Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
Obsessive-compulsive refers to pervasive, repetitive, irrational thoughts (obsessions) or behaviors (compulsions) which interfere significantly with normal life functioning and are accompanied by much anxiety. Often, the person thinks that something terrible will happen without the OCD symptoms. The symptoms can range fromor include such patterns of touching things, counting, organizing a certain way, hand-washing, overcleaning, hoarding, or thinking awful things. There is a continuum from personality infused with a few symtoms which are relatively harmless to a lifestyle paralyzed by OCD. The condition is neurological and often runs in families but the specific symptoms sometimes are related to life experiences, such as hoarding behavior of someone who lived through serious loss.
What to do? Medication for anxiety sometimes helps a little but is not the total answer. The solution is behavioral practice to wait longer and longer before giving in to the behavior, distracting oneself with something less destructive or intrusive. As the avoidance of symtoms progresses, so do the reverberating neurological impulses. It sounds simple but the OCD patient needs to practice a lot, the equivalent of someone seriously-injured doing physical therapy often and for a long time. Practice works eventually and life becomes freer, richer and more meaningful.