Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can obsessive compulsive behavior be unlearned?"
I am a 23 year old woman who always counts stairs. Can I unlearn this behavior? I can't help myself. I've done it since I was a little girl.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a tough syndrome to deal with. OCD consists of two parts. First are the obsessions. These are intrusive thoughts that enter a person's mind that give the person the urge to carry out an action (also known as the compulsions). An example is the intrusive thought to check the stove to make sure that it is off and the compulsion (checking the stove) which relieves the obsession. Counting steps could be considered an OCD pair especially when it gives you a lot of anxiety when you can't do it. Most physicians start by treating OCD with a medication such as a drug from the SSRI class (prozac, celexa, zoloft). These drugs have been able to inhibit the obsession thoughts from intruding. The type non-drug therapy that is most likely cognitive behavioral therapy. (CBT) This would the method of therapy that would give you the best chance to "unlearn" the behavior. This type of therapy can be performed by psychologists and sometimes psychiatrists. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can listen to your symptoms and decide if they are comfortable prescribing you treatment. After that, you can get a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist who can provide you with CBT if you desire.
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