Managing your Obessive Compulsive Disorder

You need to go to the shops, but you can only go before 09h00. You start getting ready an hour earlier to make sure you have enough time to fold and unfold the plastic bags six times and count to 100 between each plastic bag before you place them in the boot of the car. You need to check if it is properly closed five times. You believe if you do not do these things, something terribly bad will happen when you go out to the shops. And if you make one mistake, the whole process has to be repeated from the beginning. 

The outfit you picked is perfect for this weather but you need to wear your green jacket with it, and your green jacket has mud on it. You can wear the green jersey, but the jersey has four buttons and everything else has three. Seems like you will have to go to the shops tomorrow.  

Mopani Pharmacy consulted clinical psychologist, Nicola Munro, on the topic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD.

What causes OCD?

“The causes of OCD are not well known but it Is thought to be a neurobehavioral condition. Serotonin does play a role; however, it is not known whether this is causal or correlational. Stress is also thought to be an aggravating factor,” explained Nicola.

According to Better Health, an Australian medical journal, the disease affects two to three percent of the population. It can present in young children, teenagers and adults.

It is thought that obsessive compulsions are learned behaviours, used as a coping mechanism against anxiety and irrational fears.

Often, a traumatic event or phase of someone’s life will start up the behaviours. An example of this would be a person becoming obsessive about cleaning and germs, after they have suffered a particular illness.

Most common triggers for OCD

“The trigger for an individual with OCD would be anything that reminds them of their obsessive thought.  There are various triggers depending on which obsessive thought pattern the individual is trapped in”, said Nicola.

Some themes include:

  • Tidiness, orderliness, symmetry
  • Dirt, hygiene, germs
  • Fear of having sinful thoughts
  • Fear of doing or saying anything inappropriate in potentially embarrassing situations
  • Becoming mentally fixated with numbers, words or patterns
  • Fear of harming someone without any intension to do so

“If a man is having obsessive thoughts about hitting someone with his car then he can be triggered by any situation that involved driving his car. What if I hit person on the road and I don’t realise it? What if that pot hole was a person?”, Nicola explained.

Best way to deal with an Obsessive episode / obstacle?

“Although medications which increase serotonin in the brain can have some impact in dampening OCD, they cannot eliminate it entirely. When it comes to more psychological approaches it must be noted that arguing logic or restraining an individual does not help. One of the most successful approaches to managing OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy.”

“Several features of this approach are important. Firstly, separate the intrusive thought from your identity. Intrusive and obsessive thoughts do not mean anything about you as an individual or your personality and have no basis in reality. OCD is managed best when it is externalised as if it were some parasite or monster.”

  • Instead of saying my OCD, rather refer to it as that OCD
  • Instead of saying I cannot control myself rather say the OCD is trying to control me again

“Secondly, acknowledge and accept the obsession as it is without trying to change its content.”

  • Remind yourself that this is just your OCD giving you another obsessive thought and that you can handle it

“Thirdly, understand the pattern that has been feeding your OCD. Researching and reading about the patterns that maintain OCD will help you.”

  • The pattern starts with an obsessive thought trigger; I touched the desk and now I have germs that will kill me
  • Anxiety escalates and the person with OCD thinks the only way to alleviate or neutralize the bad thought it by using the compulsive action; wash your hands 50 individual times
  • After using the compulsive action, the feeling of anxiety is relieved momentarily. This pattern repeats itself over and over but all it does it feed the compulsive behaviour

“Fourthly, in order to starve the compulsion, you need to interrupt this pattern. The only way to do this is by confronting your fear and allowing your anxiety to rise, while tolerating the discomfort. There are 2 ways to do this.”

  • The easier way is to scramble the pattern by changing or lessening it; instead of washing your hands 50 individual times, wait half an hour, then wash your hands 40 individual times
  • Completely resist the impulse to engage in any compulsive behaviour at all; this is very difficult and often requires the support of a therapist

“Finally, once this is achieved, it helps the individual suffering from OCD to realise that the feared event does not actually come to pass and gives them an opportunity to disconfirm the belief that if I do not do my compulsive behaviours, something bad will happen.”

If the starving of OCD behaviour’s done each time, gradually the compulsion will get weaker and have less dominance over the person’s life, giving them more control and confidence.

What type of long-term care can one take to deal with causes of OCD?

“As mentioned, serotonin does play a role, however it is not known whether this is causal or correlational. Stress is also thought to be an aggravating factor. Although OCD is not curable, it can be managed in the long term with medication to increase serotonin, stress management and applying the principles of exposure and response prevention.”

Mopani Pharmacy also offers a variety of homeopathic / natural remedies to alleviate some of your stress and help to keep you calm. It is important to discuss the use with our pharmacists for possible contraindications and correct use.

You can book an appointment with Nicola on 072 268 3743. You can find her practice on 31 Melkweg Road, Nelspruit.

We can deliver your medication, supplements and other Mopani online shopping, nationwide. More info: | | Tel: 0137555500 | WhatsApp: 0661921703