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How to Deal with OCD Anxieties

written by: Daphne Matthews • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 3/23/2011

Anxiety affects more than six million Americans a year and at least one third of these are children. OCD and anxiety are connected because the obsessive thoughts and compulsions that follow cause a great deal of anxiety for the sufferer.

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    OCD and Anxiety Overview

    Rituals can help an OCD person deal with their anxiety, but they do not help or change the way they feel about themselves. Unremitting anxiety lasting for weeks or months at a time can cause physical distress in the form of headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting and sleeplessness, difficulty sleeping, reluctance to go to school or elsewhere outside of the child’s comfort zone, crying jags, tantrums and clinginess are common. Adults who suffer from anxiety can have problems going to work or performing tasks that others consider easy and redundant. Adults suffer from many of the same symptoms as children but they are less likely to have tantrums in public.

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    OCD and Anxiety: Medications

    There are several good medications that can help with OCD anxieties. Typically they are used in conjunction with other types of therapy to help the sufferer deal with their anxiety. Although many OCD people need medication to control their anxieties, the drugs rarely work alone. Some common medications used to help treat OCD anxieties are Seroquel, Anafranil, Effexor, Imipramine, MAOIs, Venlafaxine, Alprazolam, and Buspirone.

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    OCD and Anxiety: Behavior Therapy

    For those who suffer from OCD anxieties, behavior therapy can lead to positive results. During therapy sessions the individual is put in situations that lead to raised anxiety levels. For example, people who are afraid of salt would be asked to touch salt for prolonged periods of time - it is carried out under supervision in a controlled environment so that the sufferer feels safe. With prolonged exposure, the person is able to see that the salt causes nothing bad to happen which helps to alleviate their anxiety. Behavior therapy can work with OCD and anxiety in any situation that can be safely simulated in a therapeutic setting. However, it would not work if the anxiety was caused by a poisonous snake because that situation cannot be safely reproduced.

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    OCD and Anxiety: Family and Group Therapy

    OCD and anxiety can cause many problems in the family; so family therapy can be helpful for those members who feel that they are having to live a different life just because a relative has OCD related anxiety issues. In family therapy, the therapist will help to promote “understanding of the disorder and this can help reduce family conflicts. It can also motive family members and teach them how to help their loved one” (Smith, 2010). Smith also recommends group therapy where a person with OCD has the opportunity to talk with others who are in similar situations. Often, in group therapy, members will offer suggestions that can beneficial to all.

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    OCD and Anxiety: Healing

    There are four challenges to recovering from OCD and anxiety, according to Dr. Reid Wilson, the author of Don't Panic: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks. They are: Be determined to conquer this problem; gain the perspective that your worries are excessive or irrational; realize that ritualizing is not the only way to reduce your anxiety; decide to accept your obsessions instead of resisting them.

    Accepting your obsessions will help to alleviate the anxiety that follows. If the anxiety is reduced, then the rituals will not be as prominent. Healing oneself of OCD anxieties can open a whole new world for the sufferer and for the friends and family members who are affected by their disorder.

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    References:

    Smith, Melinda, M.A., and Ellen Jaffe-Gill, M.A. “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.” May 2010.

    http://www.helpguide.org/mental/obsessive_compulsive_disorder_ocd.htm.

    The Children’s Center for OCD and Anxiety. 2009. http://www.worrywisekids.org.

    Wilson, Reid, M.D. “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Summary.” http://www.Anxieties.com.