When Unwanted Thoughts Take Over (page 2)
Table of Contents:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- What are the symptoms of OCD?
- When does OCD start?
- Is there help?
- Who pays for treatment?
- Why do people get OCD?
- Personal story
- For More Information
People with anxiety disorders feel extremely fearful and unsure. Most people feel anxious about something for a short time now and again, but people with anxiety disorders feel this way most of the time. Their fears and worries make it hard for them to do everyday tasks. About 18% of American adults have anxiety disorders. Children also may have them.
Treatment is available for people with anxiety disorders. Researchers are also looking for new treatments that will help relieve symptoms.
This booklet is about one kind of anxiety disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. For information about other kinds of anxiety disorders, please see the end of this booklet.
Everyone double-checks things sometimes-for example, checking the stove before leaving the house, to make sure it's turned off. But people with OCD feel the need to check things over and over, or have certain thoughts or perform routines and rituals over and over. The thoughts and rituals of OCD cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
The repeated, upsetting thoughts of OCD are called obsessions. To try to control them, people with OCD repeat rituals or behaviors, which are called compulsions. People with OCD can't control these thoughts and rituals.
Examples of obsessions are fear of germs, of being hurt or of hurting others, and troubling religious or sexual thoughts. Examples of compulsions are repeatedly counting things, cleaning things, washing the body or parts of it, or putting things in a certain order, when these actions are not needed, and checking things over and over.
People with OCD have these thoughts and do these rituals for at least an hour on most days, often longer. The reason OCD gets in the way of their lives is that they can't stop the thoughts or rituals, so they sometimes miss school, work, or meetings with friends, for example.
What are the symptoms of OCD?
People with OCD:
- have repeated thoughts or images about many different things, such as fear of germs, dirt, or intruders; violence; hurting loved ones; sexual acts; conflicts with religious beliefs; or being overly neat.
- do the same rituals over and over such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, counting, keeping unneeded items, or repeating the same steps again and again.
- have unwanted thoughts and behaviors they can't control.
- don't get pleasure from the behaviors or rituals, but get brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause. spend at least an hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
- spend at least an hour a day on the thoughts and rituals, which cause distress and get in the way of daily life.
When does OCD start?
For many people, OCD starts during childhood or the teen years. Most people are diagnosed at about age 19. Symptoms of OCD may come and go and be better or worse at different times.
Is there help?
There is help for people with OCD. The first step is to go to a physician or health clinic to talk about symptoms. People who think they have OCD may want to bring this booklet to the physician, to help them talk about the symptoms in it. The physician will do an exam to make sure that another physical problem isn't causing the symptoms. The physician may make a referral to a mental health specialist.
Physicians may prescribe medication to help relieve OCD. It's important to know that some of these medicines may take a few weeks to start working. Only a physician (a family physician or psychiatrist) can prescribe medications. (In 2 states, psychologists with specific training and certification may prescribe medications for anxiety disorders.)
The kinds of medicines used to treat OCD are listed below. Some of these medicines are used to treat other problems, such as depression, but also are helpful for OCD.
- antianxiety medicines, and
Physicians also may ask people with OCD to go to therapy with a licensed social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. This treatment can help people with OCD feel less anxious and fearful.
There is no cure for OCD yet, but treatments can give relief to people who have it and help them live a more normal life. If you know someone with signs of OCD, talk to him or her about seeing a physician. Offer to go along for support. To find out more about OCD, call 1-866-615-NIMH (1-866-615-6464) to have free information mailed to you.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Institute of Mental Health. © 2008 NIMH.
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