviors should be performed with great care because they “count” as the conclusion of the obsession, and always in the same order; if it is not done well, we start over. Examples of common compulsions are:
- Wash your hands several times and always in the same way.
- Clean a chair by passing paper in certain places and in a certain order.
- Scratch certain parts of the body following a systematic pattern.
Impact on daily life
Due to the symptoms of OCD, people who suffer from it waste a lot of time using it daily to perform compulsions, compromise their physical and mental health through exposure to highly mechanical routines and stress, and are harmed in their lives. social. For that, this is one of the most common reasons why many people go to Cribecca, Our psychotherapy center in Seville; this is one of the psychological disorders with which psychotherapists have a lot of experience.
On the other hand, in many cases, those who suffer from it also have other overlapping psychological disorders, as feeling bad makes us prone to generate additional problems which can become chronic.
What do psychologists do to treat OCD
What can be done from the consultation of the psychologist to treat and combat the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder?
One of the most effective strategies is called exposure prevention and response., Which involves dissociating the anxiety experienced due to the obsession with compulsive behavior. In other words, it trains the patient to struggle with this momentary discomfort, tolerating the experience without “giving in” to the need to perform the compulsion.
In this way, the patient experiences how it is possible to endure the anxiety without anything bad happening beyond the anxiety itself, and begins to stop seeing the compulsion as an inevitable way out of it. this situation. As the treatment under the supervision of the psychologist leading the case progresses, the obsession and compulsion stop reinforcing each other, causing the obsessive-compulsive disorder to go away.
On the other hand, it is also often necessary to modify the irrational belief system of each patient. This is due to the fact, on many occasions the habit of experiencing compulsions can cause people to believe in whole or in part that something very bad is going to happen to them. if they do not end the obsession with a ritual (coercion); it is an example of magical or superstitious thought which reinforces the existence of disorder and at the same time arises from it.
Thus, in psychotherapy sessions, cognitive restructuring focused on the beliefs that feed and maintain OCD is also performed. It is about getting the patient to question these beliefs, to test them and to see to what extent they adhere to reality.
Of course, everything that we have seen about the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder is more complicated than what is briefly explained here. It is in fact a process which requires the joint work of the psychologist and the patient, and the realization of exercises between the sessions by the latter (following the instructions of the psychotherapist). The psychologist’s job is not only to give instructions, but also to “train” the person to literally get rid of OCD bit by bit, through a transformation of habits and way of thinking.
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- Whiteside, SP; Port, JD; Abramowitz, JS (2004). A meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatric research: Neuroimaging. 132 (1): pages 69 to 79.