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What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition in which a person’s life is interrupted or ruled by a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. It’s a common, yet misunderstood condition. Many people self-diagnose themselves as “OCD” when casually remarking on preferences concerning things like cleanliness. An official OCD diagnosis is characterized by severe distress and an inability to function normally if conditions imposed by their illness are not met.

Compulsions are defined as repetitive behaviors that an individual with OCD ritualizes, such as turning a light switch on and off or washing their hands until they are raw. Obsessions, on the other hand, are clinically defined as the irrational thoughts or fears that someone with OCD could experience. These obsessions could include wanting everything to be symmetrical or having an irrational fear of dirt.

OCD affects around 2% of the population, and it is equally prevalent among males and females. However, specific types of obsessive compulsive disorders, such as pulling out hair, may be more common in females.

People suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder can experience obsessions and compulsions, either concurrently or separately. An effort to try and abstain from their habits or compulsions can cause an individual anxiety. This often makes it “easier” for someone affected with OCD to continue participating in compulsive behavior, rather than struggling with the bouts of intense anxiety that often follow attempts to return to normal functioning without professional help.

Getting a Diagnosis for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Getting a diagnosis for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can sometimes be a lengthy process. Medical providers often run a series of tests and evaluations to ensure that there isn’t a physical reason for OCD-like symptoms to manifest. Similarly, OCD can be masked within a number of psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, making an accurate diagnosis established by a qualified professional crucial to successful treatment.

Psychological evaluation often involves a patient undergoing therapy so that their psychiatrist or therapist can better understand the context in which their obsessions and compulsions exist.

Treatments for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Once a patient has been given a professional diagnosis of having obsessive compulsive disorder, there are a number of treatments available that may help manage their condition.

Therapy

As with most psychiatric conditions, therapy is often a first-line treatment option. One particular method, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is highly-effective in people with OCD as it uses “exposure and response prevention therapy” in combination with “cognitive therapy” to effectively shift the way an individual reacts to their triggers and compulsions.

Medications

There are several options when it comes to medications that can help patients with OCD by minimizing their obsessive compulsive behaviors. In most cases, antidepressants are also FDA-approved to treat OCD, so doctors may try a series of antidepressant prescriptions to find the right option for their patient.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

As of late 2018, the FDA has approved transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment option for those diagnosed with OCD. TMS can modulate the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain that is correlated with OCD symptoms.

Patients who have not responded to other treatment options, like medication and or therapy, may benefit from TMS as it is helpful in stimulating the brain, often resulting in significant symptom relief.

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For more information about how transcranial magnetic stimulation could help you manage your OCD when other treatments have failed, or to schedule your consult at TMS & Brain Health, please contact us.

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