Have you heard someone said that they’re OCD just because they could not bear looking at something messy, unorganised, dirty?
Did you know? OCD is much worse than that? OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects two to three percent of the population. It usually begins in late childhood or early adolescence. People with OCD experience recurrent and persistent thoughts, images or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted (obsessions). They also perform repetitive and ritualistic actions that are excessive, time-consuming and distressing (compulsions). People with OCD are usually aware of the irrational and excessive nature of their obsessions and compulsions. However, they feel unable to control their obsessions or resist their compulsions.
Obsessions are usually exaggerated versions of concerns and worries that most people have at some time. Common obsessions include:
Obsessions may be constantly on a person’s mind. They may also be triggered by physical objects, situations, smells or something heard on television, radio or in a conversation. Obsessive fears usually move beyond a specific trigger.
Obsessions can change in nature and severity and do not respond to logic. Obsessional anxiety leads to vigilance for possible threats and a compelling need for certainty and control. Obsessions can produce feelings ranging from annoyance and discomfort to acute distress, disgust and panic.
Compulsions can be behavioural (actions) or mental (thoughts). Compulsions are repetitive actions that are often carried out in a special pattern or according to specific rules. Compulsions are usually performed to try and prevent an obsessive fear from happening, to reduce the anxiety the obsessive thought creates, or to make things feel “just right”. Common compulsions include:
Usually compulsions become like rituals; they follow specific rules and patterns and involve constant repetitions. Compulsions give an illusory sense of short-term relief to anxiety. However, they reinforce anxiety and make the obsessions seem more real so that the anxiety soon returns.
OCD can have a profound effect on a person’s life
Compulsions and obsessions may take up many hours of a person’s day and can interfere with family and social relationships. They can also have a negative effect on education and employment. As OCD becomes more severe, ‘avoidance’ may become an increasing problem. The person may avoid anything that might trigger their obsessive fears. OCD can make it difficult for people to perform everyday activities like eating, drinking, shopping or reading. Some people may become housebound. OCD is often compounded by depression and other anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, panic disorder and separation anxiety.
People with OCD are often acutely embarrassed about their symptoms and will put great effort into hiding them. Before the disorder is identified and treated, families may become deeply involved in the sufferer’s rituals, which can cause distress and disruption to family members.
Causes of OCD
The causes of OCD are not fully understood There are several theories about the causes of OCD, including:
Several factors may interact to trigger the development of OCD. The underlying causes may be further influenced by stressful life events, hormonal changes and personality traits.
Treatment for OCD
Psychological treatment such as cognitive behaviour therapy can improve symptoms, and this improvement is often maintained in the long term.
Self-help tips for people living with OCD
There are many ways that you can help yourself in addition to seeking therapy. Some suggestions are: