Ask a Therapist

March 3, 2022

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in mental health issues in America. To help break the stigma of seeking care for mental health, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has asked our experts to shed some light on common questions South Carolinians might have.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects about 1 in 100 adults in America, or about 2 million to 3 million people. About 1 in 200 children are diagnosed with OCD. It is often diagnosed when the child is between the ages of 8 and 12.

It is a common disorder that can disrupt a person’s life. Dr. April Richardson, psychiatrist and medical director at BlueCross, answers some questions about the disorder.

What is OCD?

OCD is a condition that causes people to get caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessive thoughts are unwanted or intrusive thoughts and certain images. These thoughts trigger an intense feeling of distress. The compulsions are behaviors the individual engages in to either get rid of or decrease the distress surrounding the obsessions.

Sometimes people don't realize they have OCD because the obsessive thoughts can be nontraditional. When you think of OCD, you often think of depictions in the media of obsessive hand-washing or checking and rechecking things. Obsessive thoughts can be different from that. They can be related to harm, feeling like something terrible is going to happen to you or feeling like you might harm someone else. It can be religious obsessions or unwanted sexual thoughts. Everyone tends to obsess over certain things, but we’re talking about unwanted thoughts that cause a lot of distress and affect how a person functions.

How does OCD affect a person’s functioning?

It either takes up a lot of their day or they spend such long periods of time focusing on the obsessions and compulsions that they can’t fully participate in their regular, day-to-day lives.

Is OCD genetic?

Researchers do think there's a genetic link because it does tend to run in families. But it's not a purely genetic disorder. We think there are environmental triggers that bring on OCD. In family studies, we see the disorder is not passed down in families in the same way as other mental health conditions.

What is the treatment for OCD?

There's good treatment, but it does take a certain type of treatment to be fully effective. Medications can help, and there is a specialized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure response prevention (ERP) therapy that can help. The trouble is sometimes OCD doesn't get accurately diagnosed right away. Once they are diagnosed and start treatment, most people tend to do much better. They can manage the symptoms and function again.

Is OCD a spectrum? Can someone be a little OCD?

There are obsessive personality types. That just means someone prefers to have things a certain way or might be a little focused on a particular thing. Hand-washing or cleaning, for example, doesn’t really interfere with functioning. You are able to go to school or work; you just prefer to have things a certain way. If you are interrupted from doing something that specific way, it isn’t going to cause you distress. That is a personality type. OCD takes up so much time that it affects your day-to-day functioning.

Get help for OCD

To get help, BlueCross members can contact the number on the back of their ID cards for resources. BlueCross works with a provider, NOCD, which is a digital provider that offers licensed ERP-trained therapists virtually. 

In the community, South Carolinians can reach out to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH)* or the National Alliance on Mental Illness in South Carolina.*

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, contact the SCDMH 24/7/365 statewide crisis response dispatcher at 833-364-2274 or call 911.

How can someone know if he or she has OCD?

A person who has OCD would know because he or she has unwanted thoughts. Those thoughts can cause a compulsion, some kind of act to counteract the thoughts or decrease distress. This takes a lot of time and affects a person’s daily life. If you have those types of symptoms, a trained professional, like a therapist or psychiatrist, should assess and diagnose you. Your primary care provider can refer you to a therapist, or you can contact your health insurance company for mental health resources.

When should someone seek help for OCD?

If you have obsessive thoughts or compulsions that are interfering with your daily activities and affecting how you function, you should see a therapist.


What is bullying?

When people talk about bullying, they often talk about children, schools and the internet. Did you know adults can be bullied, too? Bullying refers to aggressive behaviors that involve a real or perceived power imbalance or deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical or social behaviors intended to cause harm, according to Dr. Bryan Fox, Ph. D. and a licensed counselor at BlueCross.

How can I protect my child from cyberbullying?

Did you know about 15 percent of high school-aged teenagers have experienced cyberbullying this year? Parents can help their children struggling with or participating in cyberbullying by monitoring social media use, says Fox.

How does bullying impact mental health?

Bullying isn’t just kids being kids. Bullying can increase feelings of depression and anxiety and lower self-esteem, says Fox. It can affect those who are bullied, those who do the bullying and those who witness bullying.

Find resources on how to stop bullying on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ bullying prevention website.*

Anyone struggling with mental health should call the number on the back of his or her insurance card for resources. Follow along as our medical experts answer more common questions around mental health care in the coming months.


*These links lead to third-party websites. Those parties are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies of their sites. 

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