Women and Mental Health: OCD

What Is OCD?

Scrubbing your hands over and over until they’re raw. Having to lock and unlock a door 10 times before you can leave your home. Thinking constantly that you’ve let someone down or that you’re unworthy. These are all examples of the thoughts and behaviors a woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might experience.

OCD is a mental health disorder that affects men and women at equal rates. However, men tend to experience OCD at an earlier age than women. Regardless of the age at diagnosis, women with OCD are at greater risk for experiencing other mental health disorders. These can include major depression and anxiety. Also, those with OCD are more likely to abuse alcohol, which can be hazardous to a person’s health.

OCD Symptoms

OCD symptoms tend to vary from person to person. People can become fixated and/or have obsessive thoughts regarding a number of topics. Examples of manifestations of OCD include:

  • A fixation on dirt and/or germs
  • Repetitive concerns and doubts, such as that a person forgets to lock a door
  • A need to have items in a certain order
  • Repeated hand washing
  • Repeated thoughts about hurting someone or engaging in violence
  • Fixating on counting items or on symmetry
  • Following rigid rules of order, such as having to complete tasks in a certain row on a daily basis and starting over again if the tasks are out of order
  • Thoughts that are against a person’s religious beliefs

Women with OCD may also experience disorders such as anorexia nervosa (food avoidance) and trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling).

Diagnosing OCD

Doctors diagnose OCD by listening to a patient and her family or friends describe the symptoms she may be experiencing that are synonymous with OCD. A doctor will also try to rule out the likelihood of other conditions, such as checking for thyroid function and testing for drugs that could worsen OCD symptoms.

OCD Treatments

OCD is a condition that can be treated. The goal is to help a woman reduce her symptoms so that obsessive thoughts and behaviors don’t rule her daily life.

A doctor may prescribe medications, such as those intended to relieve anxiety and/or depression. A psychological technique known as cognitive-behavioral therapy is another common treatment. This approach involves helping a woman recognize thoughts and behaviors that are a part of OCD and determine methods and approaches she can take to cease these behaviors and engage in healthy ones. According to the University of Utah, treatment for OCD is more effective when medications are combined with therapy.

OCD behaviors and thoughts can overtake a woman’s life. If you or someone you love are ready to break the hold OCD has on your life, contact a mental health professional.