When Should You Seek Help for OCD?
If you find yourself convinced you must clean your home or organize your work surroundings to a point where your actions become an obsession and your compulsion is taking over, it may be nothing— or, you may have a problem that requires professional help. If you’re wondering when to seek help for OCD, get answers below.
Experiencing Some Symptoms
Each of us occasionally has obsessive or compulsive thoughts. While we may experience some of the symptoms of OCD to a degree, that doesn’t mean we have OCD. When do you decide to get help? If you’re asking yourself, “Do I need therapy for OCD?,” it might be time to think about how to seek help for OCD. When to seek help for OCD is when your life is spiraling out of control to the point where your controlling behaviors cause problems that you know are interfering with how you want to live.
Difference Between OCD and Tidiness/Controlling Behaviors
Certain daily rituals are comforting and part of a normal routine for most people. We like to perform our bathing and grooming in sequence, making sure we do what we want and need to get ready for the day. The same thing holds true for any nighttime rituals we might do before going to bed. These habits do not constitute OCD.
You may feel compelled to keep a very orderly home and pride yourself on your tidiness. That’s not automatically OCD, however— unless it starts to interfere with your daily functioning, causing you to ignore or be unable to tend to your regular responsibilities, such as going to work or school or taking care of the family.
Effects of Ignoring Symptoms
If you suspect you have OCD and are doing your best to hide it from family, friends and co-workers, you’re not doing yourself justice. Ignoring symptoms will not cause them to disappear, and they’re not going to just go away. That’s not the way OCD works. In fact, ignoring symptoms, telling yourself that you’re not really that bad and you can manage the disorder by trying self-help for OCD will only exacerbate the situation. OCD generally tends to worsen over time without treatment.
It’s also important to think about what your OCD is doing to others you’re close to, particularly your family. They’re the ones who are probably mystified as to what’s going on with you and are trying to do all they can not to aggravate or upset you. Feeling like they must tread lightly in your presence for fear of creating an unpleasant outburst where you act in an uncharacteristic and exaggerated manner and lash out at them is no way for any of you to exist. Nor should you have to, when treatment is available that’s effective and can make a tremendous difference in your everyday life.
Could the Symptoms be Caused by Something Else?
Maybe you’re wondering if the symptoms you’re experiencing could be caused by something else. It’s possible, of course, but trying to guess and self-diagnose is not the best plan. After all, suppose you do have a combination of OCD and another type of anxiety disorder, or a medical condition whose symptoms mimic those of OCD? Alcohol and drug use can also co-occur with many mental health disorders, including OCD, causing a myriad of symptoms that overlap and are hard to separate and determine which condition is causing them.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 9.2 million adults in the U.S. had a simultaneous mental health disorder and substance use disorder in 2018. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), based on the National Comorbidity Service Replication, show that about 1.2 percent of adults in America had OCD within the past year. The lifetime prevalence of the disorder is about 2.3 percent in adults, and OCD affects women more than men.
So, while it is certainly possible the symptoms you’re experiencing could be caused by something else, why prolong finding out the true nature of your condition (if any)? It could be you’re temporarily bothered by stress and are behaving in a more deliberate and orderly way, being more conscientious about doing things right and making a concerted effort to avoid mistakes. Or, you may have what could be classified as OCD— or something else. The only way to know is to find out by seeking professional help.
Should You Get Diagnosed?
Once you’ve decided to take action, you’ll want to know the specifics of how to get diagnosed with OCD. You can start by seeing a primary care physician. He or she can rule out any medical condition that might be causing some of your symptoms. If OCD is suspected, or perhaps another mental health disorder, the doctor can refer you to a mental health professional specializing in diagnosing and treating OCD.
What does getting diagnosed entail? Even though OCD is believed to have biological roots, there’s no blood test that detects it. Nor does an X-ray or other medical tests. Mental health professionals make use of a tool known as a structured clinical interview to determine if your symptoms may be consistent with a diagnosis of OCD. The interview typically consists of questions inquiring about the nature, frequency and severity of symptoms. Other questions may pertain to mood and any other symptoms that could be indicative of other psychological problems.
Fears of Being Diagnosed
While you may feel embarrassed, afraid or ashamed about what you may learn, you are better off knowing if you have diagnosed OCD or something else. Apprehension about being diagnosed is normal, yet avoiding the diagnosis by continuing to ignore symptoms or deny you have a problem is not helpful. For one thing, if you do have OCD, it will not go away on its own and will only get worse, starting to interfere with your daily life with ever-increasing severity.
If you’re worried about whether you need OCD medication, it’s best to put aside that fear until you know what you’re dealing with. Fear allowed to fester will only intensify. Facing fears headlong is a better approach. In this case, that means getting help for OCD. Besides, only a mental health professional is equipped to know whether medication will be part of your treatment plan if it turns out you do have diagnosed OCD.
A Better Life is Possible
Can you treat OCD? Absolutely. If you are diagnosed with OCD, seeking proper treatment from a licensed therapist specializing in treating the disorder is the best course of action. The therapist will discuss treatment options with you and together you will outline a treatment plan. This will very likely include therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or perhaps exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), and may mean you take medication. What’s important to realize is that with appropriate treatment by a medical professional, your functioning and quality of life is likely to improve.
Instead of waiting and hoping things will somehow resolve on their own, be proactive and answer the question of when to seek help for OCD by acting now. Find a therapist specializing in treating the disorder and go from there. Granted, your OCD may have periods of ups and downs, (as the condition is known to wax and wane); yet a better life is possible if you get appropriate treatment.
It’s also important to develop and maintain a strong support system while you’re in treatment for OCD and when you’re in recovery. This will include members of your family and close friends, of course, as well as people you meet in support groups for OCD. Since OCD symptoms tend to worsen when you’re alone and feel powerless, you need to remain connected with people you know and trust. Connection is invaluable.
Furthermore, you are a key participant in your recovery. You want to be able to function normally, to enjoy life without being enslaved to obsessive and compulsive behavior. Treatment can help you achieve that goal. It does, however, require that you follow all treatment recommendations, including taking medication as prescribed and going to therapy, which can include individual, family, and possibly group therapy. Remember, too, that it’s not unusual to have medications adjusted or changed when your therapist is working to identify the most effective medication type and dosage for your OCD. Be patient and work through the process. The outcome will be worth the effort.