Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is the name for thoughts or behaviors that:
- Feel like you can't control them
- Happen over and over
- Get in the way of your daily life
- Cause a lot of distress
Most people with OCD are diagnosed in adolescence or young adulthood. But OCD can also arise earlier or later in life.
Signs You Should Get Help for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Most people with OCD have both thoughts and behaviors that they can't control. In fact, obsessive thoughts often lead to compulsive behaviors. For example, you may continually check that the door is locked or that the stove is turned off.
The most common obsessive thoughts include:
- Excessive fear of germs or dirt
- Fear of intruders
- Unwanted thoughts about violence, sex or religion
- Thoughts of harming a loved one or yourself
- Need for things to be arranged symmetrically or in a specific way
The most common compulsive behaviors include:
- Excessive hand-washing, showering or cleaning
- Locking and unlocking doors
- Checking appliances to be sure they’re turned off
- Going through a door or touching an object a certain number of times
- Arranging items in a particular order
- Counting to a certain number
- Collecting objects that you don’t need or use
Tics You Can't Control
Some people with OCD have tics — sudden, repeated movements or sounds that they can't control. But tics alone aren't a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When to See a Doctor
ODC isn't just getting worried from time to time or occasionally double checking that you've locked the door. People with OCD spend at least an hour a day — if not much more — dealing with distressing obsessions or compulsions.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment at Rush
The best treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder depends on the specifics of your case. How severe is it? How have you responded to medication and psychotherapy in the past?
At Rush, we'll take the time to talk through your history, needs and desires. Then we'll recommend a plan including one or more of the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches you how to change the way you think and react so you feel less anxious. Psychologists at Rush offer exposure and response prevention, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that is particularly effective against OCD. It gradually exposes you to situations that cause anxiety and gives you tools for becoming less sensitive to them.
- Medications, including some antidepressants and some anti-anxiety medications. We often use medication in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Deep brain stimulation, a surgical procedure that can help people with OCD even when other treatments haven't worked.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a chronic disease, so there is no cure. But finding the treatment that works for you can ease your symptoms and vastly improve your quality of life.
Rush Excellence in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Care
- Alternatives to medication and therapy: Rush is one of a handful of health systems to offer deep brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS therapy) for OCD. Even if medications and therapy haven't worked, these treatments can often significantly ease OCD symptoms.
- Therapy techniques designed to help with OCD: There are several types cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), each designed to help with specific symptoms. Therapists at Rush have training in CBT techniques designed to help with OCD, including exposure and response prevention.
- A team approach: Depending on your needs and preferences, you may start by seeing a primary care provider, a psychiatrist or a therapist. (Your therapist at Rush may be a psychologist or a social worker.) Whoever you meet with first, you'll have access to our whole team's expertise. If your psychiatrist or primary care doctor thinks you may benefit from therapy, they'll connect you to a trusted therapist. If your therapist thinks you may benefit from medication or a medical procedure, they'll connect you with a trusted psychiatrist.