OCD: Breaking Out of the Loop
“Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit”
– R.E. Shay
Living with distressing, unbidden thoughts and images and constantly trying to ward off their recurrence through the use of certain repetitive rituals sounds like the plot of a bad “B” horror movie, doesn’t it? Yet roughly 2.3 percent of the population in America does deal with symptoms of OCD on a regular basis. For someone with OCD, these intrusive thoughts and/or images (the obsessions) could involve fears, harmful suggestions, sexual imagery or any of an endless variety of disturbing material that arrives in their mind seemingly out of the blue. In order to allay anxiety and stop the undesirable flow, they then engage in whatever routine they must to bring relief (the compulsion).
Commonly this behavior could involve hand washing, cleaning, arranging and ordering of objects, counting, or constant checking and rechecking a situation (as in whether the door is locked or the stove is off). The ritual affords at least a brief respite from experiencing the disturbing material, but the “loop” is soon reset and the unbidden material then arrives anew. Constant re-performance of the ritual is like holding onto the rabbit’s foot mentioned in the above quote. It serves as a stop-gap measure to manage the unwanted information, yet does so in a sort of magical, talismanic way. In the long run it is an unacceptable solution to the problem, and keeps the person stuck in the OCD loop.
Living in this anxiety-filled state without help or a plan for breaking free can be an extremely painful and puzzling existence. What is sorely needed is a way out, and the good news is that effective treatment is available. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involving Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is currently the best evidence-supported approach. Some also benefit from the addition of medication to the treatment program, usually in the form of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); however medication alone does not show the best results.
If you or someone you love has OCD, contact Piper Walsh and book an appointment today. She knows the ins and outs of the successful treatment of OCD and will be an excellent guide on the journey to freedom…outside the OCD loop.