The difference between obsessions and compulsions:
All of us have distressing thoughts at times. What if I hit someone with my car? What if someone I love falls ill? What if I accidentally left the door unlocked?
But for those with OCD, these thoughts do not simply pass by. They intrude on their lives and are repeated over and over again.
The word “obsession” gets thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean?
Obsessive thoughts can affect your ability to focus at work, school, or even when spending time with loved ones. These thoughts are intrusive—they interrupt you and pester you repeatedly. Because they repeat themselves again and again, obsessive thoughts make it difficult to pay attention and/or “let things go”.
Someone experiencing obsessive thoughts may believe they’re a bad person for thinking such things. But people suffering from OCD are the least likely to carry out these deeds; the repetitive thoughts cause them such distress because they’re so disgusted by them.
OCD can latch on to whatever you’re interested in, a person you love, or the event you’re most afraid of, and fill your waking life with thoughts of something terrible happening.
Don’t let fear of judgment stop you from seeking help. Your intrusive thoughts do not define you. At One Life Counselling & Coaching, we offer our services in a compassionate and non-judgmental environment. We’ll progress through your treatment at a pace you’re comfortable with.
A compulsion is carried out to relieve the anxiety that obsessive thoughts cause.
For example, if someone is anxious that their hands will contaminate their food, they may wash their hands repeatedly to remove the perceived germs. They may clean them over and over to alleviate the negative emotion, even if the action causes physical pain.
If someone is worried that their house will be broken into, they may check the locks several times to ensure they’re safe.
And if someone fears their oven will burn their house down, they may repeatedly look at the stove to make certain that the elements are shut off.
Fear plays a big role in OCD. A person might believe that if they break their rituals or routines, something awful will happen. Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder may feel that if they don’t wash their hands enough times or do it just right, they must begin the ritual all over again.
Compulsions might offer temporary relief, but they pose long-term problems. Compulsive behaviour can cause so much distress that it dominates a person’s thought patterns and daily activities. Along with creating severe anxiety, compulsions can prevent someone from pursuing relationships, performing well at school, and/or getting promoted at work.
If you struggle with OCD, you might feel like your thoughts are insurmountable—like your life is controlled by your condition. But there is hope.
Counselling is an effective treatment for OCD. A research study found that CBT helps 75% of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
With professional treatment, lasting change is possible. Counselling helps you learn more about obsessive-compulsive disorder and how it affects your thoughts and compulsive behaviours. You can also learn strategies for coping with the symptoms of OCD.
Some believe it’s easy to accept your thoughts without questioning them—after all, they come from your own head, so they must be true, right? Far from it! Through therapy, you’ll learn to let go of thoughts that don’t represent reality or help you in any way.
The best approach depends on your individual needs. What are you seeking to change? At One Life, we offer OCD counselling and other psychotherapy services. We take an integrative approach to therapy and tailor your treatment based on your symptoms and experiences.
If you want to alter your thoughts and behaviours, CBT is a great place to start.
Through CBT, you can learn to see obsessive thoughts as cognitive distortions. Your thoughts do not always reflect reality, and they certainly don’t make you a bad person. Thoughts are just thoughts that you can let pass by.
For many people, this involves confronting an obsessive thought, not performing their usual ritual, and learning to manage the anxiety it may cause. Through this form of therapy (which is called exposure and response prevention), you can learn to diminish the stress caused by these situations. It’s challenging at first but easier with repetition.
CBT teaches you to respond differently to your thoughts and the negative emotions they may cause. That’s the first step in changing your behaviours.
With therapy, you can learn to better cope with the effects of OCD. You can manage your symptoms to restore peace and calm to your inner world. Managing OCD can be a lifelong journey for some. But at One Life, we’re here to help guide you along the way.
Your therapist will put together a custom treatment plan to help treat compulsive behaviours and intrusive thoughts. If you’re ready to seek counselling for obsessive-compulsive disorder, we’re just a phone call away.
While researchers haven’t yet found the cause of OCD, there are a few theories about why it occurs.
Certain triggers may cause symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder to worsen. Stress is one of those triggers. A traumatic life event, like losing a loved one or experiencing abuse, can also cause your symptoms to get worse. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is more common if one of your family members also has it.