Approximately three million adults in the U.S. suffer from OCD. An estimated fourteen million adults suffer from bipolar disorder in the U.S. Both of these mental health issues are challenging to live with and both present elusive diagnoses.
In this guide from Three Rivers Wellness, we’ll take a closer look at OCD and bipolar disorder — exploring the causes and triggers, symptoms, and treatment options for these conditions. We’ll also touch on ketamine therapy as a treatment option for OCD and bipolar disorder.
What Is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder that’s characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause distress or anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels they need to do in order to reduce their anxiety or discomfort.
People with OCD often feel stuck in a cycle of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that can be extremely distressing and time-consuming.
In severe cases, OCD can interfere with a person’s ability to work, go to school, or even take care of themselves.
What Causes OCD?
The exact cause of OCD is unknown, but it’s thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. OCD may run in families, but it’s not clear if it’s directly passed down from parents to children. It’s also believed that certain life experiences (such as trauma or stress) can trigger OCD in people who are predisposed to the condition.
Potential OCD Causes and Triggers
- Family history of OCD or other mental health disorders
- Childhood trauma or abuse
- Loss of a loved one
- Stressful life events (such as a divorce or job loss)
What Are the Symptoms of OCD?
People with OCD often experience obsessions and compulsions that are related to specific themes or topics, such as germs, dirt, and contamination; fear of harm or accidents; perfectionism; the need for symmetry or order; and unwanted sexual or violent thoughts.
Not everyone with OCD will have the same symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people with OCD may only have mild symptoms that cause minor inconvenience, while others may have severe symptoms that interfere with their ability to function in daily life.
Common OCD Symptoms
- Obsessions (intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause anxiety or distress)
- Compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels they need to do in order to reduce their anxiety or discomfort)
- Avoidance of situations or objects that trigger obsessions or compulsions
- Excessive hand-washing, showering, or grooming
- Arranging and rearranging objects
- Counting, tapping, or repeating certain words or phrases
Treatment for OCD
There are a variety of treatment options available for OCD, and the best course of treatment will depend on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. Some people with OCD may only need medication, while others may require a combination of medication and therapy.
Common OCD Treatments
- Medication: Antidepressants are the most common type of medication used to treat OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a form of antidepressant, are frequently prescribed in the treatment of this disorder.
- Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective type of therapy for OCD. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors.
- Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP): ERP is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing a person to their fear or anxiety-provoking situations or objects while teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to deal with their distress.
These are just a few of the more typical treatments for OCD. Some people with OCD may also benefit from alternative treatments — such as ketamine therapy — if traditional methods have failed.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme changes in mood, energy, and behavior. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of intense highs (known as “mania” or “hypomania”) followed by periods of deep lows (known as depression).
Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment. However, with the right combination of medication and therapy, many people with bipolar disorder are able to live full, happy, and productive lives.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it’s thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Like OCD, bipolar disorder often runs in families, so it’s believed that there may be a genetic predisposition for the condition.
However, not everyone with a family history of bipolar disorder will develop the condition. It’s also believed that certain life experiences (such as trauma or stress) can trigger bipolar disorder in people who are predisposed to the condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary greatly from person to person. Some people with the condition may only experience mild symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms that interfere with their ability to function in daily life.
Common symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Changes in Mood: People with bipolar disorder often experience extreme changes in mood, from periods of mania or hypomania (highs) to periods of deep depression (lows).
- Changes in Energy: Patients may have sudden and drastic changes in energy levels, from feeling exceptionally energetic and productive during a period of mania to feeling completely exhausted and unable to do anything during a period of depression.
- Changes in Behavior: Those suffering from this condition may act impulsively or make risky decisions during a period of mania. They may also withdraw from friends and activities that they normally enjoy during a period of depression.
- Changes in Thinking: Bipolar disorder may also produce distorted or racing thoughts during a period of mania. Patients may also have negative, dark, or intrusive thoughts during a period of depression.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but the condition can be managed with medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Common treatments for bipolar disorder include:
- Medication: Mood-stabilizing medications are the most commonly prescribed type of medication for bipolar disorder. These medications can help to even out the highs and lows of bipolar disorder and prevent future episodes.
- Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective type of therapy for bipolar disorder. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors.
- Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation is a type of therapy that helps people with bipolar disorder understand their condition and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
- Self-Care: Self-care is an important part of treatment for bipolar disorder. People with the condition should try to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
Ketamine Therapy for Bipolar Disorder and OCD
Over the last two decades, ketamine therapy has emerged as a promising treatment for bipolar disorder and OCD.
Ketamine excites a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system called glutamate. Glutamate regulation is thought to be involved in the development of both bipolar disorder and OCD. By increasing levels of glutamate, ketamine may be able to reduce the symptoms of these conditions. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help, contact us today.