Somatic OCD – Symptoms and Treatment
What is Somatic OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to experience persistent, intrusive thoughts that are distressing and anxiety provoking, and which result in the development of compulsive behaviors to cope with and neutralize the anxiety created by obsessions. Somatic OCD is a form of OCD that causes intrusive thoughts are focused on autonomic, or non-conscious body processes and functions, like breathing, blinking, or physical sensations.
Symptoms of Somatic OCD
Common Obsessions of Somatic OCD
The intrusive obsessions that are associated with Somatic OCD can vary widely from person to person.
Some common obsessive thoughts a person with this type of OCD may experience include:
- “What if I choke because I didn’t chew my food well enough?
- “What if I suddenly stop breathing?”
- “Is my heart beating at the right pace?”
- “Am I hurting my eyes by blinking wrong (too fast or too slow)?”
- “Would I be able to not focus on my [certain body process] if it wasn’t a problem?”
Common Compulsions of Somatic OCD
The compulsive behaviors used to cope with these obsessions also vary in cases of Somatic OCD.
Some common compulsive behaviors observed with Somatic OCD include the following:
- Focusing on the amount of time one chews
- Focusing on how one is breathing
- Measuring and monitoring one’s heartbeat
- Intensively focusing on how one is blinking
- Constantly looking up symptoms or seeking reassurance from others that their body is performing normally
Somatic OCD can cause a person to lose focus on important parts of life, such as relationships, work, school, and friendships. A person’s life can heavily be impacted by this form OCD since their focus and attention are entirely and continually focused on monitoring the body function that is the object of their concern.
Treatment for Somatic OCD
People suffering from Somatic OCD are encouraged to seek treatment from a mental health treatment provider that specializes in the treatment of OCD. OCD specialists are equipped and prepared to treat a wide array of OCD subtypes, including Somatic OCD. Like all types of OCD, Somatic OCD can be treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically with treatment approaches called Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Mindful-Based CBT teaches patients that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. Individuals will also learn that intrusive thoughts have no power over them and that by responding to their thoughts through compulsive behaviors, their thoughts are given more strength and credibility and their fears and obsessions are strengthened and reinforced. Mindfulness-Based CBT is a very effective OCD treatment, especially when combined with ERP.
ERP exposes patients to situations related to their intrusive thoughts that cause them anxiety. The goal of this treatment is for the patient to prevent himself or herself from completing their compulsive behaviors when triggered by intrusive thoughts. The situations that are confronted will intensify over time, until the patient can face and overcome their most feared scenario. Once they are able to stop themselves from responding to their intrusive thoughts with compulsive behaviors, they can experience tremendous relief from the symptoms of OCD.
If patients are suffering from severe levels of anxiety due to their OCD, they may benefit from participating in treatment at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) OCD treatment program, as is offered by The Gateway Institute. The Gateway Institute offers Intensive Outpatient treatment options as well as regular outpatient psychotherapy sessions, and a free, 30 minute face-to-face consultation with one of our experienced and caring clinicians at all three of our beautiful locations in Orange County, Scottsdale, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay Area. OCD symptoms typically worsen over time and can take over a person’s life, so it is very important to seek OCD treatment as soon as possible with a skilled and dedicated OCD specialist who can provide expertise and support during this journey.
Other Common Sub-Types of OCD
It is not uncommon for an individual suffering from one OCD sub-type to also suffer from other sub-types. Treating co-occurring sub-types simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from OCD.
The Gateway Institute is here to support you in getting the help that you need.
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