• Shreya Shankar

A Brief Overview of Anxiety & OCD

There's often a lot of misunderstanding surrounding anxiety disorders. Contrary to popular belief, anxiety disorders can be quickly and effectively treated. Anxiety disorders occur on a spectrum from normal to abnormal.

So how common are anxiety disorders?

A study was conducted which shows that anxiety disorders occur in roughly 10 to 20% of the population. A very common anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder. This is the worrying disorder, where people worry excessively about all sorts of normal everyday things. It's associated with symptoms like tension, poor sleep, and poor concentration. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) produces the most consistent and long-lasting improvements.

Then comes the popular OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Everyone has heard many people say things along the lines of “I need to go organize my planner. I’m so OCD.” It is an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts (called obsessions) and behavioural or mental rituals (called compulsions).

Behaviour therapy for OCD consists of graded exposure and response prevention. This means learning to confront your fears without washing, checking, reassuring yourself, or engaging in compulsive behaviours that temporarily take away your fear. For example, if you are afraid of contamination, you may decide to confront your fears by touching money, or door handles, without washing your hands. You will initially feel anxious and have a strong urge to wash. After a while, though, it will get easier and your anxiety will fade.

Anxiety can even have positive effects, such as making us more prepared to face adverse events, being more cautious, protective, being better workers, and being better achievers.

Writer: Shreya Shankar

Illustrator: Sarah Samad

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