Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by intense obsessions and/or compulsions that significantly interfere with daily functioning. Obsessions are recurrent and persistent unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images that are usually irrational and cause the child to have negative feelings such as anxiety, doubt, or feelings of incompleteness. Compulsions are intentional and repetitive behaviors that serve to quiet these thoughts and the negative emotions that accompany them.
Some examples of obsessions and the accompanying compulsions are listed in the table below. It is important to note that for a diagnosis of OCD, the pattern of obsessions and/or compulsions must cause significant impairment to the person’s life. Having the thought “Did I lock the door?” and going back to check once is not a sign of OCD. But going back to check it several times may be indicative of an anxiety disorder.
- Constant, irrational worry about dirt, germs, or contamination.
- Excessive concern with order, arrangement, or symmetry
- Fear that negative or aggressive thoughts or impulses will cause personal harm or harm to a loved one
- Preoccupation with losing or throwing away objects with little or no value
- Cleaning (e.g., repeatedly washing one’s hands, bathing, or cleaning household items)
- Checking (e.g., doors are locked, the stove is turned off, the hairdryer is unplugged)
- Repeating (e.g., inability to stop repeating a name, phrase, or simple activity)
- Hoarding (difficulty throwing away useless items such as old newspapers or magazines, bottle caps, or rubber bands)
Obsessions and compulsions may vary with age. For example, a child may worry that he or his family will be harmed by an intruder breaking into the house (Obsession). So he will check all the doors and windows to make sure they’re locked. But he may then fear that he accidentally unlocked a door while checking, and will go back through the ritual a second, third, and fourth time (Compulsion). An adult with OCD may fear that she will become ill with germs, so she may cope through excessive cleaning, hand washing, refusing to touch door knobs with her bare hand, or refusing to use restrooms away from home.
One important factor with OCD is that the person continues to have the obsessions or compulsions despite realizing that they are unreasonable. This can lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment for people who suffer from OCD, and they may be hesitant to disclose what is happening for them. Good communication between friends, family and/or spouses can increase understanding of the problem and help someone get the support that they need.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, a psychological evaluation is recommended. The Tarnow Center offers both assessment and treatment for anxiety disorders using a biopsychosocial approach that addresses the medical and psychosocial needs of the individual and the family. Appropriate intervention for anxiety disorders includes:
- Individual Therapy: Individual work focuses on developing specific skills for managing anxiety, while also addressing the struggles with daily stressors and low self-esteem that often accompany a diagnosis of anxiety.
- Biofeedback: Like individual therapy, Biofeedback works by teaching specific anxiety management skills to the client. Biofeedback employs the use of technology to make the client more aware of the internal processes that contribute to anxiety, and in doing so, teaches the client to better control these processes.
- Family Therapy: Family work is important in the treatment of anxiety in that it focuses on developing open communication and expression of emotion, while teaching parents/loved ones techniques to utilize at home with the client.
- Group Therapy: Groups provide safe and appropriate social training where the client can get feedback from peers and professionals about how to regulate their behavior.
For more information about resources in your area, go to: Treatment Programs