Mental Health Treatment: Coping w/ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Mental Health Treatment: Coping w/ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Published: February 4, 2013

Ritualistic Behavior Characterizes OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a specific type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by unreasonable fears and thoughts, followed by a ritualistic behavior. The ritualistic behavior gives the person temporary relief from anxiety, until the obsessive thoughts begin again and the pattern continues. People who have been diagnosed with OCD may understand that their thoughts are unreasonable but they are unable to ignore them. In most cases, individuals with OCD may fixate on certain fears, such as those of germs or illness. This fixation may lead to them excessively washing their hands because of the fear of becoming sick.


Biology appears to be strongly linked to the occurrence of some cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. For example, insufficient amounts of specific hormones can lead to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder. In fact, low serotonin levels can contribute to the symptoms of OCD, and is often treated with medications that can improve its action. OCD has been known to run in families, but it is uncertain if the link there is genetic or environmental. Still other cases may be reactions to traumatic events, which trigger OCD thoughts and behavior patterns.

Risk Factors

In addition to the causes listed above, certain risk factors may make some individuals even more prone to develop OCD. Specifically, individuals who have a family history of the condition or anxiety may be more likely to develop it themselves. Similarly, some research suggests that high levels of stress can also contribute to the disorder. OCD patterns allow the person to focus on irrational thoughts and behaviors rather than confronting the situations creating stress. They can also interfere with a person accepting help from medical intervention, risking further distress.


There are a number of complications associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors, alcohol abuse and depression are all common in people with OCD. It can disrupt a person’s life so much that they may feel death is an option. Alternatively, some may use drugs and alcohol to find temporary relief, which only worsens OCD.  nbsp;In addition, some diagnosed with OCD may develop other problems such as eating disorders, contact dermatitis (from handwashing), troubled relationships and inability to participate in other activities of daily living. Finally, individuals who struggle with the conditions listed may be more likely to develop OCD.

Preparing for Your Appointment

As with any medical condition, proper preparation before scheduled appointments is key. For optimal results, patients who have been diagnosed with or are concerned about OCD should identify unusual symptoms, personal information, current medications and ongoing concerns. At the appointment, patients should be prepared to answer questions regarding thought processes, current stressors and changes in personal habits. By being honest and truthful with all healthcare professionals, patients can ensure optimal results in the management and treatment of OCD.

Tests and Diagnosis

There are a number of tests that can be used to diagnose obsessive-compulsive disorder. These include physical exams, laboratory tests and psychological evaluation. To be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, patients must typically include a number of specific criteria, including having recurrent obsessions and repetitive compulsions, the ability to identify these obsessions as self-generated and the obsessions and/or compulsions are intrusive and disrupt a person’s life. A proper diagnosis of OCD should be made by a psychiatrist and not a primary physician.

Treatments and Drugs

There are a number of different treatment options available for individuals diagnosed with OCD. Psychotherapy is one of the most effective. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a specific type of psychotherapy in which participants learn to change their thoughts and routines, decreasing previous obsessions and compulsions. In addition, certain medications, including Anafranil, Luvox, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft have all produced satisfactory results decreasing distress in individuals living with OCD. When used in combination, psychotherapy and medications have been found to be quite effective but certain individuals may require additional forms of treatment. For these individuals, long term residential treatment centers, biofeeback, transcranial magnetic stimulation or deep brain stimulation may be needed to promote optimal results.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

The thorough management of OCD depends on patient participation in specific lifestyle recommendations and home remedies. Taking medications exactly as they were prescribed is essential. In addition, paying attention to signs that may signify the start of a bout of OCD is also important in managing OCD. Finally, avoiding the use of drugs, alcohol and nonprescription medications may be a good way to avoid setbacks when it comes to OCD.

Coping and Support

Coping with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder can be difficult for individuals with the condition and for family members and other loved ones. Learning more about the specific condition can be a great tool for individuals who are concerned about obsessive-compulsive disorder. Similarly, participating in a support group, staying focused on specific goals, exercising, and engaging in stress management can be effective ways for both patients and family members to deal with this life-changing diagnosis. Finally, developing time management skills and learning how to relax is useful for optimal treatment. Individuals who are interested in learning more about different methods of coping and support should consult with a therapist and/or psychiatrist.


There is no way to prevent obsessive-compulsive disorder. Instead, if a person is concerned about having this condition he or she should be encouraged to seek immediate medical attention and follow all recommendations. People who have been diagnosed with OCD should be sure to alert healthcare providers for continuity of care if their symptoms change. With proper support, increases in the severity of the condition may be avoided.