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Page 10 Healthy Cells Magazine Peoria May 2014

F
or people who define themselves, their thoughts, or their behav-
iors as compulsive, life is often a daily struggle against over-
whelming anxiety and shame. The phrase obsessive-compulsive
has become part of everyday language, and is often used in an informal
manner to describe someone who is excessively meticulous, perfec-
tionist, absorbed, or otherwise fixated on a subject, object, or person.
Even if the thoughts and behaviors do not indicate a clinical disorder
but are causing stress, anxiety, and interfering with living the life you
desire, is there effective help?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder char-
acterized by:
Intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or
worry
Repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety
A combination of such obsessions and compulsions
Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects children and adolescents,
as well as adults. Roughly one third to one half of adults with OCD
report a childhood onset of the disorder, suggesting the continuum of
anxiety disorders across the lifespan. OCD is a psychiatric diagnosis,
which must meet specific criteria and be diagnosed by a mental health
professional
Although these signs are present in obsessive-compulsive dis-
order, a person who exhibits them does not necessarily have OCD
but may have another disorder or no clinical condition at all. Multiple
psychological and biological factors may be involved in causing obses-
sive-compulsive behaviors. These symptoms can be alienating and
time-consuming, and often cause severe emotional and even financial
distress. It is important to distinguish OCD from other types of anxiety,
including the routine tension and stress that appear throughout life.
Compulsive acts may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic.
However, sufferers generally recognize their obsessions and compul-
sions as irrational and may become further distressed by this realiza-
tion. Despite the irrational behavior, OCD is sometimes associated with
above-average intelligence. Its sufferers commonly share personality
traits such as high attention to detail, avoidance of risk, careful plan-
ning, an exaggerated sense of responsibility, and a tendency to take
time in making decisions.
Two new studies published in Biological Psychiatry shed light on
the propensity for habit formation in obsessive-compulsive disorder
(OCD). These studies suggest that a tendency to develop habits, i.e.,
the compulsive component of the disorder, may be a core feature of
the disorder rather than a consequence of irrational beliefs. Habits
also appear to be defining characteristics of psychiatric disorders with
prominent behavioral components, such as alcoholism, drug addic-
tion, pathological gambling, and eating disorders. These new studies
support the view that habit formation is also an important component
of OCD.
Also new global research shows that 94 percent of people expe-
rience unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, and/or impulses. The
study of people on six continents, found that the thoughts, images,
and impulses symptomatic of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
are widespread. An international study, which was co-authored by
Compulsive Behaviors and Thinking
By Bonnie Harken, Founder and CEO, Crossroads Programs for Women
emotional
May 2014 Peoria Healthy Cells Magazine Page 11
Concordia psychology professor Adam Radomsky and published in
the Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, exam-
ined people on six continents. The researchers assessed 777 university
students in 13 countries across six continents, including in Canada,
Argentina, Australia, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Iran, Israel, Italy,
Sierra Leone, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.
Participants were questioned about whether they had experienced
at least one unwanted, intrusive thought in the three months prior. To
ensure participants reported intrusions, researchers worked with them
to distinguish between lingering worries, ruminations about previous
events, and unwanted intrusions. These can be a phrase ("Did I lock
the front door?"), an image (a mental picture of the subject's house on
fire) or an urge (for instance, a desire to hurt someone). Contamina-
tion, aggression, and doubt were among the many types of intrusive
thoughts reported by participants.
Radomsky and his colleagues found that the thoughts, images,
and impulses symptomatic of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
are widespread. For researchers developing effective evidence-based
mental health treatments, recognizing how widespread intrusive
thoughts are can offer encouragement to use cognitive and behavioral
therapies cross culturally.
The take away from these studies is that if you suffer from over-
whelming compulsive behaviors and thoughts or even meet criterion for
a full-blown diagnosis of OCD, there is hope! Mental health profession-
als who practice cognitive and behavioral interventions can help you.
Bonnie Harken is CEO and founder of Crossroads Programs for
Women in Pekin, IL, which offers intensive outpatient programs for
women. She serves as the executive director of The International
Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation Inc. (iaedp),
a 700-member professional organization that trains and certifies pro-
fessionals to treat eating disorders. She has been in the mental health
field since 1987. Visit www.crossroadsprogramsforwomen.com. Call
today! 1-800-348-0937.
Sources upon request.
Photo credit:maurusone/Thinkstock
A recent study shows that it's
not the unwanted, intrusive thoughts that
are the problem it's what you make of
those thoughts. And that's at the heart of
our cognitive and behavioral interventions
for helping people overcome OCD
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