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Why Worry: Understanding OCD and Anxiety Disorders

Feeling anxious? While the impact of COVID-19 may be contributing to heightened levels of worry in general, for many, ongoing anxiety is a debilitating mental health disorder.

In fact, anxiety and associated conditions such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are common mental health conditions.

According to Beyond Blue, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.

OCD and anxiety disorders are the focus of a national education and awareness campaign Australia-wide this month.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an umbrella term describing various disorders, including Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Anxiety manifests in different ways for different people. Often, it may be a nagging sense of worry or mild dread, or a sense of stress.

People suffering from anxiety may become preoccupied thinking about stressful events. It can become difficult to concentrate and even more difficult to relax. Some people get panic attacks, which produces physical effects on the body, such as racing heart rate, dizziness, fear or terror, and sweaty palms.

When assessing whether you have anxiety, your doctor will look at factors such as the number of days you have had anxious feelings in the past few months and the impact this has had on your life and how you function.

What Is OCD?

People who suffer from OCD experience repeated, persistent, intrusive thoughts and cope by exhibiting ritualistic behaviours. Some common compulsions include:

  • Contamination or preoccupation with germs, body fluids, and/or contaminants in the environment. It is not simply a desire to clean. You may feel that if you don’t continually clean and disinfect your surroundings, some environmental or health hazard will develop.
  • Harm or the fear that you will not be able to control dark impulses and will end up hurting yourself or someone else. These thoughts or visualisations may feel like fantasies of things you want to do that you can’t ‘turn off’.
  • Disaster/Catastrophe that something horrible will happen unless you do certain behaviours to prevent it, or you feel the need to constantly check whether certain circumstances or events are occurring.

Both anxiety and OCD involve a preoccupation with dread or doom, with symptoms of stress or distress, but the subjects of the worry are what separate them.

If you suffer from anxiety, your fears tend to be based on issues such as health, relationships, or finances. While with OCD, sufferers specifically engage in ritualistic behaviour or battle the same thought loops all the time.

OCD, Anxiety and COVID

For those who experience OCD or anxiety, the COVID-19 pandemic may have intensified their concerns.

Whether it’s anxious thoughts about the future or:

  • Concerns about your health and that of your loved ones
  • Whether you’ll keep your job and be able to pay the bills
  • Coping with isolation and everyday challenges
  • Or other concerns

Managing mental health has become increasingly important during the pandemic.

Getting Help for OCD and Anxiety Disorders

OCD and related disorders are treatable. Research indicates several treatments are highly effective in reducing anxiety. These treatments may include medication, meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or a combination of these.

A qualified health professional can assist with finding the most effective treatment for your situation.

There are also many online resources available to learn more about the condition or managing concerns about COVID19 anxiety.

Ways you can better manage anxiety disorders include:

  • Keeping Healthy. Mind your nutrition, sleep patterns and alcohol intake. Keeping your body healthy may help relieve some symptoms and give the proper mindset for self-awareness, analysis and healing.
  • Know your triggers and if possible minimise your exposure to them. For example, if hearing about COVID rates on the news triggers symptoms of OCD or anxiety, limit the number of times you check the news or social media.
  • Try to identify what you can and cannot control. If something is within your control – for example, whether you have clean hands – act. If something is out of your control – for example, whether COVID is going to mutate – try to focus on the things you can control.
  • Above all else, be kind to yourself and accept that it may take time to heal.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or want support with managing anxiety or OCD call Psychological Health Care for an appointment. Getting the right treatment and support can help you learn how to control your anxiety.