Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric disorder wherein recurrent, uncontrollable, and persistent thoughts, impulses, or intrusive images cause the individual to try to suppress them via compulsive behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1% of the population suffers from OCD. Professional psychiatric treatment, in the form of psychotherapy coupled with prescription medication, is the most effective form of treatment. However, there are many strategies that patients diagnosed with OCD may employ on their own to lessen the severity of symptoms. Here are 6 strategies for coping with OCD.
1. Get Plenty of Exercise
Exercise is a natural, effective anti-anxiety treatment. Exercise aids in refocusing your thinking when obsessive thoughts arise. Aim for thirty minutes of aerobic exercise most days each week to decrease anxiety, ease stress, and promote better sleep. Although regular exercise may not eradicate your symptoms, it can help to lessen the frequency and severity of symptoms. Walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, or participating in an exercise class online or in-person are all great ways to get aerobic exercise.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep deprivation makes coping with life, let alone OCD, much harder. When you don’t get enough rest, minor daily annoyances can feel like insurmountable, stress-inducing obstacles. Likewise, when you don’t get enough sleep, you may find yourself irritable, and angry which can trigger OCD symptoms. Aim for at least seven hours of quality sleep each night to best cope with OCD.
4. Avoid Alcohol and Nicotine
Both alcohol and nicotine are known to increase anxiety. It is a common misconception that a cocktail or a cigarette can help to “calm you down.” In reality, both can cause more anxiety in the long run. Caffeine may also cause anxiety, so it is best to limit coffee, soda, and tea as well. Avoid all caffeine before going to bed each night.
5. Take Your Medication Exactly as Prescribed
Taking your medicine as prescribed, at the same time, each day can help to manage your symptoms of OCD. Skipping a dose, or forgetting to take your medicine can trigger symptoms. Consistency is key when it comes to taking your medication. Be sure you know what to do if you miss a dose, or contact your doctor for guidance.
6. Practice Relaxation and Mindfulness
Relaxation and mindfulness are finally getting the attention they deserve as incredibly helpful tools in mitigating symptoms of OCD. While meditation is a popular method of practicing relaxation, there are other ways to relax and practice being present. A walk in nature, for example, can help you to recenter your thinking. Sketching or painting can be a form of relaxation. Playing a musical instrument, taking a yoga class, or reading a book are all also terrific ways to relax. Talk with your therapist about relaxation and mindfulness techniques that may be best suited for you.
7. Keep Regular Appointments with Your Therapist
Working with a therapist can help to reduce your symptoms of OCD. There are a variety of therapies that may help to benefit you. Examples of therapies may include a type of therapy known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). Other therapies may include non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which uses magnetic pulses to stimulate certain parts of the brain. Because no two people suffering from OCD are the same, your therapist will customize your treatment, therapies, and “take-home” assignments, all of which are designed to help you cope with compulsive thoughts, impulses, and behaviors.
Do I need professional treatment for OCD?
If left untreated, obsessive-compulsive disorder can make it difficult to live a happy, fulfilling life. It is not uncommon for patients with OCD to also suffer from anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, OCD that is not managed can worsen with time. Untreated OCD can lead to severe depression, suicidal thoughts, an inability to maintain a job, or a fear of leaving your home.
Get Professional Help for OCD in Rhode Island
South County Psychiatry is here when you need us. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors, call 401-268-5333 or request an appointment online today.