Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a serious condition that can interfere with your ability to get through even the simplest everyday tasks. OCD is a disorder with a neurological basis, affecting about 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 kids in the United States.
OCD is an anxiety disorder in which repeated, negative thoughts and fears (obsessions) drive you to compulsive, ritualistic behavior (compulsions).
For example, most people occasionally worry about their house being broken into. People who do not have OCD will make sure their doors are locked and their alarm is set, and then they move on with their life. Someone with OCD cannot stop obsessing over the fear of an intruder, so they will check and recheck the door locks over and over to make sure no one can get in.
These obsessions and compulsions eventually can become so severe that they disrupt your ability to function normally, including participating in your regular responsibilities and having any kind of leisure time.
Research has shown the brains of those who have OCD function differently than normal brains, which means you cannot completely cure OCD. With treatment from an OCD specialist such as Dr. Hadi Estakhri at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, you can manage your condition and live a healthy, fulfilling life.
Here are five ways you can cope with OCD:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses two scientifically-based techniques to change your thoughts and behavior. In Exposure and Response Prevention, a therapist gradually exposes you to your obsessions and helps you learn to respond differently to those triggers. In Cognitive Therapy, you learn to recognize patterns of thought (“error messages”) that cause anxiety and negative behavior. Once you recognize the pattern, you can begin to respond in a new way.
Combining CBT with medication is one of the best ways to combat OCD. Dr. Estakhri will likely have you try an antidepressant first – the exact drug will depend on your health and symptoms. It may take a couple of months to have an effect, but medication has been shown to help with OCD.
OCD symptoms often get worse in stressful situations, so do everything you can to keep stress to a minimum in your life. Avoid situations that you know will cause stress (cut out as many extraneous activities as possible) and learn some breathing and relaxation techniques to keep you calm in tense situations. Creative hobbies can help with stress management as well.
Sleep, exercise and diet
Many mental health issues get worse when you don’t get enough sleep, and OCD fits into this category. Get into a regular sleep routine and stick to it as much as possible. You will be more regular in your sleep patterns if you:
- Exercise during the day (this also helps combat mental health issues)
- Avoid electronics for an hour before bed
- Eat healthy.
Keep your body in good shape so it’s in the best condition possible to help your mind fight its own battles.
Learn to practice basic mindfulness, or awareness of your current presence and situation. While not much existing research links mindfulness to OCD relief, anecdotal evidence does show that it helps with mental health in general. It’s always good to take a few moments to pause, breathe, and clear your head.
You can’t cure OCD, but you can live a satisfying life by incorporating these techniques to help cope with your symptoms. For expert guidance on how to navigate life with OCD, call us at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health or book online to set up a consultation with Dr. Estakhri today.