MAR 20, 2018 6:28 AM PDT

OCD Patients and Coping Strategies

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is a neurobiological condition where a person feels driven or compelled to behave in a very specific way, that is often not rational. Patients frequently have rigid routines, and any deviation from them can create anxiety that is crippling.

The mental effort it takes to feel in control of their environment is exhausting. It goes well beyond a quirk of wanting the spice rack arranged just so. It affects men and women equally, and as much as 2% of the population will deal with it at some point.

Cognitive behavior therapy and medication can help some patients, but a recent research study showed that many adults who suffer from OCD have poor coping skills. Therapists try to teach their patients with OCD how to problem solve and move on to acceptance of what they cannot control, but more often than not, patients use avoidance, rumination (continually focusing on negative thoughts) and suppressing thoughts. Researchers wanted to know how coping skills were helping patients, and they found that in OCD, it's a difficult struggle to get to the adaptive skills that offer relief.

The study included 60 patients with OCD, the second group of 110 patients with a diagnosis of depression and a control group of 1,050 healthy adults. Each participant completed a survey as well as a detailed medical history and the kinds of skills and tactics they used to cope with stressful situations. They were asked explicitly about both adaptive and maladaptive styles that many patients used in certain circumstances that were stressful.

Added to that information, the researchers used the Maladaptive and Adaptive Coping Styles Questionnaire (MAX) which they designed themselves for this type of research. Separating the reported behaviors and coping skills into three categories (adaptive, maladaptive and avoidance) the researchers found that the patients with OCD had more instances of maladaptive coping strategies than all of the other patients, including the group of patients with depression.

Study leader Dr. Steffen Moritz from the University Hospital Hamburg in Germany explained, "Patients with OCD are characterized by both more maladaptive coping and less adaptive coping relative to controls. Coping skills are important for many aspects of daily life beyond mental health. Teaching children skills such as how to cope with bullying at school, poor performance or problems with their parents, for example, in the framework of general cognitive preventative treatment and resilience training in school, may help children to better deal with emotional turmoil and challenging situations during adolescence. It may also prevent the progression of a vulnerability to later obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression as well as other disorders."

The participants were all adults, and the team in Hamburg felt that many of the OCD patients had not been taught proper coping skills growing up, and indeed may not even have had much treatment for their disorder. The results of the study show that beginning in childhood or adolescence, mental health care needs to be available and therapy should include an active component of teaching the right kind of coping skills. Check out the video to learn more about OCD and how coping skills are essential.

Sources: Springer, PsychCentral, OCD Talk

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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