“Counting” A comprehensive guide on “Counting” OCD: What it is, what causes it, and how to treat it

If you can’t let go of your intrusive counting thoughts, you are not alone; there is a name for it.

It’s called OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Around 2% of the population suffers from OCD, making it one of the most common mental disorders. 

So what is “counting” OCD, what causes it, and how can you cope with it?

ERP therapy and medication are the two most commonly used treatments for “counting” OCD; sadly, only 35 to 40% seek treatmentand less than 10% receive evidence-based OCD treatment (exposure and response prevention).

Is “Counting” OCD real? 

Do you count everything?

When you walk, do you count your steps?

Do you count the number of cars on the road when you drive?

Do you have to count in specific patterns or sequences?

If so, then there’s a good chance you are struggling with “counting” OCD.

It’s a common form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder characterized by counting-based behavior.

People with “counting OCD” may count to achieve a state of feeling “right” and to avoid the anxiety of something feeling “wrong.”

What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is characterized by obsessions (persistent, intrusive thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform to reduce anxiety).

The main sign of OCD is that the obsessions and compulsions cause significant distress or interfere with daily activities.

What is “Counting” OCD

“Counting” OCD is a type of OCD where the person experiences intrusive thoughts about counting.

The obsessions and compulsions center around counting certain things (e.g., steps, cars, people) or specific patterns or sequences.

And if not done “just so,” the person experiences significant anxiety.

People with “counting” OCD often feel a sense of relief or calm after completing the compulsion (counting).

Other symptoms can include that something terrible will happen if the counting is not done correctly (e.g., car accidents, plane crashes).

How do I know if I have “Counting” OCD?

The only way to know for sure is to see a mental health professional who will diagnose OCD after performing an assessment.

However, some key signs can help you identify whether you may be struggling with OCD:

-Do you spend a lot of time counting or checking things?

-Do you feel like you have to do things in a specific order or pattern?

-Do your thoughts and behaviors cause significant distress or interfere with your daily life?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may be struggling with OCD.

Effective treatment for “Counting” OCD

There are two main types of treatment for OCD: medication and therapy.

Medication can effectively reduce the symptoms of OCD, but it does not cure the disorder.

Therapy is considered the most effective treatment for OCD and involves a type of treatment called exposure and response prevention (ERP).

ERP involves exposing a person to the thoughts, images, or situations that trigger their OCD and preventing them from engaging in compulsive behaviors.

This type of therapy can be challenging but is considered very effective.

Therapy forms like ACT, Acceptance, and Commitment Therapy can benefit people with OCD.

This type of therapy is founded on the idea that it’s not the content of a thought that causes distress but how we respond to the thought.

In other words, all human beings have intrusive thoughts from time to time.

It’s not the thoughts themselves that cause us problems, but how we choose to react to them.

People who suffer from OCD get stuck on specific thoughts and behaviors intended to neutralize or stop the thoughts. It never works, though. The more you try to stop OCD thoughts, the more you find yourself thinking about them.

The importance of having a good OCD therapist

When looking for a therapist, it is essential to find experience treating OCD.

Not all therapists are familiar with the treatment of OCD, so it is vital to ask them about their experience with the disorder.

It is also essential to find a therapist you feel comfortable and trust.

If you don’t feel like your therapist is helping, be sure to speak up and let them know.

Many therapists specialize in treating OCD, so don’t be afraid to seek out help.

What are the odds I’ll improve with treatment?

The odds of improving with treatment are good. Around 80 percent of people who receive treatment for OCD see a reduction in symptoms.

However, it is essential to note that there is no cure for OCD, and some people may experience relapses after treatment.

So, if you are struggling with OCD, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There is support available, and treatment can make a huge difference in your life.

Treatment-resistant OCD

There is also a percentage of people who do not respond to treatment; it is known as treatment-resistant OCD.

Don’t give up hope if you struggle with OCD and have not seen any improvement after trying multiple treatments.

There are other options available that can help you manage your symptoms.

Treatments for severe OCD may involve treatments like TMS, where magnetic coils are used to induce small electric currents that can stimulate or inhibit the neurons in the brain. 

The FDA approved TMS as an effective treatment for depression, but it is still undergoing clinical trials to determine its effectiveness on OCD; however, it has already been successful with some.

DBS, Deep Brain Stimulation, is also used to treat treatment-resistant sufferers where electrodes are implanted in the brain to stimulate the brain to help control or inhibit certain impulses. 

It is being used on people to help treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia. 

Having treatment-resistant OCD is not a life sentence; more options are available to help you manage your symptoms.

Symptoms of “Counting” OCD

Have intrusive thoughts that compel you to count. 

Experiencing significant distress, and you can’t stop counting things. 

It feels like something is wrong unless you count.

Compulsively checking to see if things were okay or in the correct order. 

Common “Counting” OCD obsessions

When it comes to obsessions, you may worry about things like:

-Obsessions about different numbers are correct or in the proper order

-Obsessions about objects are in the correct order

-Obsessively making sure no one is harmed

-Making sure calculations are correct

Compulsions associated with “Counting” OCD

You may engage in behaviors like:

-counting objects or things over and over again

-checking to see if things are okay or in the correct order compulsively

-spending a lot of time counting or checking

-repeating things a certain number of times

-asking others for reassurance about things.

Some people with “counting” OCD also experience symmetry obsessions, which involve the need for everything to be symmetrical or even. 

Avoidance Behaviors in “Counting” OCD

People with “counting” OCD may also engage in avoidance behaviors like:

-avoiding specific numbers

-avoiding contact with objects that need to be counted or checked

-avoiding situations where you might have to count or check something.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of “counting” OCD, it is essential to seek help. 

Many resources are available, and treatment can make a huge difference in your life.

Reassurance seeking in “Counting” OCD

You may also engage in reassurance-seeking behaviors, like asking others for reassurance about things or compulsively checking with others to see if everything is okay.

This type of behavior can be very frustrating for loved ones, as it can seem like the person is never satisfied.

What causes “Counting” OCD?

The cause of OCD is still not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors.

OCD tends to run in families, so there may be a genetic component.

External factors, like stress or traumatic life events, may also contribute to the development of OCD.

There is also evidence that a problem with the immune system may cause OCD. 

It is called autoimmune encephalitis, where the body’s immune system attacks its cells, causing inflammation in the brain.

Treatment with immunoglobulin therapy, which contains antibodies from donated blood, has been used with success.

There are also abnormalities reported in the monoamine neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in sufferers of OCD.

This research is inconclusive, though, because of contradictory results between studies.

What can trigger “Counting” OCD?

There is no one answer to this question, as triggers can vary from person to person.

However, some things that may trigger “counting” OCD symptoms include:

-Life stressors or traumatic events

-Feeling overwhelmed or anxious

-Sudden changes in routine

-Sleep deprivation

-Stress from work or school

-Exposure to images or words related to counting or checking.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of “counting” OCD, it is 

necessary to seek out help.

How do you stop OCD thoughts naturally?

Sadly, no one pill will magically stop your OCD thoughts.

However, if you are looking for ways to control the negative impact of obsessive-compulsive disorder on your life, try some of these helpful tips.

Nutrients that are helpful for OCD are Magnesium has calming effects on the nervous system, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc, L-Theanine (green tea extract), Tryptophan.

These vitamins and minerals assist in synthesizing serotonin – the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of calmness and serenity.

Regular exercise can also help you control your OCD symptoms.

Regular exercise is known to release mood-enhancing endorphins and relieve muscle tension.

Some tips for sufferers living with “Counting” OCD

Living with “counting” OCD can be difficult, but you can do things to make it easier.

-Educate yourself about OCD and learn as much as you can about it

-Find a therapist who specializes in OCD and who you feel comfortable with

-Join a support group or online forum for people with OCD

-Practice self-compassion and mindfulness

-Create a daily routine and stick to it as much as possible

-Take breaks when needed, don’t push yourself too hard

-Focus on your strengths and positive aspects

OCD can be very frustrating and overwhelming, but with time and effort, you can manage it. 

These tips are just a start, so tailor them to fit what works best for you.

The OCD cycle

The first step towards overcoming OCD is understanding the disorder. 

It means learning why you feel compelled to do certain things and that it will not help you engage in these behaviors.

It would help if you learned that OCD is like a cycle that consists of Obsessions (Recurrent, persistent thoughts, urges, or images) followed by Compulsive actions (repeated behaviors or mental acts) followed by Temporary Relief, the “only” way to ease the obsessions.

The main idea is that engaging with compulsions reduces anxiety, but not for long. 

It leads to the recurrence of obsessions and building anxiety levels, leading to more severe consequences, including severe depression.

The good news is that you can do things to break the cycle between obsessive thoughts, compulsive actions, and temporary relief.

How dysfunctional beliefs come into play

People with “counting” OCD may have dysfunctional beliefs like:

-If I don’t do things in a certain way, someone I love may get hurt (emotionally or physically) or die.

-If I make a mistake, something terrible will happen, and it will be all my fault

-My family may fall apart if things aren’t done in a certain way.

These beliefs can be very harmful and contribute to high anxiety levels.

It is essential to replace these beliefs with more helpful, realistic ones.

-If I make a mistake, I can learn from it and not make it again next time or ask for help if needed.

-People may get hurt or die no matter what you do to prevent that from happening. 

You can’t protect people from everything, and you can’t “control” life.

-I do my best, and that’s all I can do. If bad things happen, it is not my fault.

Misconceptions about OCD

There are many misconceptions about OCD, like that people with OCD are just “obsessive” or that they’re “perfectionists.

“OCD is a very misunderstood condition many people believe OCD has to do solely with cleanliness and organization.

It is not true. 

Everything from sexual or violent intrusive thoughts to arranging your pencils just right falls under the umbrella of OCD.

Mostly what you see depicted on TV are cleanliness rituals and things like that.

But there is much more than that. 

And if someone says “I’m so OCD” because they like their desk organized, it’s minimizing the actual disorder that millions of people suffer from.

OCD can be a severe mental illness that can cause a lot of distress and impairment in someone’s life.

Other OCD themes 

When you suffer from OCD, the number of things you obsess over is seemingly endless. 

That’s because OCD can be about pretty much anything. 

Check out our other articles on OCD themes, including checking compulsions, contamination fears, harm OCD, and morality / right-and-wrong OCD. Or you can check out the complete list of common OCD themes here.

Support groups for OCD 

There are many support groups available for people with OCD.

They can be a great way to meet other people who understand what you’re going through and get the advice and support you need.

OCD can be a very isolating disorder, so it’s essential to have somewhere you can go to feel supported.

How to help a loved one with OCD

If you have a loved one struggling with OCD, there are things you can do to help.

Here are a few tips:

-Educate yourself about OCD

-Don’t take their obsessions or compulsions personally, but let them know how much it hurts you to see them struggling.

-Learn about Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) which is the most effective treatment for OCD.

-Be supportive and understanding

-Encourage them to seek treatment

-Do not give in to their compulsions or enable their behavior

-Avoid criticizing or judging them.

OCD is a severe mental illness that can cause a lot of distress and impairment in someone’s life. It is essential to dispel the myths about OCD and educate yourself.

There is hope for “Counting” OCD sufferers!

First of all, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. OCD is a very common disorder.

Around 1 in 50 people struggle with OCD in some form.

Second, help is available.

Third, recovery IS possible!

If you are struggling with “counting” OCD, there is hope.

Many resources are available to help you, including therapy, self-help books, and online support groups.

It may take some time and effort to find what works for you, but it is worth it. 

It’s important to stay positive because you’re stronger than your worries realize! 

You can get better! 

Remember, you are not alone.

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