John & Paula Oliver
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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    Last Updated on August 25, 2017
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    During the latter months of 2008, our daughter, Hannah, was having difficulty with anxiety issues that were becoming increasingly problematic and time-consuming. As we considered her behavior and researched various disorders, we started wondering if she might be dealing with a neurobiological disorder referred to as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive disorder). In January 2009, we had an evaluation with a specialist, who concluded that Hannah was indeed dealing with OCD.

    To help our family and friends better understand OCD (and understand the difference between OCD and OCPD), we have included this web page on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We have included some links that may also be helpful to other families who are dealing with OCD.

    Please note that not all OCD sufferers exhibit the same symptoms and certainly not to the same extent. Our daughter's OCD was manifested in different ways specific to her.

    In mid-2009, after several months of little improvement, we were able to enroll Hannah in an OCD research study at the University of Florida. During the 17 week study, she was on a low dose of a SSRI medication and also received 14 weeks of intensive ERP therapy. We are very thankful for the great progress that was made during those 17 weeks! We thank God for the excellent therapist, Dr. Joe, for his intuition and experience, and for having, to a large extent, our dear old Hannah back.

    If you think of OCD as a monster, Hannah still deals with the OCD monster, but her OCD monster is a much weaker than it used to be. At present (December 2009), Hannah is enrolled in another OCD research study through the University of South Florida and is thus receiving some additional ERP therapy (to further weaken her OCD monster).

    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neurobiological anxiety disorder that is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that take up an excessive amount of time and cause significant distress.

    OCD should not be confused with OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder); neither should OCD be incorrectly used as a catch-all term to describe obsessive or compulsive behaviors. OCD is an anxiety disorder; OCPD is a personality disorder.

    With OCPD, a person may be generally preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism and control. Rather than being anxious about this, however, they see their behavior as desirable. While their behavior may seem odd, frustrating, or compulsive to others, this person does not have OCD.

    On the other hand, folks with OCD are not happy with their behavior. They usually realize that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational and want very much to be freed from them, but they feel captive to these thoughts that will not go away and the rituals they must perform to obtain temporary relief. The difference is stark.

    OCD compulsions are typically ritualistic behaviors such as washing, cleaning, checking, touching, counting, arranging, ordering, or hoarding. These rituals provide immediate and temporary relief from the anxiety of the obsessions, but buy only short-term comfort at the long-term cost of frequent ritual repetition. One person's OCD rituals may be totally different from the next person's, depending on what their OCD obsessions are requiring them to do to obtain relief.

    Millions of people are affected by OCD. Current estimates are that one in 40 adults and one in 100 school-aged children, approximately 2 to 3 % of the U.S. population, have this condition. It should be noted that, unlike adults, children with OCD may not recognize that their behavior is irrational.

    While there is no cure for OCD, a special Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) technique, referred to as ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) has been effective in helping to provide relief from the OCD obsessions and compulsions. With ERP therapy, the OCD sufferer allows themself to be exposed to obsessions, but gradually prevented from performing the compulsions that provide temporary relief. Over time, with these graduated therapeutic exposures, the associated anxiety decreases until it is barely noticeable.

    Medication (particularly, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, SSRIs) may also be recommended, especially on a temporary basis, to help reduce anxiety. Medication is generally not as effective as ERP therapy, but can help reduce the anxiety level on a temporary basis.

    These web sites provide further information about OCD and its treatment.

    OCD Chicago
    The OCD Chicago site contains a number of excellent articles on topics relating to OCD. The site includes a number of useful guides, including one entitled How to Help Your Child - A Parentís Guide to OCD.

    Obsessive Compulsive Foundation
    The Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, which seeks to increase public awareness of OCD, provides a number of OCD resources, including a "Find a Doctor" database and a listing of OCD support groups.

    OCD Online
    OCD Online has an interesting article by Dr. Steven Phillipson, in which he explains a difference between obsessive compulsive tendencies and actual OCD.

    While many folks may exhibit obsessive compulsive tendencies (e.g., flushing a public toilet with their foot, using a paper towel to grab the door handle when leaving a public restroom, not walking under ladders, being packrats), a simple test is to ask yourself how much money it would take for you not to perform the behavior. Most folks would likely accept between $10 to $100 to do something that would make them feel uncomfortable. With OCD, however, folks may typically require more than $100,000 to face their feared concern.

    We also found a couple of YouTube videos that can help you get a feel for what OCD is like:

    YouTube Video Clip - What it's like to be OCD
    In this video, a young man is trying to give his undivided attention to a young lady who is relating a recent experience. His OCD, however, (represented by a large man in a ballet outfit), becomes increasingly distracting until the OCD sufferer finally gives in and straightens the picture on the wall.

    YouTube Video Clip - The Fourth Time - A moment with OCD
    In this video, a young lady suffers from an OCD obsession that will not leave her alone until things "feel right". As she explains in the video, since closing the refrigerator door did not feel right the first time, she is compelled to repeat the action multiple times, avoiding certain numbers that are also a problem for her.

    Please note that there is a bad word (expletive) used once in this video. We felt, however, that this video helped to portray the obsessions and compulsions typical of many OCD sufferers, so we have included the link anyway.