What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsession Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is made up of obsessions and compulsions. OCD is characterized by unwanted and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and a strong urge to perform repetitious rituals and routines (compulsions) to try to reduce anxiety.
How does OCD affect a person?
OCD can be devastating to a person’s life, trapping them in an endless cycle of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that can make a single moment seem like an eternity.
What is OCD characterized by?
1) Unwanted intrusive thoughts, impulses, or images (obsessions).
2) Persistent uncertainty and doubt (“what if” thoughts).
3) A strong urge to repeatedly perform rituals and routines (compulsions) in an attempt ease one’s anxiety.
How common is OCD?
OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects approximately 6 million people in the United States at any given time. That’s between 2 percent and 3 percent of the US population alone. It is the equivalent to approximately 1 in 40 adults and about 1 in 100 school-aged children regardless of gender or social background. It is ranked the fourth most common psychiatric disorder. According to International research, OCD ranks among the top 10 leading causes of disability worldwide.
What are obsessions?
Obsessions are intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images, impulses, fears, or doubts that a person experiences over an extended period of time. Obsessions are anxiety provoking because they create a sense of fear, doubt, and uncertainty.
Everyone gets bothersome and troubling thoughts from time to time, but obsessions are relentless and repetitive and usually focus on a common theme or subject matter. It is also common for people with OCD to have several obsessions at one given time.
What happens if OCD goes untreated?
If OCD goes untreated, people often feel trapped and confused by uncontrollable obsessions that produce enormous levels of anxiety and impairment in functioning. Research has shown that if left untreated, children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. Anxiety disorders also often co-occur with other disorders such as depression and eating disorders.
Are obsessions related to underlying or unresolved problems?
Obsessions are not representative of underlying or unresolved problems. Research has shown that OCD is most like caused by chemical imbalances in the brain (lack of serotonin). As well, some people with OCD are genetically predisposed to the disorder.
Why can’t a person stop obsessive thoughts from occurring?
A person cannot stop obsessive thoughts from happening. If they try to control the obsessive thoughts or stop them, the intrusive thoughts will only grow stronger and become more frequent. Obsessive thoughts are not something a person wishes to think about; rather they are a source of enormous anxiety and discomfort.
What are common OCD obsessions?
Contamination — fear of coming into contact with something or someone that is dirty, polluted, or infectious that could cause illness or even death a loved one or yourself.
Unwanted Sexual Thoughts — fear of acting in an inappropriate sexual manner or way toward others (such as children) or constant questioning of one’s sexual preference.
Violent Intrusive Thoughts — fear of carrying out violent acts and causing harm to loved ones or other people.
Magical Thinking — fear that certain bad thoughts or ideas are connected to increased risk of harm coming to loved ones or themselves.
Religious Intrusive Thoughts — fear of committing an immoral or unacceptable act pertaining to religious beliefs or practices.
Symmetry and Orderliness — a compulsion to have everything lined up symmetrically ‘just right’; the obsessive fear might be to ensure everything feels ‘just right’ to prevent discomfort or sometimes to prevent harm from occurring (see Magical Thinking).
Here is an example:
Sufferers may spend a lot of time trying to get the symmetry ‘just right’ and this time-consuming checking can result in them being extremely late for work and appointments. They may also become mentally and physically drained if the compulsions take a considerable amount of time. Sufferers may also avoid social contact at home to prevent the symmetry and order being disrupted, which can have a negative impact on social interaction and relationships.
What happens when a person has OCD?
When a person has OCD, their mind becomes overwhelmed with persistent and uncontrollable thoughts, worries, and fears. The person finds it very tough to dismiss these thoughts, and thus feels threatened by their obsessive thoughts. People with OCD usually want nothing more than for their obsessions to go away and never reappear. They often resort to performing compulsions.
Compulsions can make a person experience temporary relief, but it is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem because performing compulsions ultimately reinforce the obsessions.
What are compulsions?
Compulsions are repetitive physical actions or mental behaviors that are performed over and over again in an attempt to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions. Initially, compulsions are the natural response taken with the purpose of reducing one’s anxiety. Compulsive rituals initially reduce a person’s fear and anxiety to tolerable levels. Unfortunately, any relief that compulsive behaviors provide is only temporary and often reinforces the intrusive thought, creating a continuous worsening cycle of the OCD.
What are common OCD compulsions?
Below are some examples of common compulsions:
- Excessive and repetitive cleaning, washing, or grooming.
- Avoidance of public toilets.
- Avoidance of shaking hands or touching door knobs/handles.
- Repeatedly checking of locks, stove, iron, etc. to ensure safety.
- Constant inspection of kitchen or bedrooms for any dangerous items that could harm children (i.e. medication, knives, or chemicals).
- Arranging of objects or possessions in a specific way.
- Checking that item are arranged ‘just right’ or exactly at a 90-degree angle
- Touching, tapping, or counting until it feels “just right”.
- Symptom checking for illness online or at the library.
- Excessive checking of e-mails, letters, or voicemails before sending out.
- Frequent appointments with a medical doctor for repeated symptom checking.
- Reassurance seeking.
Mental Contamination – mental compulsions are known as the ‘invisible compulsions’ because others cannot see them. Common mental rituals include:
- Reciting words or numbers over and over to neutralize obsessive thoughts.
- Reciting the same prayer repeatedly until it perceived to be ‘perfect’.
- Reviewing conversations or thoughts over and over in one’s mind.
What is the Vicious Cycle?
The vicious cycle is created by the never-ending relationship between obsessions and compulsions. With OCD, a person has endless obsessions, which lead them to perform more compulsions, which leads to more obsessions.
Even though most people with OCD are entirely aware that their obsessions and compulsions are senseless, they find virtually impossible to stop. People with OCD will avoid certain places or people in an attempt to prevent a triggering of an obsessive fear.
Why are compulsions an ineffective solution?
On the surface, compulsion seems to reduce anxiety. But the more a person resorts to compulsions to combat intrusive thoughts, the more useless they become. Therefore, the total number of compulsions performed grows to address increased fears, leading a person into the vicious cycle of OCD.
Why is OCD referred to as the "secret illness"?
OCD is known as the ‘secret illness’ because sufferers hide their symptoms due to feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and shame. As well, people find it challenging to understand their symptoms let alone explain them to friends, loved ones, or even professionals. As a result, people suffer from their symptoms up to 7-10 years before seeking proper treatment. This delay in time makes it more difficult for people to cope with their OCD.
Why is OCD termed the “doubting disease”?
All people experience doubt, but with OCD a person’s doubts become intensified due to the anxiety caused by frequent and intense obsessive thoughts. As well, the fearful and intimidating nature of obsessive thoughts creates a low tolerance and inability for a person to live with minimal doubt and uncertainty.
What are the three key signs a person needs treatment?
Three key signs of OCD are:
- A person’s obsessions and rituals consume an excessive amount of time (approximately an hour or more).
- Significant distress and anguish.
- Daily interference with functioning at home, school, or work (lack of focus/concentration), including social activities, family life, and relationships.
Does OCD define who I am as a person?
Your struggle does not define who You are as a person. It is crucial to realize that your obsessions and compulsions are not representative of your real personality or character.
Why do my symptoms seem to worsen and get better by themselves?
OCD symptoms tend to wax and wane or have peaks and valleys. A person’s level of anxiety, fear, doubt and uncertainty can vary from time to time due to changes in life stressors, responsibility, and biochemistry.
What are signs of social anxiety?
People with social anxiety commonly experience an intense fear of social and performance situations/activities. The most intense fear is being overly concerned with negative evaluation, humiliation, or embarrassment. This can result in poor school/work performance and/or attendance. As well, it can be difficult making and maintaining relationships with friends.
What is the number one sign of social anxiety?
The number one sign of social anxiety is avoidance.
People with social anxiety AVOID:
- Social settings
- Invitations from friends to get together
- Answering e-mails or text messages
- Making eye contact
- Public speaking
- Socializing with peers
Do only introverted people have social anxiety?
No. Social anxiety can affect both introverted and extroverted people. In fact, many people with social anxiety are very outgoing. It is only because of the anxiety and fear that people appear to be withdrawn and uninterested in social activities.
What are the three components of OCD?
- Trigger — Any situation that produces intense emotions (anxiety) that results in and proceeds the occurrence of intrusive thoughts, urges, or images.
- Intrusive Thoughts — One or more unwanted thought, image, or impulse that causes anxiety, guilt, uncertainty, doubt, and other distressing feelings.
- Feared Consequence — The dreadful outcome or tragedy you predict (and fear) will happen if you don’t deal with the intrusive thoughts, such as performing a compulsion, seeking reassurance, or avoidance.
Do people with OCD really believe those irrational thoughts?
Most people with OCD are well aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational. Indeed, this is part of the torment of OCD, because their insight does little to weaken the obsessive distress or to make compulsive behaviors easier to resist. In fact, the understanding that these thoughts and behaviors are irrational heightens the distress. This can lead to a high degree of shame, embarrassment, and isolation.