A Wisconsin hospital has opened a new, expanded residential center to treat some of the world's most severe cases of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Oconomowoc-based Rogers Memorial Hospital can now treat 28 patients with severe OCD at its new OCD Center in Summit, which opened last month.
Clinical Director Dr. Brad Riemann says as the fourth most common psychiatric condition in the U.S., OCD affects more than two million American adults. But about 10 percent of OCD sufferers require this specialized treatment.
"These are individuals whose lives have basically stopped," he says. "They are being plagued by so many obsessions and compulsions that they’re not able to function in school or at work or in relationships and really just need assistance 24 hours a day to function."
Even at its most severe level, Riemann says OCD is treatable, with therapies such as cognitive-behavior therapy and exposure and response prevention. But he says there aren't many OCD providers to meet growing patient needs.
"The biggest concern for someone with OCD is really trying to find somebody who knows how to do this and unfortunately that is the number one disadvantage of this type of treatment, just trying to find providers who are trained and experienced in doing this," he says.
Rogers Memorial has one of the largest and most comprehensive OCD programs in the world. On a given day, Riemann estimates the OCD Center sees more than 80 patients, ranging from children to adults. It also provides lower levels of care for less severe cases, such as its intensive outpatient services and day treatment.
This recent expansion marks the Center's third since it first opened in 1999, as more patients come seeking treatment.
But Riemann, an expert in anxiety disorders, says while OCD is common, it's often misunderstood - thanks in no small part to depictions in TV shows and movies.
"The public's perception is anybody who thinks about anything a lot must have OCD," he says. "Just because you think about something a lot or just because you do something over and over again doesn't necessarily mean you have OCD."
Rather, Riemann says OCD is characterized by unwanted thoughts or impulses (obsessions) that generate a lot of anxiety. Patients might fear becoming dirty or contaminated, or doubt they did something like turn off the stove.
This is coupled with compulsions, repetitive acts or thoughts like hand-washing or double-checking locked doors. These are used to try to stop the obsessional thoughts, control the anxiety or even prevent a perceived danger from occurring.
Still, Riemann says there's more public awareness about OCD today than ever before. And that's helping some sufferers.
"People with OCD are very embarrassed by their symptoms and I think some of the (media) programs have helped them step forward and reach out for help," he says.
With more patients coming forward, the need for proper OCD treatment is growing. So Riemann and his colleagues soon will share their expertise with other physicians and train them to treat the disorder.