Sara Harowitz, Psy. D

Your Trusted OCD Therapist in St. Petersburg, FL

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as a behavioral health disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that they feel the urge to repeat over and over.

Symptoms initially appear in childhood for about half of the people living with the condition. The rituals and obsessions begin gradually and may not be noticed right away. Many may be able to work around their obsessions and rituals. People usually seek OCD treatment when it feels unmanageable, or it begins to compromise their work or relationships.

As noted on Healthline, “You might hear someone say, “I’m so OCD,” because they like the items on their desk to stay arranged in a certain way or prefer to wash and put away the dishes immediately after every meal. But OCD is much more than a personal preference for cleanliness or order. The symptoms of OCD take up a significant part of someone’s day and disrupt their regular activities. They also cause distress — people with OCD often know that obsessions and compulsions aren’t grounded in reality, but they still feel compelled to act on them.” (Healthline)

Transitions can often trigger an anxiety OCD episode. Anxiety OCD can be fueled by unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses. A therapist could mistakenly diagnose a child or adult with a mood disorder since it can trigger intense emotions and unstable moods. It is critical for any practitioner treating OCD or working with mental health issues to rule out anxiety or OCD before diagnosing an individual with a mood disorder.

This mental health diagnosis can equally affect both adults and children. Most people have obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviors at some point in their life, but that does not mean we all have anxiety, OCD, or other anxiety disorders. For therapists to arrive at this diagnosis, the cycle of obsessions and compulsions becomes overwhelming and disruptive to functioning in life. This can be a harrowing and unrelenting experience leaving the person feeling constantly overwhelmed and out of control. The sufferer acknowledges that their beliefs don’t make sense, yet, they can not resist the gnawing feeling of doom or dread if they do not perform their rituals. There is temporary relief only to be triggered by another intrusive thought.

Family members might feel frustrated and helpless in knowing how to help. They may unwittingly enable their loved ones by reassuring and engaging in behaviors such as checking and cleaning to ease their anxiety. The sufferer needs to know that their fears of contamination or thoughts of wanting to harm someone will not occur. The uncertainty of life is the fear which fuels the sufferer’s anxiety.

There are numerous manifestations of different types of anxiety OCD, including relationship OCD where the person is plagued with whether their partner is “the right one, are they beautiful enough, smart enough, thin enough, funny enough? Feelings of doubt about their partner constantly plague the person. Another form is the classic contamination OCD, where the fear of getting germs restricts the person to the prison of their home and endless hand washing.

Another manifestation is harm OCD where the person feels they may physically hurt someone by accident. They may repetitively return to a spot on the road while driving after having intrusive thoughts “what if I ran over someone and didn’t realize?” Others may fear that they verbally offended someone and compulsively review the scenarios of their day.

Adults and children seeking ocd treatment may have comorbid mental health issues such as anxiety disorder, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder, in which someone believes that a part of their body is flawed or disfigured. The flaw may be minor or imagined. People with this anxiety disorder may frequently examine their appearance in a mirror, constantly compare their appearance with that of others, and avoid social situations or having their picture taken.

Pure O, which only includes obsessions without overt rituals, is a lesser-known manifestation of anxiety and OCD. It is important to note that rituals include mental rituals such as counting to “undo” the thought. Treatment in therapy would use the same standard of treatment utilized with the more classic examples of anxiety and OCD presentation.

There are other approaches, including dialectical behavior therapy and commitment therapy. However, these therapies do not focus on obsessions and compulsions as exposure therapy does. Instead, DBT and ACT are utilized to cope with anxiety and accept intrusive thoughts. The individual is taught to accept and not fight intrusive thoughts through distraction, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. This approach focuses on distraction and attending to the present moment instead of giving such power and energy to the intrusive thought.

Dr. Sara Harowitz: Top-Rated Mental Health Professional in St. Petersburg, FL

As an established OCD therapist for over thirty years, I utilize a cognitive behavioral therapy platform to help clients recover from anxiety OCD. This effective treatment is evidence-based and highly successful in decreasing the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This cognitive-behavioral therapy platform includes evidence-based response prevention techniques and ERP treatment in helping clients address the paralyzing and debilitating effects of OCD.

I  am also a teletherapy provider and am trained to provide treatment for those suffering from anxiety and OCD. As a teletherapy provider, I have successfully treated numerous clients who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. I can conduct therapy with the same benefit as if you were in my office.

It is important to note that OCD is highly treatable with a provider who utilizes cognitive-behavioral strategies and response prevention ERP treatment to address and treat this anxiety OCD. I have both personal experiences and professional expertise to get you back on track and free of your OCD symptoms. I understand how torturous and unrelenting anxiety OCD is. It can zap you of your joy and being present in life.

Do not hesitate to contact me!

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