The Facts About OCD: Symptoms, Diagnosis and OCD Counselling Calgary

Despite being a psychologist since 2009, I have to admit that my knowledge about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is relatively small. As with any area, there is so much to know in the field of psychology that people develop specialties. Thankfully, I was able to discuss what OCD is, how it gets identified, and what OCD Counselling can look like with Megan Hanrahan, a Registered Psychologist who specializes in anxiety counselling and OCD counselling Calgary. Let’s learn together from Megan’s expertise. 

OCD Counselling Calgary: Defining Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

For a formal look at what OCD is, we can look at the DSM-V Criteria. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders and is developed by psychiatrists in the field. It lists a number of mental health conditions and their associated symptoms, which includes criteria for diagnosis. 

For OCD, the DSM-V criteria are:

  • Presence of obsessions or compulsions or both
  • Obsessions: recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive, unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress. The individual attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, urges, or images, or to neutralize them with some thought or action (performing a compulsion)
  • Compulsions: repetitive behaviours or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to the rules that must be applied rigidly. The behaviours or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation. However, these behaviours or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive

In layman’s terms, OCD is essentially a disorder related to the inability to tolerate uncertainty. This is why OCD is considered an anxiety disorder and treated using anxiety counselling Calgary. Another way to think about this is that even if something is 95% unlikely to happen, individuals with OCD cannot tolerate the 5% possibility that it could happen. This distress can lead to what are known as ‘intrusive thoughts.’ 

What Are Intrusive Thoughts and Can Anxiety Counselling Calgary Help?

Intrusive thoughts are frequently experienced by people with OCD. They can be described as sudden, unexpected thoughts that usually cause a great deal of distress. Often they are socially unacceptable, violent, or sexual in nature. Examples might include thoughts of slapping someone out in public, hurting a loved one, or acting out in a sexually inappropriate way. These thoughts are part of OCD and are part of what is addressed in OCD Counselling Calgary.

Intrusive thoughts often cause people to question whether or not they are a good person, but it is often the reverse! What we mean by this is that OCD/intrusive thoughts like to target things that are important to you (like the safety of your family, for example), so the intrusive thoughts threaten this and create even more anxiety. Anxiety Counselling Calgary can definitely help with this as it supports people with tools and strategies for navigating these uncomfortable moments. 

Where Can OCD Show Up and How Does OCD Counselling Calgary Help?

There are many, many forms (not countless, but a lot) that OCD can take. For this reason, obsessions are often categorized into “themes” that the person is experiencing. This can be a helpful starting point in OCD Counselling Calgary to identify as then tools and strategies can support change in these areas. 

Here are some examples of themes that a therapist may help identify:

  • Harm (being overcome with fear that you or someone you know is in danger, or that you might be responsible for causing that danger)
  • Contamination (being overcome with fear that you or someone you know might have contracted germs, or any kind of contamination that could cause illness or harm)
  • Sexuality (being overcome with fear and/or doubt about your sexual identity/orientation)
  • Making a mistake (being overcome with fear that you have made a mistake either knowingly or unknowingly and being preoccupied with the consequences
  • of that mistake)
  • Relationship (having difficulty controlling doubts and uncertainty about various factors in one’s relationship)
  • “Just right” (having an overwhelming sense that something is not right, or is incomplete)

These are just a few theme examples and there are many more that can come up for someone experiencing OCD and related anxiety. OCD can essentially target anything that involves a certain level of uncertainty in your life.

Anxiety counselling Calgary,
OCD Counselling Calgary

What Does OCD Counselling Calgary Look Like?

The gold standard for OCD treatment is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). 

ERP involves exposing the client to the situation that causes anxiety and triggers obsessions. Under exposure and with the guidance of a therapist, you will learn to tolerate the anxiety that you have been experiencing and strategically refrain from engaging in compulsions through a gradual process of change. OCD and Anxiety Counselling Calgary is a soft and gradual transition. You will never be pushed further than you are capable of as this can have the adverse effect of reinforcing unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour. However, it is important to remember that OCD Counselling Calgary does involve challenging yourself out of your comfort zone and basically working on being ‘comfortably uncomfortable.’ 

The process of change through ERP and anxiety counselling helps your brain to break the connection between the obsessive thought/anxiety and the compulsion. 

Megan’s approach in OCD Counselling Calgary sessions, in addition to ERP strategies, involves:

  • Understanding how OCD shows up for you, because it is unique to the individual
  • Helping you to develop self-awareness, understand themes, and recognize the things OCD is trying to tell you 
  • Working on self-compassion! The process if not always linear, and it’s easy to give in to compulsions and, therefore, is important to be kind and gentle with yourself along the way
  • Helping you to recognize that the intrusive thoughts that you are experiencing are not real. They are OCD trying to mess with you and convince you that you’re in danger when you’re not!
  • Lots of externalizing and seeing OCD thoughts as the problem, not you
  • Helping you to develop trust in yourself again as this can get eroded over time after listening to the OCD thoughts for so long
  • Helping you recognize your positive traits and morals and understand that you would never do the wrong thing intentionally.

It is essential to recognize that there is tremendous hope when it comes to OCD and OCD Counselling Calgary or your local area can help! A supportive professional can help gently identify, challenge, and support you in the journey of change. 

If you are human and reading this article, there is a tendency for people to see themselves in the information that they read. It is important to remember that OCD causes life impairment, distress, and limitations in life that feel impossible to overcome despite trying to do things differently. 

If this sounds like you, or you are experiencing these limitations in life but for different reasons, we recommend that you consult with a professional in your area and pursue appropriate assessment and treatment to ensure you are getting the support you need and deserve. You may benefit from OCD counselling, anxiety counselling, or another aspect of mental health

For more information about OCD and professional articles, please visit the following resources:

Or Download our Electronic Guide that has 8 Expert Strategies for Managing OCD

This article was jointly prepared by Megan Hanrahan and Paige Abbott. Both are Registered Psychologists at Sana Psychological, a private practice counselling agency offering anxiety counselling Calgary, OCD Counselling Calgary, as well as other mental health services for trauma, depression, grief, mood, self-esteem, life issues, addiction, and more. We serve those in Alberta, Yukon, and New Brunswick. In addition to psychological services, we also have our other blog posts and free resources page for you to visit. Thank you for being here!

Anxiety counselling Calgary,
OCD Counselling Calgary