Can you grow out of OCD?

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As we get older, we change and develop in many ways. Our passions, goals, beliefs and personality are constantly evolving. But our mental health is an essential component of who we are, so it’s important to know about how it can evolve as we grow. Is it possible for a mental health disorder to improve with time, maybe even disappear completely?

There are many things that we can grow out of as we transition from adolescence to adulthood. Unfortunately, a mental health disorder like OCD isn’t one of them. But while it may seem like a diagnosis of OCD will only cause you difficulty every day of your life, there are treatments that can help manage your symptoms as you age.

Read on to learn about the ins and outs of OCD, why you can’t grow out of it, and how to properly treat the symptoms.

The basics of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, commonly known as OCD, is an anxiety disorder that involves consistent unreasonable thoughts that lead to repetitive behaviors.

OCD behaviors stem from obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsions. In terms of OCD, obsessions are unwanted thoughts or urges that can trigger anxiety and distress that stems from a specific fear. These obsessions usually cause compulsions, which are repetitive behaviors that you feel obligated to complete.

Common OCD obsessions include:

  • Contamination (fear of germs, chemicals and/or dirt)
  • Losing control (fear of impulsive behavior)
  • Harm (fear of harming others)
  • Perfectionism (fear of unevenness, disorganization and/or forgetfulness)

Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that are meant to soothe the anxiety that comes from obsessive thoughts. They can be different for every diagnosed person based on their specific obsessions, but compulsions are often excessive and unhelpful to the problem. 

Common OCD compulsions include:

  • Hand-washing until the skin is raw
  • Repeatedly checking door locks and appliances
  • Constantly rearranging objects to fit a pattern
  • Repeating certain words, phrases or prayers

How OCD changes over time

There is no cure for mental health disorders, and the truth is that OCD never really goes away. The symptoms may come and go or change in severity as time goes on, but it’s a mental health disorder that needs constant treatment to reduce the negative impact that obsessions and compulsions can have on your day-to-day life.

OCD can affect all ages, and symptoms can often develop during a person’s childhood. In fact, people with OCD are often diagnosed by the age of 19. With such early onset symptoms, the disorder will affect many people for the majority of their lifetime. While that may seem disheartening at first, it’s important to know about the proper treatments that can help alleviate the negative effects of the disorder as you age.

OCD treatment options

Even though you can’t grow out of OCD, there are treatment options that you can explore. The two best ways to treat your mental disorder are seeking psychotherapy and medication from a mental health provider.

One of the most common methods for alleviating OCD symptoms is through cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This therapy helps you focus on how actions, thoughts and feelings affect each other. The goal is to help you recognize how a thought can trigger anxiety that leads to a compulsion. CBT can be very beneficial in helping you learn how to adjust the interaction between your thoughts, emotions and compulsions.

Two types of CBT that a mental health provider may recommend are exposure and response prevention therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. 

The exposure part of exposure and response prevention stems from the philosophy of “facing your fears,” by forcing you to confront your obsessive anxieties by exposing you to them, little by little. Response prevention comes from resisting the urge to complete the compulsions, to slowly reduce anxiety over time.

Acceptance and commitment therapy helps adjust your perspective of your disorder by accepting the obstacles that it poses throughout your day, instead of fighting against them. It focuses on the idea of mindfulness, acceptance and change. Acceptance and commitment therapy helps you realize that you don’t have to act upon painful thoughts because they aren’t facts.

Lightfully Behavioral Health helps treat OCD as you grow

Even though you can’t grow out of OCD, you can still learn to manage your symptoms. That’s where we come in.

At Lightfully, we offer four programs that can help you address obsessive-compulsive disorder: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step toward treating your OCD, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.




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