The holidays bring about various changes to our daily routines. While
this can be challenging for many, those suffering from
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may feel completely overwhelmed.
OCD is a serious mental illness characterized by obsessive thoughts
and high levels of anxiety. Feelings of fear and self-doubt are
created without rational justification or logical reasoning. OCD can
be particularly distressing before and during the holidays when
stressors such as travel, social activities, and changes to routine
cause increased uncertainty and unpredictability.
If you do not have OCD, it can be challenging to understand the
thought process of someone who does. While a person without OCD might
become concerned for a moment that they left door the unlocked or the
faucet running, someone with OCD may become fixated with this thought
to the point where they cannot think about anything else. This
fixation causes great levels of discomfort and may even be
debilitating. “What if” thoughts and self-doubt will run through their
mind without end. While the specific worries may vary depending on the
type of OCD, all of the concerns center around the same thing:
uncertainty. Individuals with OCD have an unabating urge to “know for
sure” that everything will be okay and that their fears will not come
OCD not only impacts the individual suffering from the disorder,
but also those closest to them such as family and friends. Family and
friends may be impacted by changing plans, running hours late, or
efforts to help the individual manage their high levels of anxiety.
Further, individuals with OCD may seek constant reassurance from a
loved one. For instance, asking a spouse if they are certain the door
was locked or that the toaster was unplugged. Asking for reassurance
is the individual’s attempt to mitigate their anxiety; however,
regardless of how many times they ask for reassurance there will
always be some level of uncertainty. In fact, reassurance seeking only
serves to raise an individual’s anxiety.
Logical thinking and rational explanations are ineffective approaches
for treating OCD. In fact, these approaches can fuel an individual’s
anxiety and cause additional stress and frustration. There is always a
“what if” thought for every explanation you may think of.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy, is the gold standard
for treating OCD. This interactive approach involves confronting one’s
fears as well as accepting uncertainty. Engaging in compulsions or
arguing with your worries only serves to increase your anxiety.
Challenging your OCD takes away its power. ERP is difficult; however,
it is not nearly as difficult as living a life filled with OCD. Make
the commitment to improve your mental health. Reach out to a qualified
mental health provider today.