We have all heard of OCD. We often use this term to make fun of someone who seems very keen on keeping things organized and in the right place. However, this is not actually what OCD is.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a real psychological disorder that can manifest in people of any age or social-economic background. Because most people do not know what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, there could be many individuals who are living with OCD without realizing it. Untreated OCD can worsen and reach a stage where it can take a significant time from a person’s routine that it may affect their work and personal life.
What exactly is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. It traps an individual into performing a series of activities (compulsions) that they cannot control in response to recurring ideas, thoughts, or feelings (obsessions).
While it may not sound grave and dangerous, even mild levels of OCD can really interfere with and affect the quality of a person’s life and social interactions.
The thoughts or sensations (obsessions) that come unwanted to the person’s mind are persistent and the behaviour they provoke (compulsion) is rigid. Not acting on those obsessions can cause tremendous discomfort, anxiety and distress to the person. They have no choice but to perform certain activities (like constant hand washing, other rituals or cleaning things).
Some people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder realize that their obsessions are not always realistic, while others don’t (in psychological jargon this is called ‘limited insight’). Even for the people who are aware of the irrationality of the obsessions, it is not possible to dissociate themselves from the thoughts that trigger compulsions.
At some point in their lives, everyone may experience obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour to a mild grade. But that does not mean that we all have short-lived Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For a person to be clinically diagnosed with OCD, the obsessions need to be extreme and the compulsive behaviour that results must take up at least 1 hour of the day. Not giving in to the compulsive actions to relieve the obsessions will cause immense distress.
Why does OCD lead to physical injuries?
Certain compulsive behaviour in response to obsessions can cause minor to major injuries. Constant hand washing, rubbing of the skin with a cloth, self-medicating out of irrational fears of germs and bacteria, ritualistic compulsions and ticks while driving, etc. can cause damage to a person’s health.
OCD can also cause psychological injuries. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are misunderstood and mocked. Hence they often feel alone and alienated. They are forced to become reclusive. This may in turn lead to depression.
How to recognize if you have OCD?
The best way to know if you or people you know have OCD is to consult a psychiatrist if your daily routine or activities look unusual to you or are pointed out as abnormal by your family members. Let’s learn more Obsessive Compulsive Disorder symptoms.
Here is a list of some common obsessions that may be experienced in different types of OCD-
|Contamination||Fear of-Germs, bacteria, viruses. Environmental pollutants, Bodily fluids, Dirt and mud. Household chemicals like paint|
|Causing harm||Fear-of-Harming someone such as by carelessly dropping a banana peel to the floor, or leaving a water spill. Damaging a property by accidentally starting a fire. Facilitating a burglary by forgetting to lock the doors|
|Unwanted thoughts||Sexual thoughts and reactions that seem forbidden or perverse to the person, Fears about being sexually aggressive towards someone.|
|Obsessions of a religious/spiritual nature||Fears-of-Offending God, Hurting others’ religious sentiments, Making wrong moral decisions|
|Loss of control||Fears of-Doing something impulsive that may harm others, Hurting oneself, Aggressive or violent thoughts and images that come unbidden to one’s mind. Cursing or swearing in public|
|Perfectionism||Obsessed with-Keeping things organized, exact and even. Remembering everything or needing to know everything, Fears-of-Forgetting vital information, Losing objects. Not being able to decide what to discard and what to store|
Here is a list of compulsions
|Constant cleaning||Washing or sanitizing hands constantly, Frequent showering, Brushing teeth every few hours. Cleaning household objects repetitively. Activities to counter any possible contact with contaminants|
|Repeatedly checking and confirming||Constantly checking if-Doors are locked, Electrical switches are off when leaving the house. All essentials are with the person when he/she leaves the house. Did not do anything that might physically harm someone else, Did not make any errors or mistakes|
|Repeated actions||Regular activities like closing or opening doors, walking in or out of the room, Ticks like blinking, touching something or tapping. Rearranging things until they feel satisfied, Constantly praying to God for forgiveness. Doing something in multiples such as closing a door 3 times because three might be a good or lucky number|
|Other compulsions||Counting steps while walking, Counting while doing something, Establishing rigid non-bendable routines|
What is to be done?
- The best way to bring Obsessive Compulsive Disorder under control is through a combination of medicines and therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is highly effective in curbing obsessive-compulsive behaviour. This form of therapy is done under the supervision of trained clinical psychologists or psychiatrists. Your doctor will also prescribe you some medicines if needed. Remember to take your medicines on time. Show up for your therapy sessions and don’t give up mid-way. If you have any inhibitions, misgivings or doubts about the methods, speak honestly with your therapist.
- Learn relaxation techniques to manage your stress
- The treatment may take some time to show a positive outcome, stay patient and follow up regularly with your doctor.
Seek help if you think that you or your loved ones have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It can be severely restrictive to a happy and healthy lifestyle and can also take a toll on the person’s financial, personal and professional life. Most people keep on struggling with this disorder without even knowing that it can be managed well by a psychiatrist. There is a way you can integrate into society by bringing the disorder under control and that is therapy and medication.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.