We’ve all heard people laugh that they’re “so OCD” when they’re cleaning their house, washing their hands or trying to execute a task perfectly. But, despite the fact that this term has become so popular in these contexts, OCD is, in fact, a largely misunderstood and extraordinarily complex mental health disorder that affects about 3 million adults in the United States. And it’s about a lot more than simply being a perfectionist or liking to maintain organization and cleanliness in one’s home.
Short for obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD is a type of anxiety disorder that can be deeply debilitating. Those who don’t suffer from OCD have a hard time grasping why those who have the condition struggle with what are considered to be basic, simple tasks like getting ready in the morning, or dealing with a stressful event. [Source]
Like a lot of mental health conditions, there is no objectively effective treatment option that works for every single OCD sufferer. But treatments are more diverse and widely available than ever before. At the same time, the wellness industry is beginning to offer solutions that may help people who have this condition through natural means.
What is OCD?
OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, is an anxiety disorder that is classified by obsessions, compulsions and intrusive thoughts or images. The intrusive thoughts or images violate a person’s sense of security and control, seemingly invading their mind at unexpected times in a persistent manner and causing a great deal of distress. These intrusive thoughts or images are of a negative nature and can range from thoughts of a loved one dying to inappropriate sexual thoughts that seem to be beyond the person’s control.
Because of these constant intrusive thoughts and images, a person becomes obsessed with the subject, or, more specifically, obsessed with avoiding thinking about the subject. In an effort to regain control over their thoughts, an OCD sufferer will develop compulsions that are carried out in an effort to keep the obsessions out of the mind. The belief, according to the sufferer, is that the intrusive thoughts or images will disappear if these compulsions are executed properly.
To someone who does not have OCD, this process seems quite irrational. For instance, an OCD sufferer who obsesses over intrusive thoughts relating to a home invasion may need to check that their door is locked a certain number of times each day in order to feel as though they have control over not only their safety, but their thoughts as well. These compulsions can be more abstract also. For instance, a person may develop a compulsion in which they repeat certain words a certain number of times in an effort to feel that they have control over the thoughts that are flooding their brain.
How OCD May Develop
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an extremely complicated mental health disorder that involves unique neuro-processes, and involves the neural pathways of the brain. Being an anxiety disorder, it often results from trauma. A “healthy” brain has a functional limbic system which correctly allows the rational part of the brain to overrule the emotional part so that thoughts can be dealt with in a healthy manner. Distressing thoughts arise in all of us, but our limbic system helps us disregard distressing thoughts as exactly what they are – random thoughts that pop into our mind, and do not have actual consequences.
In the OCD sufferer, these thoughts are not processed rationally, and instead become obsessions. This indicates that the limbic system is not functioning properly. Often, this results from trauma. Traumatic events change the way in which our brain processes thoughts and information, and even changes the architecture of our brain to reprogram the way in which thoughts and feelings are managed.
OCD often resulting from trauma is a pretty understandable chain of events. Traumatic experiences make us feel as though we have no control over our destiny and can cause distressing thoughts to repeat in our heads, and so OCD can manifest in an effort to regain control.
Treating OCD According to Mental Health Clinicians
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to treating an OCD patient. Everyone’s experiences and symptoms are different, and so it’s important that someone who suffers from the condition is in the right hands when it comes to mental health clinicians. A good psychologist will come up with a treatment plan based on the patient’s individual needs, concerns and comfort level.
Many find that standard therapy is effective when it comes to managing compulsions and obsessions, as well as the underlying anxiety. CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is especially popular, as its purpose is to train the brain to process thoughts differently by breaking habits of unhealthy thinking patterns. EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is becoming another very common treatment as it helps the brain process difficult experiences and distressing thoughts in a healthy way.
Those who are debilitated by their OCD symptoms may benefit from in-patient programs at mental health facilities, where clinicians are available around the clock to provide care and treatment. There are also medications that may help regulate the functions of parts of the brain affected by OCD, including SSRI drugs and benzodiazepines.
How CBD Might Play a Role in Managing OCD
For those who don’t know, CBD is short for cannabidiol, and it’s the main compound that comes from the hemp plant, which belongs to the cannabis genus. Marijuana, which also comes from cannabis, is illegal, but CBD and all other hemp derivatives are perfectly legal, because they’re non-psychoactive. And, with so many studies coming out about the various effects of cannabidiol, we’re now seeing that it may be a great addition to the daily routine of someone struggling with this anxiety condition.
What’s fascinating about CBD is that it binds with cannabinoid receptors in various areas of the brain to regulate the way in which they function. We said that OCD results from malfunctioning areas of the brain that interfere with the way in which we process memories, thoughts and feelings. CBD seems to change the way in which neurotransmitters are secreted, so that, potentially, it can dull the stress response that results when distressing thoughts emerge. In fact, one study showed that patients with OCD benefited from daily use of cannabidiol.
How to Use CBD for OCD
If you are struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, we recommend that you speak with both your physical doctor and your mental healthcare provider about trying CBD. You should use CBD along with the treatments that are prescribed to you, as most OCD patients benefit from a multi-faceted form of treatment that combines therapy with other options. CBD seems to work most effectively when it’s taken daily.
Manage Your OCD, the CBD Way!
OCD can be a crippling condition that can make one feel isolated and distressed on a daily basis. The good news is that there are various treatment options available that have been proven to help. If you wish to add CBD to your current treatment, reach out to your doctor and incorporate it into your daily regimen.