Have you ever found yourself double-checking if the door is locked or feeling a little uneasy about germs on a doorknob? You’re not alone.
We all have what can be called “intrusive thoughts” from time to time. But when do these thoughts cross a line and become a serious problem like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
What Makes OCD Different?
Jean-Sébastien Audet, a researcher at Université de Montréal, conducted an in-depth study to figure out how intrusive thoughts in people with OCD differ from the everyday intrusive thoughts we all have.
He wanted to understand the unique traits that set OCD thoughts apart from thoughts that people with anxiety and depression might experience.
Audet found that people with OCD have intrusive thoughts more often and for longer periods.
These thoughts also cause people with OCD to feel like they have to do something—like wash their hands over and over—to make the thoughts go away.
Audet said these thoughts cause a lot of guilt and are often seen as terrible and uncontrollable. This makes the person extremely worried that these thoughts might actually happen.
For instance, someone with OCD might have a disturbing thought like, “What if I’m a terrible person?” and this clashes horribly with how they see themselves.
This is different from someone with depression, who might feel worthless but doesn’t necessarily feel like they are a risk to themselves or others.
Meanwhile, people with general anxiety might feel they are at risk from the world around them, not from their own actions.
Understanding the Fear Behind OCD
According to Audet, knowing what makes OCD-specific intrusive thoughts different could be a big help. If people understand that these fears are not based on reality, they might feel less stressed.
Plus, this knowledge can help doctors identify OCD sooner and offer effective treatment options.
Treatment Approaches for OCD
Most people with OCD respond well to medication and certain kinds of therapy.
One such therapy is “exposure and response prevention,” where a therapist helps the person face the situations that trigger their obsessive thoughts, without doing the rituals that they think make them feel better.
Audet’s team also recommends another treatment called “inference-based therapy.” This approach helps the person see the flaws in the story they tell themselves about their fears.
For example, if someone keeps washing their hands because they’re scared of germs, the therapy would help them understand that their level of fear and their response don’t really match the actual risk.
By understanding more about what makes OCD different, professionals can better help those who suffer from this troubling condition, offering a more targeted approach to treatment.
If you care about health, please read studies that scientists find a core feature of depression and this metal in the brain strongly linked to depression.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and extra-virgin olive oil could reduce depression symptoms.
The research findings can be found in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy.
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