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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is considered an anxiety disorder. It can impact anyone at any age. It’s important to keep in mind that many people can suffer from obsessive thoughts or behaviours at different times, but that does not mean they have OCD.


When you have OCD, it affects your relationships and daily life. It can feel overwhelming to be caught up in a cycle of behaviour that you don’t feel you can control. But there is hope. You can overcome your compulsions and be free of unwanted thoughts and behaviours with therapy.  


What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

Patients with OCD have thoughts and behaviours that make them feel driven to repetitive behaviours. This often exhibits itself in different ways, such as hand washing, checking locks around the home, ordering things in a specific way. But it can also negatively affect relationships and interferes with daily life. This disruption of life and relationships sets OCD individuals apart from others with ongoing thoughts or behaviours. If someone with OCD were to try and stop without therapy, they would experience feelings of stress and anxiety. It’s to relieve these feelings that they engage in the activities.


Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Those suffering from OCD will often have some of the following symptoms:

  • Fear of dirt or germs

  • Unable to handle uncertainty

  • Compulsion for things to be orderly or symmetrical

  • Ongoing fear about losing control and hurting yourself or others

  • Repetitive checking of items around the house, such as whether the stove has been turned off, doors locked, etc.

  • Unwanted aggressively sexual thoughts

  • Repetitive hand-washing


It can sometimes be challenging to recognize signs of OCD in people you love. Here are some things you can look for that may indicate your loved one is suffering from OCD:

  • Stomachaches

  • Racing heart

  • Shallow breathing

  • Dizziness

  • Muscle tension

  • Shortness of breath

  • Feelings of anxiety or fear

  • Sadness

  • Anger or rage

  • Guilt

  • Need for extra cleaning supplies

  • Requesting everyone wash their hands several times

  • Avoid touching doorknobs or handles.


Risk Factors for OCD

While the cause of OCD is not fully understood, there are some risk factors that, when present, mean you’re more likely to suffer from it. These include:


Family History

If there is a family history of OCD, you’ll be more likely to develop OCD. That means if your parents, siblings or extended family have suffered from OCD, you are at a higher risk of developing the disorder.



When life is disrupted, or we experience a trauma or stressful events, such as the loss of a loved one or a divorce, it can trigger OCD.



Life can bring about some big changes that result in complex emotions. Starting a new job or school, moving, even getting married can all lead to your OCD symptoms.


Additional Mental Disorders

If you’ve suffered from other mental health conditions, you are more likely to develop OCD. This can include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and more.


How is OCD Diagnosed?

If you’ve been suffering from obsessive or compulsive behaviours or thoughts, you should contact a therapist for an evaluation. Just because you are engaging in these thoughts or behaviours does not mean that you have OCD. There are a few steps involved with diagnosing OCD, such as:

Psychological Evaluation

Talking to a professional therapist is one of the best ways to determine if your symptoms are from OCD. These sessions will include discussions about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour patterns. It can also involve talking with family and friends or others in your life that are impacted by your behaviours.


Diagnostic Criteria

The American Psychiatric Association has published guidelines that help therapists determine if your behaviour fits into OCD symptoms. These are called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Professional therapists can use this information to help diagnose you.


Physical Exam

A physical exam can help rule out other issues with your health that may be causing your symptoms. If you complete a comprehensive diagnosis that includes a physical exam, you can be confident in the conclusion.


Treatment for OCD

While OCD cannot be cured, you can gain control over your symptoms and take back your life. How long you’ll need to undergo treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. There are two main ways that professionals treat OCD. These are:



Psychotherapy or talk therapy helps patients understand their OCD better. This can lead to you getting more control over your behaviours. As part of treatment, your therapist will guide you through exposure and response prevention techniques. This is where you gradually expose yourself to the underlying fear that drives your OCD. For example, if you are compulsively checking the locks on your doors, with exposure and response prevention, you would be encouraged to resist checking the locks on your doors. This process can take some time to help you gain more control over your thoughts and behaviours, but it is essential to help you learn to manage your compulsions.



Some OCD patients are given medications to help them control their behaviours and thoughts. The most common form of medicine for OCD patients is antidepressants. This is given as some OCD patients suffer from depression. It is usually caused by the disruption to their lives that results from their OCD symptoms.


If you’re considering medications as part of your OCD treatment, it’s important to talk with your care providers about the side effects and interactions they may have with prescriptions you are already taking.


How Can We Help?

At Catharsis, we are here to help you overcome difficulties in your life and gain control over your OCD symptoms. Our therapists understand how disruptive it can be to your life and relationships. Contact us and start your healing journey today.

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