What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a psychological disorder characterized by repeated obsessions (distressing thoughts, images, and urges) and/or compulsions (behaviors) intended to relieve distress or anxiety. These compulsions and obsessions can cause the individual distress, and can impact their ability to succeed in different aspects of their life. Of those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, about half first see symptoms in childhood. OCD is largely caused by genetics, and often runs in families.
Signs and Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can look different for each person, but there are some obsessions and compulsions that are more commonly seen than others. These are listed below with examples:
- Contamination (feeling dirty, covered in germs)
- Doubts (regarding if they locked the door, turned off the lights/stove/etc.)
- Need for order/symmetry (shoes lined up perfectly)
- Aggressive impulses (hurting themselves or others, swear words)
- Sexual imagery
- Vague thoughts of something terrible happening
- Washing/cleaning (hands, clothes, doorknobs)
- Checking (locks, lights, stove)
- Counting (steps, objects)
- Repeating (words, activities)
- Arranging/Ordering (pencils, shoes, etc.)
- Touching (specific objects)
Friends and family will have an easier time spotting the signs of compulsions, as they are observable behaviors, whereas obsessions are an internal experience of the individual suffering and can be kept private.
How We Diagnose Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Fairmount Behavioral Health System gathers information from various sources in order to accurately diagnose Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and inform treatment. Upon arrival at FBHS, the individual will be interviewed by a psychiatrist or psychologist regarding the current symptoms they are experiencing, relevant history, the nature of the obsessions and compulsions (should they be present), and the degree of impairment they experience as a result of their symptoms. These questions might include:
- How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?
- How do these symptoms affect your work/school/relationships?
- Have you ever been treated for these symptoms before?
If the individual chooses to provide consent to have their loved ones be a part of their treatment, close family and friends will also be interviewed to obtain valuable information.
Relevant clinical information, such as signs of compulsions, can also be gathered through observation of the individual by psychiatric nurses and technicians.
Frequently, many different factors overlap that can make it difficult to determine what exactly is the source of the symptoms. On a case-by-case basis, the treatment team may have a doctoral level psychology student administer a formal assessment to gain some clarity. If a formal assessment is done, a report will be generated to explain the results.
Our Treatment Options for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
Fairmount Behavioral Health Systems provides each individual with multidisciplinary treatment. They will treated by a team consisting of a psychiatrist, therapist, social worker, and nurse. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been found to be most effectively treated through a combination of medication and therapy. Additionally, aftercare planning will be provided to ensure a successful return to the community.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often treated with an antidepressant. A psychiatrist will determine if an antidepressant is an appropriate treatment for the individual, and if prescribed, will observe the individual to ensure they are responding to the medication with a minimum of side-effects.
Group therapy is offered twice per day, focusing on helping the individual cope with their distress in a healthy manner. Relaxation training can be particularly helpful for those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as they can use this training to help calm them in the face of distressing obsessions or the urge to carry out a compulsive behavior. Additionally, groups will be held on communication, healthy relationships, self-esteem, and education about their illness in order to help the individual lead an overall healthier life.
Group therapy can be a great way for individuals to gain a sense of community, and not feel so alone in their struggles. However, some people are not comfortable sharing their experiences in front of others, and would be more comfortable with individual therapy. In these cases, individual therapy will be provided for the individual.
A social worker will work with the individual to set up appointments with outpatient therapy/psychiatry before they are discharged. This helps ensure that treatment can continue as seamlessly as possible when the individual leaves Fairmount. The social worker will also help the individual access any other community resources and supports that might be of use to them (housing, support groups, etc.)
If any of these symptoms are causing concern for you, a family member or a friend, please contact Fairmount Behavioral Health to schedule an evaluation at 215.487.4100. You can also visit our Admissions Page for additional information.
Leanne Scharr, B.S.
Doctoral Level Practicum Student