Obsessions and everyday life
Obsessions are intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that invade an individual’s mind against their will and are very hard to ignore. Strange or disturbing thoughts are not as uncommon as we may think and at times, all of us can experience them. For example, we may worry that the iron has been left switched on, or feel an inexplicable urge to jump or even push someone else on to a railway track. Thinking a thought of that kind, does not mean that we are going to act on it. Thus, unpleasant/ distressing thoughts that intrude our minds are not always problematic unless the person who thinks them cannot ignore them and ascribes a different meaning to them.
Obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Individuals with OCD ascribe different meaning to their obsessions and may believe that their thoughts have the power to cause harm to themselves or their loved ones through what they might do or fail to do. They also believe that they can and should prevent harm from happening which leads them to exaggerated efforts in the form of compulsions and avoidance behaviours. Although a person with OCD employs compulsions and avoidance behaviours to reduce anxiety, the opposite actually occurs: a vicious circle of obsessions and compulsions is formed and anxiety is perpetuated.
Typical obsessions in OCD
Fear of contamination from dirt, germs, viruses, body fluids, chemicals etc.
Doubts about harm occuring (e.g. The stove has not been switched off)
Excessive preoccupation with precision, symmetry and order
Obsessions related to the body and physical symptoms
Sacrilegious or blasphemous religious thoughts
Sexual thoughts or images (e.g. that someone is a pedophile)
Thoughts and images of aggression and violence (e.g., a mother thinking stabbing her baby)
Compulsions in OCD
To soothe the anxiety resulting from obsessions and decrease the possibility of harm occurring, individuals perform repetitive actions, called compulsions. These compulsions may be apparent to others (e.g., looking you turned the heater off until you feel safe) or mental acts that are not apparent to others (e.g. repeating a particular phrase in your mind).
Typical compulsions in OCD
Checking. For example, checking repeatedly if you locked the door until one feels «right».
Excessive washing and cleaning of the body (e.g., hand washing) or the house.
Repeated acts as going up and down the stairs multiple times
Mental rituals such as repeating specific words, phrases or prayers in a set manner/counting
Ordering or arranging acts so that everything is symmetrical, neat and flawless.
The first aim of therapy is to help you understand that the risk you are afraid of is a symptom of your anxiety and not a realistic one. If you have OCD, it is likely that you think in a way that doesn’t help you to find a resolution to your issue. For example, you may have an excessive sense of responsibility or you may overestimate risk and underestimate your ability to cope with stressful situations. Additionally, people with OCD find it often hard to tolerate the uncertain nature of life and pay too much attention to their thoughts and the harm that could be caused by them. Our sessions will help you redefine your beliefs and discover more helpful ways of thinking that will soothe your anxiety, reduce your symptoms and increase your daily functionality.
If you have symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and would like to discuss how I could help you in more detail, please contact me to book an appointment at my Limassol Practice.