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10 things You Should Know About OCD

What is it? Does it need professional treatment? What are the most effective treatments for it?

| 14.03.17 | 17:29
10 things You Should Know About OCD
1. OCD is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It includes the component of obsession including obsessive thoughts and the compulsive component including compulsive actions and routines. In order to be defined as suffering from OCD a person’s obsessive thoughts and compulsive routines disrupt his day, take up more than an hour of his day, and the person knows that what he is doing in not logical (not including children).

2. Obsessive thoughts are thoughts or images that repeatedly come back into his mind and he has no control to stop them and they cause him anguish. Most troubling thoughts are those that go against ingrained human values, his self-definition, his desires or they deal with harm that can be caused to others or himself. Sometimes these thoughts do not go against human values or his desires but they are exaggerated, cause suffering or affect his functioning.

Compulsive routines are those actions that a person doesn’t necessarily want to do but feels he must do any way and it causes him discomfort if he attempts to refrain from doing them. Examples are checking and rechecking electric appliances to make sure they’re safe and won’t catch on fire, repetitive washing of hands, touching a specific item incessantly etc.

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Repetitive washing of the hands can be OCD
3. Two main emotions in OCD are doubt and guilt. In the 19th century OCD was called the “ailment of doubt”. This name aptly describes the obsessive compulsive situation which can cause a person to doubt the most basic things about himself, others or the world around him filling him with uncertainty and anxiety. Guilt is another torturous emotion suffered from this condition. It is very easy to make people suffering from OCD feel guilty of basically anything since they already carry the burden of guilt for things no one else would accept responsibility for.

4. It’s important to understand that most people in the world get compulsive thoughts at one point or another and may even create irrational compulsive routines. However they will not be diagnosed as suffering from OCD. As in the rest of psychology, it depends on the frequency and intensity of his thoughts and the actions and if they affect his life or not. Someone needing treatment finds his thoughts and his actions disruptive to his day.

5. 80% of OCD sufferers start suffering before the age of 18 years old. Most start at the onset of puberty before that it is rare and both genders suffer from it equally (Hooray for equal rights).

6. Rabbi Azarya Ariel answered a student who asked how to deal with compulsive religious routines and the rabbi’s answer sheds light on the true Torah approach to emotional disturbances in general and OCD specifically. Here are his words: “OCD is a specific disturbance that sometimes dresses up in the guise of fear of heaven when in truth it's really a nervous disorder that causes much harm to living and keeping mitzvoth. According to the Torah someone who loses his emotional equilibrium has to go for therapy as the Rambam writes in the laws of Deot chapter 2 law 1. We're talking about a positive Mitzvah in its own right, the Mitzvah of having equilibrium, being a balanced person calm and tranquil enables you to keep the Mitzvah of “Going in God's path”. Not only as the sages explain; “just as he is compassionate so too you should be” but also, “Just as God is calm, you should also be calm.” Rabbi Azaria continues his writing to the questioner that Rabbi Yehudah Halevi in his book the Kuzari  explains how “the one who serves God lives with tranquility and controls his emotions and harnesses all of them to serve God in an effective manner”.

7. A person should go to a professional with specific experience in therapy for OCD. Rabbi Azaria writes in his response that since OCD manifests itself in religious people mostly in terms of keeping Jewish law, it is important that the therapist should be someone Torah observant himself. The rabbi also adds that sometimes it's worth it to get rabbinical guidance but this is in addition to having a professional and not as a substitute. Rabbi Azarya compares OCD to Physical Medicine where a doctor establishes the therapeutic program and the rabbi follows after that and gives his halachic opinion on what's a permitted activity and what's not (for example on Shabbat or Yom Kippur).

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8. Cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT is a psychological therapy that it seems to be most effective for people that have OCD whether they are adults or children. CBT trains the person to have new thought processes and routines in a manner that he doesn't need those compulsive behaviors.

One of the approaches is exposure and withholding reaction. In this therapy a person suffering from OCD is exposed gradually to the topic of his obsession or his fears like dirt and he learns techniques and thought processes that will help him deal in the most effective way with his anxieties. This process takes time and effort but in the end it brings to improved quality of life and control over the obsessive compulsive feelings and behaviors.

9. Sometimes the doctor will advise to be to take medications. There are medications that help to control OCD. In most cases the doctors will administer an antidepressant as the first stage of therapy. Antidepressants can help with OCD since they raise the level serotonin a neurological chemical that makes a person feel good calms a person and elevates his Spirits. Quite often people who have OCD are lacking serotonin.

10. Are you dealing with an obsessive compulsive disturbance?

Here are a few tips that can help:

1. Learn about OCD: Understanding OCD can help you move forward to stick to a therapeutic program and not give up.

2. Join a support group: Support groups for people suffering from OCD gives people suffering from it the opportunity to meet other people suffering from it.

3. Remain focused on your goal:  Getting healed from OCD is a long-term process that for the duration of the whole thing you have to focus on your therapeutic goals. This focus will help you move forward in the right direction to be successfully healed.

4. Let go of tensions:  It is well advised to learn relaxing techniques and methods of dealing with stress. Muscle relaxing techniques, deep breathing techniques will all bring on general tranquility.

5. Engage in sports to burn excess energy: Physical activity helps channel your energy, removes the tension caused by OCD and makes it easier to deal with.