March 17th, 2010


The Doctor Answers . . .

bogwitch64 asked about treatment for disorders that involved panic and counting type behaviors.

The disorder being asked about is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). People may not have an actual panic attack (rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, feeling of doom, sweating, etc) but they will experience anxiety. First let’s get on the same page with regards to definitions.

Obsessions are persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses or images. They are different than just worrying or being anxious regarding real-life stressors. The thoughts are unrealistic, intrusive, inappropriate, and cause distress.  For example, ruminating about possible contamination if you shake someone’s hand is an obsessive thought.

Most common: contamination (being dirty), doubts (lock the door, turn off stove), need to have things in order.

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking the lights or the stove) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) designed to prevent or reduce anxiety.  They DO NOT bring the person pleasure. In fact, persons with OCD find the behaviors overwhelming and unreasonable.

In order to be diagnosed with OCD the person must have obsessions and compulsions that meet all aspects of the above definitions, plus they must feel distressed and the compulsions or obsessions consume at least one hour of each day or interfere with daily routine.



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