When examining any mental health issue, one must also look at the environmental elements both of the internal which consists of individuals, family, and community’s internal dynamics, as well as the external environment.
The external is much more difficult to regulate. It includes social and political belief systems of the people and country at large, and availability of common resources in an equitable manner (jobs, health care, education, safety, justice, and so forth). Future studies generated by Muslim scholars and professionals may wish to focus on internal/external environmental factors to provide insight into Muslims locus of control and OCD.
Treatment outcomes for OCD are more positive now than in the past. Due to increased research and available information, OCD is better understood. However, much more research is needed in order to arrive at more conclusive findings. Treatment for OCD consists of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with medication if needed.
The International OCD Foundation further suggests the use of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) in which “Exposure in ERP refers to exposing yourself to the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make you anxious and/or start your obsessions. While the Response Prevention part of ERP, refers to making a choice not to do a compulsive behavior once the anxiety or obsessions have been “triggered.”
All of this is done under the guidance of a therapist at the beginning — though you will eventually learn to do your own ERP exercises to help manage your symptoms. ERP is similar to Gradual Exposure or Exposure Therapy done with individuals who have anxiety disorders, panic disorder or PTSD. This type of therapy has had great success and is preferred by many clients.
More triggers = OCD is more likely?
Looking back at our two case studies, what could have triggered OCD in Fatimah and Ahmed? Was it a predisposed genetic link triggered by stress, trauma or some other environmental variable? Was it due to a fear of loss of control, fear of overwhelming responsibility, or some other factor?
While we may never know the etiology or outcome for Fatimah or Ahmed, we can do our part and raise awareness within our families and communities about OCD-for the ones who suffer silently, insha’Allah.