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What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by persistent and repetitive thoughts, images, or impulses that are intrusive and unpleasant (obsessions), and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at reducing the distress caused by the obsession. No matter how irrational these thoughts or behaviors might seem, a person with OCD finds it difficult to control engaging in them.

Common obsessions include contamination fears, worries about danger and separation, concern about harm to self or others, and preoccupation with doing the right thing (i.e., scrupulosity). The compulsions are often related behaviors, such as repeated washing, or cleaning in response to contamination fear. However, compulsions can also be unrelated behaviors, such as having to blink a certain number of times to prevent a dangerous event. Compulsions can also be mental acts, such as using internal dialogue to say a specific phrase or prayer in response to a worry that one may have not said something “just right.”

Each time compulsions are enacted in response to an intrusive, unpleasant obsession, the individual experiences some relief, but only temporarily. Therefore, the act of engaging in the compulsion is reinforced (i.e., it worked to make me feel better so I’m going to keep doing that!). This pattern leads to a strengthened cycle of more compulsive behaviors enacted in response to more frequent and distressing obsessions. Over time, individuals can find themselves in a situation where their life becomes consumed by a need to constantly engage in compulsions in order to keep the distress experienced by their obsessions at bay.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children

For a glimpse into how obsessive compulsive disorder in children manifests itself in kids and adolescents, visit the following site:

Treatment for OCD

At Pediatric Psychology Associates, we understand that OCD can disrupt the lives of individuals and families, and our goal is to provide you with the skills needed to overcome OCD in a supportive and empowering environment. We use an evidence-based treatment approach, which research has shown to be most effective in reducing OCD symptoms and related impairment. Specifically, within a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) framework, we engage individuals in exposure and response prevention (ERP).

The focus in this type of treatment is on identifying the obsessive worry thought, and then using a variety of cognitive skills to challenge these thoughts. Your therapist will help you find ways to objectively question and refute the accuracy of obsessive thoughts. In other words, your therapist will teach you how to “talk back” to OCD. Then, the most critical component of treatment involves gradually facing your fears while refraining from engaging in compulsions. For example, some patients may have obsessive thoughts about contamination fears and therefore engage in compulsive hand washing as a result. In this case, ERP might entail gradually touching objects that are considered “dirty,” and then abstaining from hand washing for gradually longer periods of time. Regardless of the type of obsessions and compulsions you are experiencing, your therapist will work with you to learn to gradually face feared situations to help you regain control of your life.

The following video provides a glimpse into what Exposure and Response Prevention treatment for children and adolescents looks like:

Do I need OCD treatment?

Although many people at times double-check certain things (e.g., Did I turn off the stove?), an individual with OCD experiences very high levels of distress in response to the obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, and their lives are significantly disrupted by the disorder. For example, a child with OCD might have difficulty paying attention at school or become reluctant to participate in extracurricular activities he/she once enjoyed; an adult may have a difficult time focusing at work and maintaining social relationships due to the amount of OCD-related distress experienced on a daily basis.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of OCD and find that it is causing you significant distress or interfering with your daily life, please call our office to set up an initial consultation.