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A comprehensive guide on Existential OCD: What it is, what causes it, and how to treat it
If you can’t let go of your existential 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 “Existential” OCD, what causes it, and how can you cope with it?
ERP therapy and medication are the two most commonly used treatments for “Existential” OCD; sadly, only 35 to 40% seek treatment, and less than 10% receive evidence-based OCD treatment (exposure and response prevention).
Is Existential OCD real?
Do you feel like you’re constantly questioning the meaning of life? Do you worry about death or the universe in a way that interferes with your daily life? You may be experiencing Existential OCD.
If you’re struggling with this type of OCD, – there are ways to deal with it! This article will discuss what Existential OCD is, how to deal with it, how to cope, and where to find help.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental disorder that causes intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety or distress, while compulsions are the rituals or behaviors that people with OCD perform in an attempt to reduce anxiety.
What is Existential OCD
If you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts about the meaning of life, death, and the universe, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with Existential OCD.
For example, you may worry about what happens after death, whether you’re living a meaningful life or if you’re being good enough.
These thoughts can be highly distressing and can interfere with your ability to go about your day-to-day life.If you’re struggling with existential OCD, – there are ways to deal with it!
Effective treatment for Existential OCD
There are two main types of treatment for Existential OCD: CBT therapy and medication.
ERP, or Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, is a type of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) that involves exposing yourself to your feared thoughts and objects in a safe and controlled environment.
Also used in treating OCD is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) it’s, a therapy form that has shown promising results in treating OCD.
ACT focuses on accepting your thoughts and feelings instead of fighting them.
Medication can also help treat Existential OCD. Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Clomipramine (Anafranil) are all medications that have been effective in treating OCD.
However, only around 35-40% of people with OCD seek treatment, and less than ten percent receive evidence-based OCD treatment.If you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts about the meaning of life, death, and the universe – don’t hesitate to seek help! There are many resources available to you, and there is no shame in seeking treatment.
The importance of having a good OCD therapist
If you’re seeking treatment for OCD, it’s essential to find a therapist who has experience treating OCD. Not all therapists are familiar with the best ways to treat OCD, so it’s essential to do your research and find one knowledgeable and experienced. If you’re unsure where to start, your GP can refer you to a therapist specializing in OCD.
Don’t give up if you’ve tried traditional OCD treatments like ERP therapy and medication and haven’t seen any results!
There are still options available to you.
A higher dose of medicine, or a different type of medication, may be necessary to achieve results. Some may need to add an antipsychotic drug.
If you suffer from treatment-resistant OCD, there are also options like TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), a non-invasive treatment that uses magnets to stimulate the brain or DBS (deep brain stimulation), a surgical procedure that involves implanting electrodes into the brain; it’s like a pacemaker for the brain.
It has effectively treated OCD in people who haven’t responded to traditional treatments. Don’t give up if you’ve tried traditional treatments and haven’t seen any results! There are still options available to you.
Symptoms of Existential OCD
The symptoms of “Existential” OCD can vary from person to person but often include intrusive thoughts about the meaning of life, death, and the universe. These thoughts can be highly distressing and interfere with daily life.-
Common Existential OCD obsessions
-obsessions about the meaning of life
-obsessive thoughts about death or the universe
-obsessive thoughts about whether you’re living a meaningful life
-obsessive thoughts about the afterlife or what happens after death
Common Existential OCD compulsions
-compulsive rituals or behaviors that meant to ward off death or the universe
-constantly checking for signs that death or the universe is imminent
-obsessively praying or seeking reassurance from a higher power
If you’re struggling with Existential OCD, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to you, and there is no shame in seeking treatment.
Avoidance behaviours in Existential OCD
Sufferers with Existential OCD often engage in avoidance behaviors in an attempt to reduce their anxiety.
Some common avoidance behaviors include:
-avoiding certain places or situations out of fear of death or the universe ends
-avoided different topics of conversation or reading material out of fear of death or the universe
-avoiding social situations or interactions out of fear that they will say something that could trigger an obsessive thought about death or the universe.
If you’re struggling with Existential OCD, it’s essential to resist the urge to avoid certain places, people, or situations. It will only serve to reinforce your fear and make it harder to overcome.
Reassurance seeking in Existential OCD
Sufferers with Existential OCD often seek reassurance from others about the meaning of life and their place in the world.It can be highly taxing on relationships and can often lead to feelings of isolation.
It’s important to remember that seeking reassurance from others is not a healthy coping mechanism and will only serve to delay your recovery.
What causes Existential OCD?
The cause of Existential OCD is not yet fully known; it’s believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Some people may be more likely to develop Existential OCD due to a genetic predisposition, while others may develop it due to experiencing a traumatic event.
If you have a family history of OCD, you may be more likely to develop it. It doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop the disorder, but it does increase the risk.
There is also evidence that an autoimmune disease can cause OCD symptoms.
The body’s immune system attacks healthy cells, leading to inflammation.
A study published in the journal Brain Behavior showed that people with Existential OCD had higher levels of antibodies to a protein called glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD).
Regardless of the cause, Existential OCD is a real and serious illness that a qualified OCD therapist should treat.
What can trigger Existential OCD
A trigger is anything that causes an increase in OCD symptoms.
For people with Existential OCD, triggers can include:
-seeing a news article about the meaning of life
-talking to someone who has a different perspective on life
-watching a movie or TV show that deals with existential themes
-reading a book about the meaning of life
-attending a religious service
-thinking about death or the universe
How do you stop OCD thoughts naturally?
Therapy like ERP and ACT is the best way to deal with intrusive thoughts. ERP therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to the things you fear, while ACT helps you accept your thoughts and feelings instead of trying to fight them.
There is also evidence that mindfulness meditation can be helpful for OCD thought.
You can find more information about these therapies in our resources section.
Exercising and eating healthy can help you manage OCD symptoms.
It’s essential to get plenty of sleep and avoid stress as much as possible.
Joining a support group can also be helpful, as you can connect with other people who understand what you are going through. There is hope for recovery!
How to live with Existential OCD obsessions?
Living with Existential OCD can be extremely difficult, but managing your symptoms and living a happy life is possible.
Here are a few tips:
-Educate yourself about OCD and “existential” OCD in particular. The more you know about the disorder, the better equipped you to deal with it.
-Find ways to relax and enjoy life. Make time for activities you love and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
-Talk to someone who understands what you are going through. Friends and family can be excellent sources of support, but it may also be helpful to talk to a therapist or join a support group.
-Stay positive. Remember that OCD is a treatable disorder, and there is hope for recovery.
How dysfunctional beliefs come into play in OCD
Existential OCD sufferers experience intrusive thoughts about the meaning of life and their place in the world. These thoughts can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, fear, and dread.Sufferers may begin to doubt their beliefs and question everything they once held true. It can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair.
Dysfunctional beliefs often come into play in Existential OCD, as sufferers may begin to believe that their thoughts are a sign that they are going crazy. These beliefs can be highly damaging and lead to increased anxiety and depression.
It’s important to remember that these thoughts and feelings are a normal part of the disorder and do not indicate who you are as a person. You are not your thoughts, and you can’t control what pops into your head.
The OCD cycle
The OCD cycle is a term used to describe the pattern of symptoms that often occurs in OCD.
The cycle typically goes like this:
-Obsession: The intrusive thoughts or images that are typical of OCD.
-Anxiety: The fear and anxiety that is caused by intrusive thoughts.
-Compulsion: The urge to do something to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsession.
-Temporary relief: The relief that is coming after engaging in compulsions.
And back to obsessions again, and the cycle repeats.
This process can be very damaging and lead to a downward spiral where sufferers become more and more isolated.
Misconceptions about OCD
There are several misconceptions about OCD; some common misconceptions include:
-OCD is just a case of excessive cleanliness or perfectionism
-OCD is caused by bad parenting or a traumatic event
-OCD is just a fear of germs or contamination
-OCD is just a fear of making mistakes
-OCD is rare and only affects a tiny minority of people
It’s essential for people with OCD to be aware of these misconceptions and to educate family and friends about the reality of OCD.
Some tips when living with Existential OCD
-Become familiar with the different types of OCD and understand that your thoughts are not uncommon.
-Join a local or online support group to connect with other people who understand OCD.
-Seek treatment from a therapist who specializes in OCD
-Practice mindfulness meditation to help you deal with intrusive thoughts.
-Challenge your dysfunctional beliefs about OCD and life using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Other OCD themes in combination with Existential OCD
If you suffer from OCD, you may find that your thoughts often revolve around a particular theme. When suffering from one theme, the chances of other themes creeping in are high. Some common OCD themes include:
-Fear of germs or contamination
-Order and symmetry
-Morality or religious obsessions
-Sexual intrusive thoughts or images
It’s essential to be aware of these other themes and seek help if they are causing you distress.
A qualified OCD therapist will be able to create a treatment plan that is tailored specifically for you.
Support groups for OCD
A great way to get support and connect with other people who understand OCD is to join a local or online support group. It can be a great way to share your experiences, learn new coping skills, and make friends. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and help is available.
There is hope for Existential OCD sufferers.
OCD can be a very frightening and isolating disorder. However, there is hope for those who suffer from Existential OCD. There are many ways to manage OCD thoughts and symptoms, and with the help of an OCD therapist, it is possible to live a happy and productive life.
It’s important to remember that OCD is a treatable disorder and that you are not alone.When treatment for OCD is successful, it can result in a dramatic improvement in quality of life.
I wish you the best of luck in your recovery journey!
- About the Author
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Hello, I am Jonas Eriksson. I suffered from severe OCD for many years and have now recovered. My OCD is related to an autoimmune disorder called Autoimmune basal ganglia disorder. Sadly I was undiagnosed for 27 years. The inflammation put my brain to be in a state of constant terror. By sharing helpful information, I hope someone will get motivated to seek treatment and learn more about OCD and related disorders.