OCD

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What Is OCD?

What is OCD?

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a pattern of thoughts, which are often unwanted, or fears (obsessions), which lead a person to perform repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Many times these compulsions become rituals, which “must” be performed. This behavior interferes with daily activity and can cause significant anxiety.

Ignoring or abruptly stopping these obsessions may increase your anxiety. For most, repeating these rituals is a way to reduce stress. The urges to repeat the compulsions ultimately comes back and thus repeats the cycle of OCD.

Common types of OCD may be with excessive washing of your hands, repetition in locking doors, constantly checking your phone (even social media). Many times the one suffering from OCD realizes it is a bad behavior and “not normal”, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed.

OCD-Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD obsessions may be persistent, repeated, and unwanted urges, thoughts, or visualizations which are intrusive and cause anxiety. Ignoring them may not work and the person suffering may feel the need to perform a ritual (compulsive behavior).

OCD is typically broken down into several themes:

  • Fear of being dirty
  • Doubt and inability to tolerate uncertainty
  • Need to have order and symmetry
  • Horrible thoughts or aggressive behavior about losing control or hurting others/self
  • Unwanted thoughts, aggressiveness, sexual or religious compulsions

Obsessive examples may include:

  • Fear of being contaminated
  • Repetitive locking of doors, turning the stove off, switching on/off lights
  • Intense stress and anxiety when things are not ordered
  • Vivid images of driving a car into a group of people
  • Thinking of shouting profanity or inappropriate actions in public
  • Hurtful sexual images
  • Avoidance in shaking hands

OCD compulsive behavior is repetitive and makes the person feel compelled to perform. Performing the behavior or act (even mental) are done to reduce anxiety related to the obsessive thought or to prevent something bad from happening. Performing the ritual brings only temporary relief and brings no pleasure.

The excessive compulsions are not realistic responses to fix a problem.

OCD themes may include:

  • Washing or cleaning
  • Repetitively checking locks, lights, looking out a window, etc.
  • Continual counting
  • Ordering something which is already in order
  • Performing a specific routine
  • Asking for assurance

Compulsive signs or symptoms include:

  • Washing your hands to the point they become raw
  • Repetitive locking, unlocking, and locking of doors (to make sure they are locked)
  • Turning the stove on/off to make sure it is off
  • Counting in patterns (by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, etc.)
  • Repeating prayer, words, or phrases
  • Arranging items in a pantry so they face the same way
  • Organizing your clothes by a specific pattern in your closet

When to see a Doctor about OCD?

OCD begins (in most cases) as a young teenager or young adult, in rare cases it may start in childhood (10-12 years old). Symptoms of OCD may gradually start and may vary throughout life. Obsessions and compulsions may change over time (i.e. you may get rid of one only to generate another). OCD symptoms typically get worse when you experience stress. OCD is a mental illness, which is considered a lifelong disorder and it may be mild, moderate or severe to the point where it becomes debilitating.

There is a big difference in being a perfectionist and having OCD. OCD is not simply an excess of worry about problems – if affects your quality of life and/or disrupts others you should see a psychiatrist. There is absolutely no shame in having OCD.

What causes OCD?

Like many mental illnesses OCD may be the result of:

  • Biology – Changes in the natural chemistry of your body and/or brain functions
  • Genetics – Specific genes have not yet been identified, but Psychiatrists believe there may be a genetic component to OCD
  • Learning – A person may actually learn obsessive fears or compulsive behaviors from watching others

OCD may increase with having a family history of OCD, experiencing traumatic or stressful events (which, may trigger intrusive thoughts, rituals, or emotional distress), other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse or a tic disorder.

The biggest issues we see resulting from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, OCD, are:

  • Repetitive time performing ritualistic behavior
  • Having regret or realizing ritualistic behavior is inappropriate
  • Dermatitis from excessive hand washing
  • Inability to attend work, school, or engage in social activities
  • Causing stress in a relationship
  • Poor quality of life
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

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