We hear the term “OCD,” the acronym for obsessive-compulsive disorder, often uttered in the media and the entertainment world to indicate someone who is extremely detail-oriented or a perfectionist. However, this mental health condition is far more complex and distressing for those living with it.
Because of a lack of understanding by the general public, myths often overtake the facts surrounding obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dr. Amy Carnall and Cristina Serway, APN, PMHNP-BC, of Clarity Psychiatric Care, located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, offer informed care and a compassionate approach if you’re dealing with symptoms of OCD or you’ve been diagnosed with it.
We offer a holistic treatment plan customized to your needs. We can help you enjoy and participate in life more fully, especially if OCD symptoms have proven paralyzing.
When you live with OCD, you struggle with intrusive thoughts, fears, or pictures in your mind that seem impossible to shake, leading to compulsive repetitive actions that quell those disturbing ideas. When you act on these thoughts, the behaviors can be ritualistic or develop a familiar pattern. Unfortunately, that only works for a short time, if it works at all.
For example, you might have unending thoughts of burning the house down, so you respond by checking that the oven is turned off dozens of times before you leave the house. You might even be halfway to a destination but decide you must go back to check again.
Some of the most common obsessive thought patterns involve harm coming to loved ones, “forbidden” thoughts about sex, self-harm, and violence toward others. Concern about germs or becoming ill is another fear that can cause intense fretting that’s difficult to control.
In response to these thoughts, a person might engage in compulsive behaviors like keeping things organized or in a very specific order, constantly counting in your head or out loud, non-stop cleaning of your home, repetitively bathing or scrubbing yourself, or touching objects. They might also say particular prayers, chants, or phrases.
OCD interferes with living your life normally. Obsessive thoughts — and the compulsive behaviors you respond to them with — take up so much time and mental energy that relationships and activities are seriously disrupted.
Myth: You can control OCD symptoms if you just try hard enough.
Fact: OCD thoughts and compulsions aren’t optional. It’s impossible to simply stop focusing on them at will. Unfortunately, intense anxiety fuels these behaviors.
Myth: OCD is mainly about organization and being a “neat freak.”
Fact: Organization and cleanliness are just two possible ways that OCD manifests. Other compulsive behaviors come with OCD, such as hoarding and repetitive movements or gestures. In fact, you can even have OCD and be unconcerned with order and cleanliness.
Myth: OCD can be traced back to childhood trauma.
Fact: Many people with OCD didn’t grow up in highly dysfunctional households. There’s actually a genetic component to OCD. So, in addition to experiential causes, if other family members have been diagnosed with it, you’re more at risk of being diagnosed, too.
Myth: Women experience higher rates of anxiety than men, so they experience more OCD symptoms.
Fact: The OCD International Foundation notes the condition affects men, women, and children of all ages, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds at about the same rate.
The stigma around OCD serves to minimize and universalize the condition. OCD doesn’t mean being preoccupied with organizing your bedroom. Instead, it’s forgoing a good night’s sleep and performing a task, such as ripping up the carpet, to ensure that there are no insects below it.
Fortunately, our Clarity Psychiatric Care team provides treatment that can be transformative.
After a thorough assessment of your OCD symptoms and overall health, we typically prescribe medication and talk therapy.
The key is regulating your brain's chemistry with medication and working with our therapist on finding alternative ways to deal with obsessive worrying.
We can also recommend lifestyle changes to mitigate your OCD symptoms, including eating a nutritious diet, staying active, sleeping well, and managing stress effectively. It’s also essential to continue taking your OCD medications if they’ve been prescribed.
Call the Clarity Psychiatric Care office in Cherry Hill at 856-428-1260 to make an appointment if you're wrestling with OCD symptoms or book one online.