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  • Writer's pictureLeanne Goff

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a recognized mental health disorder that involves a person experiencing repetitive intrusive thoughts that prompt them to perform an action to try and neutralize the thoughts. In this case, the recurrent intrusive thoughts are the obsessions (e.g., unwanted/intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses) and the actions used to counterbalance the thoughts are the compulsions (e.g., repetitive behaviours or mental rituals). OCD affects approximately 1–2% of young people (Geller, 2006; Zohar, 1999). People who are diagnosed with OCD feel compelled to unnecessarily repeat certain habits, even if it adds distress to their life. This excessive vigilance makes them feel more secure and confident. The average age that OCD tends to kick in is 19 years with one third of affected individuals experiencing their first symptoms in childhood. People with OCD may comprehend that their thoughts and actions are illogical and distressful, but they can’t do anything about them, eventually disturbing their daily life. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or worsen. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.

Obsessions v Compulsions

Obsession:

These are intrusive, unwanted, and uncontrollable thoughts or urges, which if not acted upon, lead to anxiety and stress. People with OCD may try to suppress their obsessions, but they are also worried about what if these thoughts are real? Sometimes, suppressing their thoughts may cause anxiety challenging to endure, compelling them to act upon the thoughts to relieve their stress.


Example:

- Fear of germs or contamination

- Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm

- Aggressive thoughts towards others or self

- Having things symmetrical or in a perfect order


Compulsions:

These are the overtly repeated actions or habits that OCD people feel compelled to perform to relieve the stress and anxiety caused by obsessions. But, doing a particular habit once only temporarily relieves the obsession. People with OCD believe that performing these actions will prevent something terrible from happening i.e. “I better do this or else…..”.


Example:

- Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing

- Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way

- Repeatedly checking on things, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked or that the oven is off

- Compulsive counting

Four Categories of OCD


OCD is not only about suffering from symptoms of obsessions and compulsions, but also the focus of these symptoms. Typically, OCD symptoms fall into four primary categories, known as symptom dimensions of OCD. The symptoms don’t persist exclusively. People may suffer from symptoms of one or more categories in combination. The four types of OCD include:


· Contamination: People have repetitive, unwanted and fearful thoughts of being dirty or contaminated (obsessions). They tend to excessively wash and sanitize their hands over and over again or throw away the objects which seem to be contaminated (compulsion).


· Perfection: People have overwhelming thoughts (obsessions) of getting things “just right” and arranged. They will spend undue amounts of time orderly placing everything in a specific symmetry to alleviate distress (compulsions). The never-ending quest for perfection causes both mental and physical exhaustion.


· Doubt/Harm: People have repetitive and intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) that a little negligence by them can result in significant harm to themselves or their loved ones. They will excessively check and recheck their door locks, gas stove, light switches, and windows (compulsions).


· Forbidden Thoughts: People have uncontrollable thoughts of violence, sex, or against a religion (obsessions). They are always worried that acting on these thoughts will make them a bad person. They indulge in mental compulsions to avoid focusing on such thoughts. They spend their lives struggling to avoid or neutralize such thoughts with positive thinking.

What OCD Is Not

OCD is not what it is portrayed in the media as with many movies and TV shows portraying OCD as perfectionism or germ-phobia. Nowadays, many people lightly take the term OCD to recognize someone who just needs some order in their life. We take OCD as a catch-all phrase to describe people who are too focused on having things “just right” i.e. needing cabinets arranged just perfect or double-checking and rechecking doors. OCD is much more than neatly arranged cabinets, double-checking the door locks, or repeatedly washing the hands. People with OCD, unable to comprehend their thoughts are just thoughts, live their life in a whole lot of mess. We should be careful in our attitude towards OCD and people suffering from OCD.

Treatment Of OCD

Rest assured – OCD is a completely treatable disorder and there are many proven treatment options i.e. medications like psychotherapy and other modern modalities, which provide significant relief for people living with OCD.


· Medications: SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are antidepressants effective in the treatment of OCD.


· Psychotherapy: Certain types of psychotherapy, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Habit Reversing Training, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Exposure and Response Prevention, are useful in the management of treatment of OCD.


· Neuromodulation: Neuromodulation (alteration of neuronal activity in targeted areas of the brain) is a newly emerging field of treatment for mental illnesses. Some standard brain stimulation techniques like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Deep Brain Stimulation may be effective against OCD.


If you or a loved one suffer from OCD reach out and start getting relief today. OCD is unlikely to get better on its own. Treatment and support can help manage your symptoms.

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