Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was once thought to be very rare. Now, most estimates suggest that from 2.5 to more than 3.5 percent of adults suffer from OCD. That means that more than 3 million people in the United States and many millions more throughout the rest of the world have OCD. Furthermore, the diagnosis of childhood OCD has been mushrooming in the past several decades.
So, why the apparent increase in OCD? Well, part of the reason is that we do a better job of diagnosing the disorder. Another reason we see more OCD today is that people are more willing to admit to having problems. Other factors may be involved as well such as stress associated with modern life. Perhaps even advertising makes a contribution as we explain next.
For example, when your flight is delayed for hours, filling the time can be quite a challenge. Like us, you probably dread coming to the end of a novel, magazine, or movie brought to distract yourself from the endless waiting.
Perhaps, after hours of waiting, you resort to mindlessly pulling out the catalog of gadgets, gizmos, and gifts found in every seatback. Next time you’re bored, reach for that catalog and take a look at the advertisements for sanitizing devices. Many of these devices use UV lights and are touted as portable tools for disinfecting all sorts of surfaces, such as countertops, keyboards, cellphones, handrails, public toilets, toothbrushes, desktops, doorknobs, and even armrests on airplane seats. With the wave of a wand, the lights apparently destroy 99.9 percent of all bacteria, viruses, and molds -- including e-coli, SARS, and salmonella -- in about ten seconds.
Picture the world if everyone carried one of those light wands around. Imagine millions of people scanning everything in their environment that might have some hidden contaminants. Would the world become a safer, cleaner, less contaminated place? What if you added spray disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and face masks to the mix? You might avoid a few colds or bouts of the flu. But hold on, if you avoid all germs, studies show that your body’s immune system may not develop antibodies that combat illness. So maybe all that decontaminating isn’t so great after all.
Nevertheless, those ads can make you feel a little creepy with all their claims about germs, microbes, and bacteria -- especially when you’re sitting on an airplane, maybe sweating a bit, smelling the bad breath of the guy next to you, and listening to the hacking coughs, sneezes, and other enjoyable noises of the passengers. We’re not saying that travel hassles cause OCD or that advertising makes it worse. However, media’s obsessional attention to the dangers of dirt and germs sells lots of products and provides grist for the OCD mind.
An Important Message to Our Readers
This is the fifth book we’ve written in the For Dummies series. As with our other books, our intention is to share the latest and most accurate information about OCD, as well as to provide tools for effectively dealing with the symptoms.
We also want to keep your interest and provide a little entertainment, so we try to put a bit of humor into our writing. Sometimes we laugh at what we write, and we hope you will, too. But keep in mind that we are very aware that OCD is a serious and painful disorder. We only want to make you smile.
PLEASE NOTE: If you would like to receive a bibliography of selected literature relevant to this book, please CONTACT US.
How This Book Is Organized
We divide Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder For Dummies into seven parts, twenty-five chapters, and two appendixes. Following is a brief overview of the content of each part.
Part I: The Ins and Outs of OCD
Part I describes what OCD looks like. It tells you about the different types of OCD and some of the common and not-so-common symptoms. The third chapter describes other disorders that some professionals believe are related to OCD. We tell you what they are and why they may be part of what is known as the OCD spectrum. Chapters 4 and 5 tackle the biological and psychological causes of OCD. The specific causes of OCD remain a mystery, but many believe biology and psychology both play a role.
Part II: Starting Down the Treatment Path
Part II explains why so many people want to get help but can’t seem to get going. Mental health professionals call it resistance — putting the brakes on change. Some people are afraid of change, while others believe themselves incapable of change. We help you find the motivation for moving forward and tackling OCD. We also discuss the ins and outs of professional help.
Part III: Overcoming OCD
This part contains the meat and potatoes — the different treatment approaches to OCD. We cover in depth the techniques that are usually referred to as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive refers to how you think and how that can contribute to OCD. How the way you think effects you and how to change are discussed in Chapter 8. Chapter 9 looks at how mindfulness, becoming more aware of the present moment, can help you decrease symptoms of OCD. The gold standard of OCD treatment, exposure and response prevention (ERP) is the behavior part of CBT. We explain how it works and how to implement ERP in Chapter 10.
Chapter 11 takes a close look at the different types of medication that are commonly prescribed for OCD. Finally, Chapter 12 tells you about relapse — what to watch out for and how to deal with relapse if it occurs.
Part IV: Targeting Specific Symptoms of OCD
The seven chapters in this part take a closer look at specific types of OCD and how to treat them. We give you examples of treatment plans for widely diverse problems, such as a need for symmetry or counting, doubting and checking, hoarding, and superstitious thinking. The final chapter gives you advice on treatments for related disorders, such as hair-pulling and skin-picking.
Part V: Assisting Others with OCD
OCD often begins in childhood. The first chapter in this part helps you determine whether your child has symptoms that suggest OCD. It also helps you find a good mental-health professional for evaluating and treating your child. Chapter 21 describes how parents or concerned family members can help a child with OCD. While we suggest that parents enlist the help of a professional, there are many things parents can do to support therapy and their child. The last chapter in this section gives you tips on becoming a coach for someone else with OCD, including the do’s and don’ts.
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Turn to these quick chapters for a little fun. You can read about quick fixes, find out how to move beyond OCD, and get some dirt on dirt.
Part VII: Appendixes
Appendix A contains lists of books and websites you may wish to review. Appendix B provides a few forms that you can use for some of the exercises we describe in various chapters. Feel free to make copies for your own use.