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Anxiety is a word we are all familiar with, and something that everyone deals with to a certain extent. Anxiety is our body’s response to change, whether good or bad, and acts as a motivator for us to face that change. In healthy amounts, anxiety is essential for us to understand when we need to initiate change to improve our lives, or to avoid conflict. However, when anxiety begins to affect our ability to change, to function in our lives and to feel in control, that is when it becomes an issue that we need to address.
When we become overwhelmed by anxiety it affects our ability to react to our lives in an accurate or appropriate manner. This can be very distressing, when we feel that our reactions do not line up with the reality of what we are facing. When faced with a stressful challenge at work, we might feel disproportionately overwhelmed. Physical signs of this might be our heart racing, our palms feeling clammy or our hands shaky, our stomach feelings upset, or a tightness in our
Anxiety can also develop and become apprehensive, where we worry about things that have not happened yet or could possibly happen. This can become an obsession, something we feel we cannot escape, and fills much of our waking thoughts. This prevents us from living our lives in a happy, healthy, or productive manner. But this does not have to be permanent, there are many effective ways for us to manage and challenge anxiety. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the most common and effective ways of addressing anxiety, figuring out how our patterns of thought can create anxiety, and effect our behaviour. When we challenge and change these thought patterns we are able to change our behaviour, feeling more in control of our lives and our reactions to the challenges we face every day.
Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a recognized mental health disorder that may be debilitating if left untreated. Obsessions are marked by repetitive, intrusive and distressing thoughts, images and impulses. They can create anxiety and discomfort, causing an individual to seek some relief. Those with OCD may engage in behaviours to neutralize these obsessions, called compulsions, such as hand washing or rumination.
OCD acts on our deepest fears, and attempts to make you feel safer by creating tasks to engage it to feel at ease. These thoughts feel very real, and the idea of such horrible thoughts being true cause great anxiety. However, one’s values typically go against these thoughts, making them ego dystonic, which is the key element to the degree of anxiety experienced. A thought would not be considered intrusive or as anxiety producing if it were ego syntonic, and your values aligned with the thought.
The instinctual urge is to fight these thoughts, or to ruminate about them until you figure out the right answer. However, it would be more helpful to do the counterintuitive thing, which would be to let the thought be, without fighting it, but paying no attention to it.
Engaging in these anxious thoughts continue to keep them alive through positive reinforcement.
Compulsions grant temporary relief, which is unhelpful in two ways.
Overall, you cannot control thoughts, nor can you control the feelings that may accompany these thoughts. What you can control is the reaction to these feelings and thoughts.
OCD may be treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, with an emphasis on exposure or ritual prevention.
OCD may manifest itself in many ways. There are many subtypes of OCD, some of which include Harm OCD, Existential OCD, Health OCD and Relationship OCD. These subtypes may be treated with the same approach, with the themes adjusted accordingly. For example, relationship OCD may focus on obsessions that their partner is wrong for them, or not actually being in love “enough”. However, the content of OCD as a whole remains consistent, centered around the thoughts and feelings of the disorder. Overall, developing a willingness to tolerate distress can make a tremendous impact in one’s discomfort.