OCD, PTSD, Compulsions and trauma are common occurrences in modern life. They are all forms of anxiety, but have different triggers, symptoms and treatment.
People who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) feel a strong compulsion to do certain things or to dwell on particular mental pictures or thoughts in an attempt to feel at ease, to feel safe and very often to ease a sense of responsibility (a common OCD belief is "If something bad happens it's my fault")
Here is a quote from the International OCD Foundation that gives a feel for what it is like to have OCD.
“Imagine that your mind got stuck on a certain image. Then this thought got replayed in your mind, repeatedly no matter what you were doing...
You don’t want these thoughts, they feel like an avalanche. Along with the thoughts come intense feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is your brain’s warning system, when you feel anxious, it feels like you are in danger. Anxiety is an emotion that tells you to respond, react, protect yourself, Do something!
On the one hand, you might recognize that the fear doesn't make sense, doesn't seem reasonable, yet it still feels very real, intense, and true….
Why would your brain lie? Why would you have these feelings if they weren't true? Feelings don’t lie… Do they?”
Underlying OCD are fears about oneself or others. These fears become obsessions that are constantly on people's minds. In order to alleviate the anxiety caused by these obsessions, compulsion develop.
Sometimes obsessions in a public place that might draw attention from others, for example:
Or sometime, behaviour can causes distress to others:
People with OCD tend to feel uncomfortable about their behavious because it is common to believe they are not really necessary. - "I know it is irrational, but..." - and yet the compulsion is strong.
OCD is also often linked with feelings of embarrassment - and yet a sense of fear and responsibility still drives the compulsion to check, clean and ritualise.
These conflicts often make OCD even more painful for the sufferer and, unfortunately the embarrassment can make it really hard to ask for help.
OCD is treatable, however, and if you recognise one or more of the above in your own behavior or the behaviour of your loved ones, or you recognise similar types of behaviours then you may want to seek the help of a professional.
PTSD is associated with feeling fearful and/or nervous, avoiding the activity or place associated with the traumatic event, and nightmares
The World Health Organisation defines it as:
“A delayed or protracted response to a stressful event or situation (either short or long lasting) of an exceptionally threatening or long-lasting in nature, which is likely to cause pervasive distress to almost anyone”.
Anyone who has experienced or witnessed a situation that involves the possibility of death or serious injury, or who learns that a close family member or friend has experienced a traumatic event, can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, although most people don’t.
It’s still not completely understood why some people who are exposed to traumatic situations develop PTSD while others don’t.
Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include reliving a traumatic event through nightmares, flashbacks, or constantly thinking about it. You might avoid situations or people that remind you of the event, have only negative thoughts or emotions, and constantly feel jittery, nervous, “on edge.”, and hyper-vigilance.
Other symptoms may include drinking or smoking more than usual as attempts to reduce anxiety or anger, and aggressive driving. Service members who have experienced combat can be especially nervous driving under overpasses and past litter on the roadside — behaviour learned in Iraq and Afghanistan where insurgents hide improvised explosive devices in garbage and use overpasses to shoot at vehicles.
Additional behaviour's that indicate that help may be needed can include being wary of crowds, showing reluctance to go to movie theaters, crowded stores, or nightclubs, and avoiding news that addresses overseas combat or getting angry at the reports.
OCD and PTSD are toward one end of a anxiety scale. Toward the other end, people may have symptoms or behaviors that are similar to those of OCD or PTSD sufferers but are much milder. These are still treatable and if you feel they are interfering with your well-being and happiness then you should seek professional help.
One thing to pay attention to is duration. Obsessions and Post Traumatic Stress are common to a certain degree especially after frightening events, but they should subside naturally. If they have continued over a period of months or longer then you should consider reaching out.
There are various strategies you could try to help treat OCD and PTSD.
5. Learn to gradually face your fears.
6. Reach out for help.
The aim of all therapy is to get you to a situation where either the symptoms of OCD and PTSD have completely disappeared or where they have reduced to a stage where they are manageable and they no longer interfere with your life.
This will involve the use of relaxation and stress reduction techniques, combined with some of the steps above to allow you to gradually face the situations that you have being finding difficult because they trigger memories and fears. Over time these and the associated symptoms will fade.
If you think that you may like further assistance reach out to schedule your first appointment. OCD and PTSD aren't things you have to suffer from and we're here to support you.
During your first session, you can share a bit about what's troubling you and I can answer any questions you might have. We'll discuss your goals and my approach and assess whether we are the right fit for each other. To schedule your first appointment, call 01733 639 040, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use my online booking calendar to select a time suitable for you. I'm here for you.