Steven J. Hanley Ph.D.

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“Thinking” and “Doing” are fundamental human processes that we all engage in on a daily basis. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition where your thinking and/or doing has gotten off track and causes significant anxiety. It can include distressful obsessions and/or compulsions.

Obsessions

An obsession is a thought or idea that you might have, over and over and over, that is experienced as intrusive and provokes anxiety. Here are some general categories and examples of obsessions that someone with OCD might experience:

  • Contamination: A worry that your food is spoiled or that you will catch a disease if you use a public restroom.
  • Loss of control: A worry that you will blurt out an offensive slur at a cocktail party.
  • Need to be perfect: Needing the vacuum lines to be perfectly straight every night in order to fall asleep.
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts: Having troubling sexual fantasies about a relative or child.
  • Religious obsessions: A heightened concern about offending God or going to Hell.
  • Harm: A fear of running your car off the highway and killing your family.

Most people have had some of these or similar thoughts from time-to-time. The important thing to remember about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is that the thoughts are: recurrent, persistent, time consuming, and troubling.

Compulsions

Often, but not always, compulsive behaviors (compulsions) accompany the obsessional thinking. This is the problematic “Doing” that occurs in OCD. Here are some general categories and examples of compulsions that someone with OCD might experience:

  • Cleanliness: Excessive hand washing or bathing.
  • Checking: Repeated checking of locks or the stove.
  • Mental Compulsions: A need to count to 900 by 3s every night or to tap the steering wheel exactly 14 times before starting the car.
  • Repetition: Reading or rewriting an email for work numerous times.

Again, it is important to remember that in and of themselves these behaviors may not be problematic. A desire to be clean is much different than a compulsive need to wash your hands 50 times a day until they become raw and start to bleed.

For those struggling with OCD, the compulsions can greatly interfere with the normal tasks of day-to-day living. In the most serious of cases, someone with OCD might not even be able to leave the house for days, weeks, or even months because the anxiety is so debilitating.

Personality

People sometimes describe others with phrases like “oh, he’s so OCD” or “She’s being so anal, can’t she relax?” You might even describe yourself in this way. It has been my experience that these descriptions usually don’t describe true OCD where obsessions and compulsions are present. Rather, they are meant to describe a certain personality style that focuses on cleanliness, orderliness, perfectionism, and control.

Though different than OCD itself, this personality pattern can still be problematic. Individuals with this type of personality are often reluctant to talk about or experience their feelings, for fear that they will lose control. They may make excellent accountants or project managers (where attention to detail and orderliness are crucial) but have difficulty in close and intimate relationships with friends or lovers. They might get lost in details or have trouble making decisions, too.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Treatment

Luckily, these are all issues that I believe can be helped by psychotherapy. In psychotherapy we will collaborate to bring you some short-term relief from these problematic thoughts and behaviors. We will also spend some time looking at underlying root causes of these experiences and personality patterns. That approach can increase your self-awareness and often leads to longer term, more sustained relief.

Please contact me today if you have any questions about counseling services or would like to discuss your concerns further. My office is in Southfield, MI with convenient access to the surrounding areas of Livonia, Detroit, Canton, and Plymouth.

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