Cornerstone Christian Counseling Tucson, AZ

Cornerstone Christian
Counseling, Inc.
Dr. Andrea Russell
Arizona Licensed Psychotherapist
7660 East Broadway Boulevard
Suite 207
Tucson, AZ  85710


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

When we talk about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) we are talking about recurring obsessions or compulsions that are so severe that they are time consuming (take more than one hour a day) or cause significant distress or impairment. OCD is not caused by drug abuse, medication, or another medical condition. Adults with OCD recognize that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable.

Many people who suffer from OCD are reluctant to share their concerns with others. They realize that their thinking or behaviors are abnormal and, although they know they "just can't help it," they are ashamed to ask for help.

Children who suffer from OCD do not recognize that their thoughts and/or behaviors are unusual and the problem is typically identified by parents.

The person who has OCD is not to be blamed. OCD is not the result of a quirky personality or a character defect. The brains of patients who have OCD are different than other people, both in the way the brain is organized and the way in which it functions.

Obsessions are relentless thoughts, ideas, impulses, or images that are intrusive and inappropriate and cause anxiety or distress. The person who experiences the obsession realizes that it is not within his/her control, and yet comes from within his/her own mind and not from without.

The person who struggles with obsessions usually tries to ignore or suppress them with some other thought or action, a compulsion.

Compulsions are repetitive physical or mental acts, such as hand washing, counting, ordering, etc., to try and stop or lower the anxiety and distress caused by the obsession.

The following list of symptoms may indicate OCD; however, they also point to other conditions, such as anxiety or depression. The list may be helpful if you look honestly at what you are experiencing and ask God to reveal to you how any of these symptoms may be working in your life.

Aggressive Obsessions

  • Fear of harming others
  • Fear of harming self
  • Violent or horrific images
  • Fear of blurting out obscenities or insults
  • Fear of doing something embarrassing
  • Fear of acting on criminal impulses (e.g., shoplifting, robbery, murder)
  • Fear of being held responsible for something going wrong
  • Fear that something terrible might happen (e.g., fire, death of relative or friend)

Contamination Obsessions

  • Concern or disgust with body wastes or secretions (e.g., urine, feces, saliva, mucus)
  • Concern with dirt or germs
  • Excessive concern about chemical or environmental contamination

Sexual Obsessions

  • Forbidden or perverse thoughts or images (involving children, incest, bestiality, homosexuality, God)

Obsession with a Need for Symmetry, Exactness, or Order

Other Obsessions

  • Fear of not saying things exactly right
  • Intrusive (neutral) images (e.g., mental image of a cat)
  • Intrusive nonsense sound, words, or music
  • Lucky/unlucky numbers
  • Colors with special significance

Somatic Obsession-Compulsion

  • Preoccupation with part of body (e.g., ears too large)

Checking Compulsions

  • Checking doors, locks, brakes, switches, etc.

Repeating Rituals

  • Going in/out doors, up/down stairs, etc.

Ordering/Arranging Compulsions

  • Packing and unpacking a suitcase, rearranging drawers

Hoarding/Collecting Compulsions

  • Saving old newspapers, mail, string, wrapping paper

Miscellaneous Compulsions

  • Need to tell, ask, or confess
  • Need to touch, measure
  • Scrupulosity: excessive prayer, unreasonable doubting, extreme fastidiousness, preoccupation with guilt and preventing punishment

Adapted from The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing: The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by Judith L. Rapoport, M.D.

Further Evaluation

If any of the above thoughts and/or behaviors apply to you, you will need to consider the following:

  • How much time is spent on them each day;
  • How much they interfere with normal daily living;
  • How much distress and anxiety they cause;
  • How much control they seem to have.

After prayerfully considering the answers to these questions, this evaluation is then best completed with the help of a knowledgeable Christian doctor: psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor.

Your Treatment Team

If it appears that you are indeed struggling with OCD, you will recognize that there are no easy answers. You already know that OCD is complex, as are human beings. At Cornerstone Christian Counseling, we recommend a treatment team that includes a Christian doctor; your minister, pastor, priest, or rabbi; and, most importantly, has God at its head. Only the Lord, who created us, has the answers, and can lead us in discovering them (Psalm 139:1,2,13, NAB).


We believe that all good and perfect gifts come from God (James 1:17, NAB). Medication can be a good and perfect gift. Several medications that have been proven effective for OCD have been developed.

Response to medications is highly individualized. The benefits of a particular medication must be weighed against its side effects, and the only way to know if it will help is to try it in a sufficient concentration for a significant period of time.

Monitoring by an experienced psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist (a psychiatrist who specializes in medication treatment of mental illness) is essential.

Again, we want to stress the importance of placing God in leadership of your treatment team. Ask Him to lead you to a psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist, and ask Him to guide your physician to prescribe appropriately. Pray that the medication will do all it is intended to do while doing no harm.

EEG Neurofeedback

When medication is undesirable or intolerance to it is high, EEG Neurofeedback shows promise.

Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain. In simple terms, it exercises and helps “strengthen” the brain, calms it, and improves its stability. It’s easy – virtually anyone can do it, child or adult.

Using computerized feedback, the brain learns to increase certain brainwaves that are helpful for improved function. The brain can decrease excessively fast or slow brainwaves that interfere with good function. Over time, the new brain behavior is “learned” and the result is a healthier and better-regulated brain.

Neurofeedback, psychotherapy, and medications work hand-in-hand. Training can be used for patients on or off medications. There are no known lasting side effects after 30 years of research and clinical use.

Recommended Reading

The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing: The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Rapoport, Judith L., M.D. (E.P.Dutton, NY, 1989)

When Once is Not Enough: Help for Obsessive-Compulsives, Steketee, Gail, Ph.D., White, Kerrin, M.D., (New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, CA, 1990)

Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior, Schwartz, Jeffrey, M.D., (Regan Books, NY, 1996)

We Can Help

At Cornerstone Christian Counseling, we are experienced in treating obsessive compulsive disorder.  A combination of treatment approaches including psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral interventions, education, exposure, desensitization, and EEG neurotherapy are employed.  We help you become knowledgeable so that you and your therapist can determine what treatment approaches will be best for you.

For more information, call us at 520-885-0557.

Four Steps for OCD

1. Re-label. These bothersome thoughts are obsessions and compulsions.

2. Re-attribute. This is a medical condition that involves my brain chemistry.

3. Re-focus. Use the fifteen minute rule: work around your symptoms by doing something wholesome and enjoyable for at least fifteen minutes.

4. Re-value. The symptoms don't mean what they say. "It's not me, it's my OCD."

From Brain Lock by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. (1996)


The Frontal Lobe helps regulate motivation, organization, planning, inhibiting impulses, anticipating consequences, learning from previous behavior, and shifting from one thought to another.

When the frontal lobe is damaged or under or over-activated, it doesn’t perform one or more of these functions well. Training the frontal lobe with Neurofeedback helps improve its function.

The information provided here is intended solely for general information and is not a substitute for treatment. Please discuss this information with your physician. This information is not intended for self-diagnosis of health problems. If you have persistent health problems, please consult your health care provider. If you are in crisis, please call 9-1-1.

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