Washing your hands to prevent sickness is normal and healthy. However, if the fear of germs or getting sick is so overwhelming you spend hours a day washing your hands, disinfecting your surroundings, or avoiding others, then you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
OCD is a debilitating mental illness where a person has unwanted thoughts or images that cause significant and overwhelming distress. Then, they engage in repetitive behaviors to ease their anxiety.
At Revîv Functional Psychiatry & TMS Wellness Center in Fullerton, California, our compassionate psychiatrist Dr. Hina Sidhu sees firsthand how OCD can take over someone’s life.
Though we recommend seeking professional help for individualized OCD care, there are strategies you can implement to help you cope with your obsessions and compulsions.
1. Identify your triggers
OCD is a vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions that you know are illogical but feel they’re out of your control.
It starts with an unwanted thought or image that ruminates in your mind. You try to ignore it, but you can’t, causing intense feelings of disgust or fear. You then feel the urge to engage in an activity that relieves the uncomfortable feeling. Unfortunately, the relief is temporary, and the cycle repeats, taking up hours of time.
The OCD cycle has a trigger. Identifying the initial thought or situation that starts the obsession can help you learn how to cope. Keep track of your triggers and the obsessions they cause. Make note of the level of anxiety you feel and the compulsions you use to reduce the distress.
Tracking your triggers can help you anticipate the situations that start your OCD cycle. That allows you to change your thought pattern or stop the compulsive behavior. Even delaying the ritualistic behavior you engage in to ease your distress can help you feel like you have more control.
2. Make lifestyle changes
Stress is a significant OCD trigger. Making a few simple changes to your lifestyle can significantly improve how you handle and cope with stress, such as:
- Adding 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night
- Eating a balanced diet
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol
You can also try meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness. Many of our patients also find massage therapy helps reduce stress and anxiety related to their OCD.
3. Find support
OCD is isolating, but you’re not the only one struggling with the disorder. OCD is common and a condition many people struggle with. Finding OCD support groups can help you understand the disorder and learn other strategies to help you cope.
We also recommend professional help for OCD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and habit reversal training are effective therapeutic techniques that help people with OCD gain control over their obsessions and compulsions.
You may also benefit from psychiatric medications that ease symptoms while undergoing therapy. If therapy and medication fail to improve your OCD, you may want to consider transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy — a noninvasive treatment that activates areas of the brain involved with mood.
With the right support and plan, you can take control of your life and mental health. Let us help you develop a strategy for managing your OCD. Call our office or book an appointment online today. We also offer telemedicine appointments.