Some of us probably have a milder form of symptoms that do not make it difficult to ‘leave the house’. I had discussed my issues with obsessive thoughts in the first part of this series. Though I am not diagnosed with OCD, the thoughts still get in the way of normal day-to-day functioning. I have found a coping mechanism and things have been better.
If you are diagnosed with OCD, you are not alone. Research shows that 1-2% of the general population in the world have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Begin with Awareness and Acceptance
One of the best lines on OCD is by ADAA - ‘There is no way past OCD except through it.’ If any psychological thoughts are causing you stress or making it difficult to do your daily activities, do not sit and hope for the situation to improve.
Remember Newton’s First Law of Motion - an object will remain in rest or motion unless an external force acts on it.
You can’t wish your problems away. You have to bring in the external force of therapy to alleviate your condition.
Diligently Practice Your Therapist’s Assignments
Whether it is an illness or a legal matter, you have to work with your doctor or lawyer as a team. There must be mutual faith and an attitude to work through things.
If your therapist has given you some daily assignments, it is your job to practice them diligently. Believe in the process and be at it. Do not worry about the results. Be prepared for the long haul. And whenever you waver, tell yourself why you are doing this. To have less stress and better quality of life.
Focus on the Thoughts, Fight the Compulsions
Circling back to my example at the beginning. It was those obsessive thoughts about checking the locks or gas connection which was compelling me to act in a particular way. The thoughts were the cause but I needed some strategy to stop giving in to the compulsions.
The basal ganglia is responsible for making decisions and motivating us to act. This is where the compulsions emerge from. I devised a coping mechanism that works for me. At that moment of locking the door or checking the gas connection, I still myself. Remaining mindful, I do not do or think of anything else but the act at hand. So when the obsessive thoughts come sneaking in, I shove them off and pick up something else to do. Because I can tell my brain that I do not need to act on that thought again.
I have also adopted the Japanese safety ritual known as shisha kanko - “pointing and calling”. The action activates the frontal lobe which is connected to attention.
There is no shame or harm in finding out if you have OCD. Many OCD patients can cloak their symptoms. It does not help anyone least of all the individuals. Thus, the role of a clinician or a therapist is paramount. Family members must be alert if they observe obsessive behaviors and motivate the individual to seek help.
There are medical means of improving serotonin levels when medical practitioners prescribe SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). Dr. Changkakoti voices, “your doctor will talk to you about it if necessary.” You can take action by trying to increase your serotonin by exercising regularly, eating a good diet, and exposure to sunlight. Lifestyle adjustment/ modification is helpful. Even mental exercises help improve serotonin levels. Forming a habit to mentally and physically exercise might work for you.
Though OCD cannot be cured completely, the right interventions can help you live a sustainable good life. This article has aimed to raise awareness of OCD and is not to be considered as medical guidance. Our goal at Kind to Mind is to educate, enable and empower readers to take the right action and seek out positive reinforcements. Ultimately, our objective is to help improve the quality of life of individuals with OCD.
The views shared by Dr. Changkakoti are her own for generating awareness and should not be attributed to her employers.
Mahjani, B., Klei, L., Mattheisen, M., Halvorsen, M. W., Reichenberg, A., Roeder, K., . . . Rück, C. (2022). The Genetic Architecture of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Contribution of Liability to OCD From Alleles Across the Frequency Spectrum. The American journal of psychiatry, 179(3), 216-225. doi:https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.21010101
Mataix-Cols, D., Boman, M., Monzani, B., Rück, C., Serlachius, E., Långström, N., & Lichtenstein, P. (2013). Population-based, multigenerational family clustering study of obsessive-compulsive disorder. JAMA psychiatry, 70(7), 709-717. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3
This is a really important point - good work