Coping with High Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts, and OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can occur in many realms and may lead to serious mental health issues. An obsession is an unwanted, intrusive thought. This type of thought may present itself as an idea, image, impulse, urge, or memory that you experience as unwanted and distressing.

A compulsion is a behavior designed to reduce and avoid the discomfort that comes from your experience of an obsession. The behavior may be physical such as washing or checking or it may be mental such as reviewing or neutralizing. The disorder impairs functioning and reduces quality of life. The lost time attending to your obsessions and compulsions can create obstacles in relationships and difficulties with employment or education.

Everyone has anxious moments and irrational thoughts, but people who are chronically anxious are in a highly sensitive state most of the time. They feel a deep urge to protect and follow their obsessive thoughts even when they don’t make sense. Other stressors that can exacerbate OCD may include: other mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders. Also insomnia, family issues, work issues, financial issues, and medical health issues can heighten the prominent obsession. Our obsessions tend to link to what we care most about.

Common intrusive thoughts include repeated thoughts of hurting self or others. Post partem depression combined with intrusive thoughts leaves new parents feeling isolated. Fear of talking about thoughts leads to more fear of being misunderstood perpetuating a need to isolate and remove self from relationships. This confusion and detachment harms bonding and connectiveness with others. Automatic thoughts do not necessarily result in actions or need for protection, but more likely a need for guidance and support. Trained professionals are able to offer tools to minimize risks and further complications.

The following are some other specific types of OCD. Most OCD sufferers have 2-3 obsessions interfering with behaviors and relationships. Here is a brief outline and description.

Contamination OCD: Washing hands and taking excessively long showers to rid self of illness or germs. Also avoiding contact with surfaces contaminated by known germs.

Responsibility / Checking OCD: A compulsion to check that no irresponsible behavior took place that could lead to a catastrophe – often exemplified by locking doors, checking correspondence and monitoring safety measures excessively.

Harm OCD: Focuses on unwanted, intrusive, violent, or tragic thoughts of harming self or others. This may be heightened in post partem depression.

Sexual Orientation OCD: Is rooted in the fear of not being certain about sexual orientation paired with the fear of never being able to have a relationship with a partner whom you feel genuinely attracted.

Pedophile OCD: Obsessions of being a predator of children that is debilitating to every aspect of functioning due to the most unspeakable thoughts.

Relationship OCD: Difficulty in tolerating uncertainty about the quality of a relationship and genuineness of your feelings.

Scrupulosity OCD: Targets people who place a high value on religion, rules, laws, or existential meaning.

Hyperawareness OCD: Typically involuntary excessive awareness of breathing, blinking, swallowing, sounds, songs, or memories.

As trained therapists at Pinnacle Counseling we are skilled at guiding clients and their families in recognizing obsessive compulsive disorder and making recommendations for reclaiming a healthier life style and increasing quality of life. Some tools to explore are acceptance, mindfulness (staying present in the moment), challenging our thoughts and creating a structured approach to managing compulsions. A medical practitioner may also recommend a pharmaceutical approach. Unwanted thoughts, distorted thinking and compulsive urges don’t need to be overwhelming forever. If you’ve tried different treatment options with little success, don’t lose hope. Call us today 479-268-4 for an appointment.

By Sharon Nelson LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor