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Possible OCD

Question:

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on OCD because I think I show some of the symptoms of it. When I was younger (around the ages of 11-14) I used to have a fear of contamination and spent a lot of time constantly washing my hands. I also had a lot of fears about causing harm to myself or others if I did or didn’t do certain actions. For a while these problems went away. Occasionally I would have some thoughts, but they would be more like a whisper in the background. Now all of a sudden, 5 years later, I’m having similar thoughts. I have a fear of causing harm to my self if I don’t do certain actions. There really isn’t a patter to my actions, it just seems the less I want to do something, the more uncomfortable I feel if I don’t do it. It really isn’t that time consuming but it’s very distressing as I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that I don’t have to do certain things. These thoughts tend to be religious in nature, usually dealing with my soul! My college offers counseling for OCD, so I was planning on seeking treatment for it. First, do you think I have OCD and if so, what treatment is available for me?

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Answer:

I can’t say that you have OCD or don’t have it, but I can say that you are reporting some of the symptoms associated with that disorder. You are describing what sound like obsessions; repetitive although not well grounded thoughts accompanied by an urgency and anxiety if you don’t attend to them. Compulsions occur when you act on the obsessions. OCD is an anxiety disorder, and symptoms tend to get worse when you are under stress. If you have OCD, you probably have a relatively mild case of it. Severe cases of OCD are disabling, with compulsions filling hours of patient’s days. Certainly if you have access to mental health services you should avail yourself of them. There are medications that can be helpful in quieting the urgency of obsessions, and some psychotherapies can help you develop rational strategies for managing obsessions too. Your mental health professional can help you to know what treatments are most appropriate for your condition.

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