People with OCD feel they are at the mercy of
unwanted and intrusive worries (obsessions). They often fear great harm
will come to them or others, frequently as a result of their
carelessness or mistakes in judgment. Examples of such painful
obsessions are worries about picking up life-threatening germs, or about
forgetting to turn off a stove that endangered others. Obsessions
usually are not helped simply by
rationally challenging them. The efforts to resist obsessions often
make them worse.
People with obsessions often devise elaborate
and painful rituals (compulsions), which can provide temporary relief for
their worries. Examples of compulsions include constant washing of
one’s hands to get rid of germs and frequent checking and rechecking
to see if the stove is turned off. Unfortunately individuals soon feel
enslaved to these time consuming and elaborate compulsions.
Therapy for OCD
A very effective treatment approach has been
developed for OCD. We have discovered that if individuals can face and
challenge their anxieties, the pain of OCD can be alleviated. Thus
clients are encouraged to voluntarily expose themselves to the
distressing thoughts and threatening situations that elicit the rituals
they enact to reduce their worries. They are then given the
support and guidance on preventing these compulsive behaviors.
While this approach does involve enduring some short-term discomfort, it
is a path to undermining the obsessive-compulsive pattern and producing
freedom from worry.