Does Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Ever Go Away?
Following an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) diagnosis, one of the most common questions clients ask us is, “Does OCD go away?” and understandably so. With the pathologizing that comes with labeling individuals as obsessive-compulsive and even being told they have a “disorder,” many clients seek OCD treatment with the mentality that they have a problem they need to “fix” or get rid of before returning to “normal.”
One of the first steps to treatment is helping clients understand that an obsessive-compulsive cognitive style generally does not go away. The way you think is part of who you are, so asking, “Does OCD go away?” is typically not productive for treatment or healing. The stigmatizing of obsessive-compulsive tendencies negates the possibility that these traits can actually be adaptive, rather than maladaptive, behaviors in specific contexts. For example, obsessive-compulsive characteristics are productive in detail-oriented professions in the healthcare, accounting, and engineering fields.
At PCH, we prefer to frame the question as, “Can the disruptions that obsessive-compulsive behaviors cause in your life go away?” because the answer is absolutely. By framing the issue around the behavior rather than the individual, we focus on holistic treatment that accounts for the positive and negative tendencies, so you can focus on healing yourself and growing as an individual.
So while the “obsessive-compulsive” component of an individual’s personality may never “go away,” the “disorder” aspect of compulsive thoughts can be managed through proper treatment.
Do I Really Have OCD?
Along with, “Can OCD go away?” many of our clients also ask, “Do I really have OCD?” It’s not rare for clients to question whether their OCD diagnosis is correct, and even after starting treatment they may still experience thoughts of doubt. When doubts take the form of intrusive or repetitive thoughts, the patterns generally confirm that OCD is the correct diagnosis. OCD is colloquially referred to as the “doubting disease” for a reason, and even an OCD diagnosis can become the focus of obsessive-compulsive doubting.
At PCH, we understand the doubts you may be experiencing, and that’s why we prefer to focus on the individual rather than the diagnosis. If you find yourself questioning whether you have OCD in circular thought patterns after a diagnosis, don’t be surprised. Those thoughts are common and often provide concrete verification that an obsessive-compulsive cognitive style is interfering with your daily well-being.
Did My OCD Go Away?
Obsessive-compulsive symptoms generally wax and wane over time. Because of this, many individuals diagnosed with OCD may suspect that their OCD comes and goes or even goes away—only to return. However, as mentioned above, obsessive-compulsive traits never truly go away. Instead, they require ongoing management.
General life stress is often the main factor for the worsening or subsiding of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. During times of high stress, an individual will experience a worsening of obsessive-compulsive behaviors while during times of reduced stress, an individual may return to a baseline or even think their OCD has gone away altogether.
While symptoms of an obsessive-compulsive thought style may fluctuate in intensity over time based on stress levels, a chronic or deteriorating course is common if you choose not to engage in appropriate treatment.
What Happens If OCD Goes Untreated?
That leads into another frequently asked question about OCD: What happens when OCD is left untreated? Current research shows that genetic and biological factors may make a person more vulnerable to developing OCD, while learning and environmental factors may influence the particular type of OCD a person has.
Many people diagnosed with OCD report that a life event triggered their OCD symptoms, including traumatic experiences, drug use, or even random interactions that planted a seed of doubt in the mind and will not go away. Others may not be able to identify a particular life event, but the situation for untreated OCD remains the same. Without appropriate treatment, obsessive-compulsive symptoms become chronic and may even grow worse over time.
If you or someone you care about has been struggling with an OCD diagnosis, the team at PCH Treatment Center is here to help. Reach out today, and we’ll help you uncover the next steps on the road to healing.