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What Does OCD Feel Like?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a widely misunderstood condition. In films, on TV, and in casual conversations, it’s common for people to characterize OCD as little more than a quirky insistence on structure or an enthusiastic attention to detail. In reality, people who have the disorder – and know what OCD does feel like – might describe it as living with unrelenting psychological pain. 

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a complex mental illness. As the name of the disorder indicates, OCD symptoms involve obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts. Compulsions are overwhelming urges to engage in certain behaviors. Some people who have OCD only have obsessions, some only have compulsions, and some have both types of symptoms.

In addition to being powerful and persistent, the symptoms of OCD are also sources of significant distress. They can cause shame and guilt. They can prevent people from focusing on things that are important to them. And they can make people feel as though they are not in control of their own lives. 

Depending on the severity of a person’s OCD symptoms, they may find it extremely difficult or virtually impossible to maintain healthy relationships, find and keep a job, establish financial independence, and otherwise fully engage in a productive and satisfying lifestyle.

What Does OCD Feel Like?

A detailed answer to the question “What does OCD feel like?” can be different for every person who has the condition. But if we expand that question a bit, and ask “In general terms, on a typical day, what does OCD feel like?” we may be able to develop a better understanding of the physical, emotional, and social impact of this disorder. To accomplish this, we should consider what each type of OCD symptom might feel like.

What Do OCD Obsessions Feel Like?

Here are some examples of what OCD can feel like for people whose symptoms include obsessions:

  • They may be afraid that they are going to harm themselves or someone else. For example, while driving a car, they may experience a sudden fear that they will veer into oncoming traffic or steer the vehicle into a crowd of people.
  • They may be ashamed of random unprovoked mental images that they can’t stop from occurring. These thoughts may be sexual, violent, or about topics that the individual considers to be blasphemous or otherwise extremely inappropriate.
  • They may experience tremendous anxiety when objects in their house are not in a certain order.
  • They may be terrified of becoming dirty, contaminated, or infected.
  • When they are around other people, they may panic that they are about to say something obscene or otherwise either embarrass themselves or offend the people they are with.

It bears repeating that the obsessive thoughts that are symptomatic of OCD are both unwanted and painful. 

A person who doesn’t have OCD may enjoy having sexual thoughts. And it’s common to be a bit nervous about making a good impression on others. But for people who have OCD, these thoughts and feelings are neither enjoyable nor proportional. Instead, they are uncontrollable sources of extreme distress. 

What Does the Compulsions of OCD Feel Like?

For people whose OCD symptoms include compulsions, this is how they may feel:

  • They may be physically unable to leave a room until they have engaged in certain ritual behaviors, such a touching several items in a particular order, or turning a light switch on and off multiple times.
  • They may feel compelled to wash their hands dozens of times, or take several showers, every day. This overwhelming urge will persist even if they haven’t done anything that would usually cause a person to feel unclean.
  • They may be unable to stop counting or repeating certain words or phrases. Some people feel forced to do this silently, while for others it is a verbal compulsion.
  • They may believe that if they don’t engage in these compulsive behaviors, or if they do them incorrectly, something bad will happen to themselves or someone they care about. 

As is also the case with obsessions, the compulsions that are symptomatic of OCD can be time-consuming, distracting, and potentially debilitating. 

Treatment Options for OCD in Atlanta, GA

A comprehensive treatment plan for a person who has obsessive-compulsive disorder often includes prescription medication and various forms of psychotherapy.

Several antidepressants, including sertraline, venlafaxine, paroxetine, and escitalopram, have proved to be helpful for people who have OCD. If medication is recommended, the prescribing physician can work with the person who is receiving care to identify the most effective drug and the optimal dosage level.

The therapeutic component of OCD treatment can help people manage their symptoms, take greater control of their thoughts, and adopt healthier behavior patterns. Depending on a person’s specific needs, their OCD treatment plan may include therapies and services such as the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychoeducation
  • Holistic therapy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Spravato treatment
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy

These therapies and services can affect different people in different ways. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to choose a center or provider that can conduct a thorough assessment and then develop a truly personalized treatment plan. 

When a person receives the type and level of care that best matches their history, needs, and goals, they will be more likely to have a successful treatment experience.

Begin Treatment for OCD in Atlanta, GA

Peachtree Wellness Solutions is a premier provider of customized care and compassionate support for adults who have OCD in Atlanta. Our treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, is a safe place where people can receive residential treatment and/or outpatient services for obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health concerns. Give us a call or visit our admissions page to learn how we can help.