Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) makes you have unwanted thoughts that occur over and over. For example, you might always wonder if the oven was turned off before you left home. To get rid of these thoughts, you may also develop a compulsion. This is an action or ritual you perform again and again. You might check several times to make sure the oven is off. The action only makes you feel better for a short time. If you try to resist the urge to do it, you may feel great anxiety or have panic attacks.

Counselling (also called therapy) can help you control your thoughts and actions. You may have one-on-one therapy or group therapy, or both. In group therapy, people with the same concerns share their feelings and give each other support. You also may have family therapy. Your loved ones can learn more about how to help you.

Your doctor also may prescribe medicine, such as an antidepressant, to help with symptoms.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Go to your counselling sessions and follow-up appointments.
  • Do any homework or exercises that your therapist gives you to do at home.
  • Involve family members and loved ones in your treatment, especially if your doctor suggests you go to therapy together.
  • Try to reduce stress. This can help you cope. Some ways to do this include:
    • Taking slow, deep breaths.
    • Soaking in a warm bath.
    • Listening to soothing music.
    • Taking a walk or doing some other exercise.
    • Taking a yoga class.
    • Having a massage or back rub.
    • Drinking a warm, nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding certain foods or drinks may also help you reduce stress.
    • Avoid or limit caffeine. Coffee, tea, some soda pops, and chocolate contain caffeine. If you drink a lot of caffeine, reduce the amount gradually. Suddenly stopping use of caffeine can cause headaches and make it hard for you to concentrate.
    • Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a day for men and 2 drinks a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.
    • Make mealtimes calm and relaxed. Try not to skip meals or eat on the run. Skipping meals can make other stress-related symptoms worse, such as headaches or stomach tension.
    • Avoid eating to relieve stress. Some people turn to food to comfort themselves when they are under stress. This can lead to overeating and guilt. If this is a problem for you, try to replace eating with other actions that relieve stress, like taking a walk, playing with a pet, or taking a bath.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • A person with OCD mentions suicide. If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and a way to carry it out, you should stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with the person, until you get help.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your unwanted thoughts or repeated actions and rituals upset your daily activities.
  • Your symptoms of OCD are new or different from those you had before.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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