OCD and the Need for Completion

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

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As many as 2.5% of people will experience a degree of OCD at some point in their lives, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a serious and complex mental health condition. From intrusive thoughts to repetitive behaviors, it can significantly interfere with everyday functioning.

One of the core features of OCD is the intense need for completion.

Are you wondering, “What Is OCD?” Keep reading to learn about the intricacies of this condition. We’ll focus on the interplay between the need for completion and the discomfort of leaving tasks unfinished.

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a diagnosable psychological condition marked by a pattern of obsessive thoughts. This is almost always coupled with compulsive behaviors.

Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts, images, or urges. They tend to cause distress or anxiety.

Compulsions are repetitive actions or mental rituals performed to ease this distress or prevent a feared outcome. It’s important to emphasize that OCD can manifest in various forms.

Perfectionism Subtype and the Need for Completion

Within the spectrum of OCD, the perfectionist subtype stands out for its fixation on achieving flawless outcomes and the relentless pursuit of completion. Individuals with this subtype often experience intrusive thoughts related to making mistakes or not meeting their own high standards.

As a consequence, they engage in compulsive behaviors aimed at ensuring everything is done perfectly, reflecting a profound need for completion. This perfectionistic drive can manifest in various areas of life, from work and academic performance to personal relationships and household tasks.

Unraveling the Compulsive Drive to Complete Tasks

The need to complete tasks in individuals with OCD is profound and all-encompassing. Whether it’s arranging objects in a specific order, checking and rechecking locks, or repeating actions until they feel just right, the compulsion to complete tasks overrides rational thought and dominates daily life.

This need for completion stems from a deep-seated fear of uncertainty and a relentless pursuit of control. Completing tasks provides a temporary sense of relief from the anxiety and discomfort caused by obsessive thoughts, reinforcing the compulsive cycle.

Discomfort With Leaving Things Undone

For individuals with OCD, leaving tasks unfinished is akin to stepping into an abyss of uncertainty and anxiety. The mere thought of not completing a task triggers intense distress, compelling them to engage in compulsive behaviors to alleviate this discomfort.

This discomfort may stem from excessive doubt and a pervasive fear of catastrophic consequences if tasks are left undone. As a result, individuals with OCD may spend excessive amounts of time and energy ensuring that every detail is attended to. They’re unable to tolerate even the slightest hint of incompleteness.

The Paradox of Control and the Illusion of Mastery

At the heart of the need for completion lies a paradoxical desire for control. Individuals with OCD engage in compulsive behaviors as a means of exerting control over their environment and reducing feelings of uncertainty.

However, this pursuit of control is almost always futile. This is because the more they try to complete tasks and eliminate uncertainty, the more entrenched they become in the cycle of OCD.

It’s true that the illusion of mastery offered by completing tasks provides temporary relief. Still, it perpetuates the underlying anxiety and reinforces the need for further completion.

Breaking the Cycle With OCD Treatment

Effective treatment for OCD usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. This is where cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) shines as the gold standard.

CBT techniques oftentimes include exposure and response prevention (ERP). Doing this helps individuals slowly confront their fears and reduce their reliance on compulsive behaviors. Through ERP, people learn to tolerate uncertainty and discomfort, eventually breaking free from the cycle of OCD.

Medications may also be prescribed to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression often associated with OCD. One class of meds includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Replacing the Desire for Orderliness With Comfort in Chaos

The need for completion in OCD often intersects with a desire for orderliness and symmetry. For instance, some people may feel compelled to arrange objects in a particular pattern. They may also follow rigid routines to maintain a sense of control and stability.

However, this pursuit of orderliness can become overwhelming, leading to excessive time spent on trivial tasks and a diminished quality of life. Learning to embrace flexibility and tolerate imperfection is essential for breaking free from the grip of OCD and finding comfort in life’s inherent chaos.

Lifting the Weight of Uncontrollable Behaviors

Despite their best efforts, individuals with OCD often find themselves trapped in a cycle of uncontrollable behaviors. Oftentimes, they’re unable to break free from the grip of their compulsions without professional help. The relentless need for completion drives them to engage in rituals that provide temporary relief but still perpetuate their symptoms.

Breaking the chains of OCD requires courage, perseverance, and a willingness to confront fears head-on. With proper treatment and strong support, anyone can learn to challenge their compulsions. That way, they can regain control over their lives and find freedom from the shackles of OCD.

Ways to Maintain OCD After Treatment

After OCD treatment, maintaining progress involves consistent adherence to therapeutic techniques learned during therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral strategies. This includes practicing exposure and response prevention exercises on a regular basis. Don’t forget about challenging distorted thoughts and gradually reintegrating into everyday life without relying on compulsions.

Ongoing support from mental health professionals, participation in support groups, and more can help individuals manage OCD symptoms long-term. Regular communication with therapists and medication management can also go a long way.

OCD Responds to Professional Treatment

Do you exhibit one or more symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder? It’s time to get professional treatment so that OCD won’t take over your life.

The licensed experts at Advanced Behavioral Health are here to help and can answer the question, “What is OCD?”  Our ethos revolves around positive change and enhanced well-being. Our evidence-based and results-oriented approach ensures effectiveness.

Are you interested in treating your OCD with cognitive behavior therapy? If so, be sure to schedule a consultation with the Advanced Behavioral Health team today.

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