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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Overview

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What is OCD? Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental illness that affects nearly 2.5% of the population (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).  The primary features of the disorder include obsessions, which are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that cause severe anxiety and distress; and compulsions, repetitive behaviors or mental acts performed in response to an obsession.  Compulsions frequently are performed to reduce distress or prevent a dreaded event or situation from occurring.  Because individuals with OCD often spend many hours each day experiencing obsessive-compulsive symptoms, the disorder severely impairs functioning across a variety of domains. According to Rasmussen (2005), individuals with OCD tend to adhere to highly rigid and disciplined notions about how to do things properly, “sacrificing opportunities for positive, pleasurable activities to maintain a position of disciplined appropriateness” .  Consistent with this view, cognitive rigidity...

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OCD perfectionism & social anxiety treatment: Tweet your way to greater health

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Looking for ways to overcome social anxiety or OCD-related perfectionism?  At the end of this post, you’ll find some strategies I use to help individuals in South Florida (Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, & Miami) overcome their anxiety.  These exercises are examples of “Intentional Mistake Practice“, a CBT-based technique that can be used to challenge some of the problematic perfectionistic beliefs that are central to social anxiety and OCD. First, though, what do social anxiety and OCD-related perfectionism have in common?  Although on the surface, these anxiety disorders are quite different, individuals with social phobia and OCD often share many perfectionistic beliefs about the world.  Social anxiety (or “social phobia”) is characterized by excessive worry about being perceived negatively by others.  Individuals with social phobia often have perfectionistic expectations about their own behavior and question their social competence....

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Perfectionism in OCD: When the pursuit of success turns toxic

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There is more than one type of perfectionist. First, there is the adaptive perfectionist.  This perfectionist is the prototypical workaholic student/employee who goes above and beyond expectations.  This person is intelligent, hard-working, dependable, and passionate about meeting or beating deadlines.  He or she sets high personal standards of performance and has an attention to detail that is appreciated by (and often draws accolades from) others. However, not every perfectionist resembles this prototype.  There is another type of perfectionism that might be affecting you or someone you know.  This perfectionist doesn’t quite look like the adaptive perfectionist, and based on his or her observable behavior, their perfectionism might not even be readily apparent. Nevertheless, the maladaptive perfectionist shares many features in common with the adaptive perfectionist.   Similar to the adaptive perfectionist, the maladaptive perfectionist is likely to be intelligent and articulate.  He or she has very...

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Parenting Kids & Teens with OCD: Don’t Feed the Reassurance Monster…and Other Quick Tips

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Many excellent parents struggle with how to appropriately parent their child/teen with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Unfortunately, this process is rarely straightforward and is often counter-intuitive, which leaves many parents feeling anxious and confused. As a psychologist in Palm Beach County, Florida, I work closely with kids, teens, and parents throughout the greater Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami areas on strategies for recovering from OCD. I also run a free support group for kids/teens with OCD. Consider the following set of ground rules for parenting your child with OCD.  The strategies you adopt as a parent can mean the difference between reducing your child’s symptoms or giving these symptoms room to grow. 1. Remind yourself that OCD is based on emotion rather than logic. Many parents get tripped up and frustrated by the many illogical forms that OCD takes....

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ERP therapy for OCD: Shifting from destructive to constructive to gestalt notions

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Here’s a question for you: Is exposure and response prevention (ERP) fundamentally a destructive or constructive process? I think that many people naturally conceptualize it as more of the former than the latter. They conceive of ERP as being the process by which we can “unlearn” or “weaken” maladaptive associations. We learn, through repetition, to no longer be afraid of those things that previously incited fear. On the surface, this appears to be a notion predicated on destruction. In actuality, it is not. If you ever take the time to refer back to the basic animal literature on fear learning and fear “unlearning”, you’ll find that associations appear to be weakened largely as a consequence of new learning taking place. This new learning competes with (and weakens the expression of) previous learning. It is this process that accounts for...

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Advanced ERP for OCD: how subtle rituals can limit your progress

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What is exposure and response prevention (ERP) for OCD? As any good psychologist experienced in treating OCD can tell you, the most effective treatment for OCD is exposure and ritual prevention (ERP).  You may also see this type of therapy referred to as exposure and response prevention.  In this case, the semantics are immaterial; the concepts are exactly the same.  ERP is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that is based on the premise that the best way to reduce your symptoms is to practice activities designed to trigger your anxiety and then resist any urges to ritualize.  ERP has two main components: exposure – purposely doing activities that are designed to elicit your anxiety response prevention – actively resisting the urge to complete a ritual For example, for someone who worries about germs, an exposure might involve...

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