One of the most important steps in recovering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is understanding what it is you or your child may be up against. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) simply put is a form of anxiety that centers around obsessions and compulsions. While some new research points to an impulse control disorder as the heart of the illness; I find the largest aspect sufferers grapple with is the excruciating anxiety it imposes. OCD looks a little like this: A person has an intrusive thought. This thought in turn creates a feeling of anxiety. The person does not like the feeling of anxiety and, therefore, creates a compulsion to reduce the anxiety. Hit replay. Over and over and over. Repetition of troubling thoughts/obsessions leads the sufferer to falsely believe there must be truth and meaning to the thought where no meaning truly exists.
Obsessions and compulsions cover a variety of topics and, typically, run against the morality of the individual. For example, a person may center obsessions around themes of sexuality, violence or religion. A child may also focus his/her obsessions on food, cleanliness, ill health, contamination, perfectionism, or body image. Compulsions may or may not be visible to an outsider. Scanning thoughts (searching for negative/bad thoughts, counting, ordering) may all be occurring internally. Conversely, some compulsions will be visible to another: washing hands, repeatedly visiting the doctor’s office, seeking assurance from family/friends they did not or could not harm a loved one or commit a crime, excessive cleaning, excessive exercising, arranging items in a precise manner.
Not everyone who is orderly or enjoys a routine is suffering from OCD. True OCD is time consuming and will interfere in the daily functioning of a person’s life by causing excessive anxiety. The compulsions are done to alleviate feelings of intense anxiety. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is not what pop culture dictates. It does not manifest itself merely as an overarching focus on detail and order. It is invasive and intrusive and excruciating to individuals who struggle with the disorder.
What can be done about it?
CBT/ERP: Exposure and Response Prevention is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Anywhere from 65% to 80% of children and adolescents are successful in reducing and/or eliminating their OCD with ERP. You must find a therapist who is appropriately trained in ERP. The IOCDF states, “ERP teaches youth with OCD to face their fears while refraining from compulsions. It helps them realize that their obsessive fears do not come true and that the anxiety they experience subsides as a result of a process referred to as habituation, or a gradual lessening of their anxiety response.”
Alter Lifestyle Habits: OCD is not unlike any other mental/physical illness. It can be triggered or heightened during periods of stress. Exercise reduces anxiety and stress as much if not more than antidepressants. Exercise bonus: no scary side effects and improved health overall. As for the diet, a person who struggles with OCD would benefit substantially from a cleaning out, if you will, of processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine, and alcohol. Because we want the brain to respond to stress in a calm manner, we need to help it out a little. Nourish your child’s brain and body with food and drinks that improve cognitive function, stabilize blood sugars and mood and aid the central nervous system. Look to incorporate plenty of dark leafy greens, fresh berries, whole grains, green tea and chamomile tea, grass-fed meat and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, ground flax seed, chia seed and wild-caught Sockeye salmon) into your daily diet. Crowd out the junk in your family’s diet and you will see a vast improvement in brain function.
Utilize nOCD: A completely free and customizable app is waiting to help you or your loved one. nOCD provides clinically proven ERP techniques to assist the person directly from his/her phone. It isn’t changing ERP in the slightest; only improving the delivery system. Through a HIPPA compliant secure server, nOCD stores your data and allows you to print out real-time tracking of your ERP exercises, anxiety levels, and time/place of OCD episodes to use in conjunction with your therapist. Caught in an episode while out? Utilize the SOS feature to connect with in-the-moment support.
As a therapist, I would never recommend a service I didn’t find to be helpful for a client. I downloaded the app. After familiarizing myself with its utility, I discussed questions and concerns with the officials at nOCD and found what they are doing to be effective at helping individuals utilize modern tools to confront and treat illness. Looking for help with OCD? Click on the above picture to download the free app today!