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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a disorder in which people to have unwanted and intrusive thoughts that in extreme cases would be considered obsessions. People with OCD often repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and routines, called compulsions. Thus, there are obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (behaviors).

As an example, a person might have a fear of contamination, and as a result engage in excessive hand washing. Handwashing is necessary for good health, but when someone ritualizes the behavior (washing several times with soap and making sure the soap gets under each fingernail, etc.) so that it actually takes time away from other things it may be time to seek outside help. It’s when we engage in behaviors for several hours a day like checking that the oven is off exactly 3 times (or 3, 4 or 20 times) and the behavior makes us continually late for work that it might be more than just double checking for safety.

There are many potential forms of OCD. Some people count or have a preference for numbers (such as the volume of the TV to only be on an even number), or a tissue box must be placed symmetrically in the middle of a table and cannot touch the edges. Other rituals can have a superstitious nature such as having to organize something in order to prevent someone from having an accident on an upcoming trip. Movies such as “As Good as it Gets” also demonstrate some classic OCD behaviors such as not stepping on cracks.

It’s important to keep in mind there is OCD as a clinical disorder. There is also Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). They are similar in theme, but are different disorders. The clinical disorder involves obsessions (thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors). OCPD involves a preoccupation with order, perfectionism and mental and personal control. Other characteristics include planning for catastrophes, miserly behavior, and excessive planning. OCPD differences from OCD in that the latter has true obsessions and compulsions.

How does OCD/OCPD impact a person? While these are clinical disorders, there can also be some positive aspects. For example, in the workplace, some occupations require extreme precision and organization, and these OC-styles can be an asset. In addition, OC traits can be found in athletics. Some athletes have superstitions which can be similar to OC patterns. This is especially prevalent in certain sports such as baseball and other sports where there can be a high degree or repetition. Athletes such as golfers engage in pre-shot routines, and these routines help with athletic performance and anxiety management. This can also apply to baseball batters and pitchers. Some athletes will have a great game and continue to wear an old uniform without cleaning it so they don’t “jinx” themselves.

Behaviors such as counting, cleaning, checking and organizing to the point of perfectionism are all behaviors that don’t really make sense in our lives and may indicate that it might be time to seek help.  If you become even more anxious when you are unable to perform certain tasks, that also may be a sign of unhealthy patterns or compulsive behaviors. How can you tell if it’s a problem? There are many indicators that can be assessed by a trained professional such as a psychologist, but one good question to ask is “To what degree do the thoughts/behaviors interfere with your daily functioning?”

OCD can interfere with your relationships, career, and your health including your athletic performance.  I use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or (CBT) to help adolescents and adults overcome different types of anxiety and specifically OCD. By utilizing CBT, I work with you to regain your sense of control. I will teach you skills that can be applied to a particular situation or these skills may be applied in a more general way across different situations. CBT is a very methodical approach and one in which you will be involved so that you will be able to understand, identify and change destructive thinking patterns in your life. I will give you the skills during our meeting times and you will be assigned “homework” to practice the different techniques we have discussed and practiced in our sessions. People typically see positive, effective results within the first few sessions and those who are compliant with the program typically have better and quicker results. These psychology strategies and techniques can be used in sport psychology and other applied areas such the workforce.

Do you or someone you know maybe have a problem with OCD/ODPD? Call my office today at 678-462-3833.

Dr. Rick Van Haveren

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