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All About OCD

Updated on July 9, 2009

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is quite an interesting illness if you don't suffer from it, or have to live with someone who does. OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is often misunderstood and even laughed at. But if you have OCD, I assure you, it's not a laughing matter. People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder suffer tremendously. It's often a very lonely disease - unless you have it, it's very difficult to fully understand. Though one thing does need to be clear: the person who has OCD NEVER enjoys the obsessions and compulsions. If you are enjoying your rituals or what you are obsessing about, then chances are, you do not have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In fact, it's a very painful illness, as well as very time consuming. When the obsessions and rituals of OCD are at their worst, the victims work and home life can completely fall apart. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks OCD as the tenth most disabling illness, in terms of diminished quality of life and lost earnings.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a very serious anxiety-related disorder that affects as many as three in one hundred people - from young children to older adults. Sometimes people go years without being diagnosed, partially because of a lack of understanding of the illness, and partially because of the embarrassment that one experiences with it. OCD is often called the "secret illness" because of the shame, embarrassment and even guilt that is experienced by people who suffer from it.

OCD manifests itself in many different ways, but for the most part sufferers experience repetitive and intrusive thoughts, images and doubts. The thoughts compromise the "obsessional" part of the OCD. The thoughts are so intrusive and cause so much anxiety that often (not always) a person is led to perform compulsions in order to alleviate the obsessions. Some sufferers are plagued with the obsessions, but perform no rituals. This is often referred to as "Pure O."

The most common obsessions (the ones that most people are familiar with) are contamination and germ obsessions. But OCD has no limits! Other common obsessions are upsetting sexual or violent thoughts, religious obsessions, having possessions in the correct order, worrying about throwing things away, worrying about losing things, and so on. But keep in mind, it's not limited to those things - it can be anything.

Suffers try to ease these obsessions with physical and mental rituals. The compulsions involve repeated actions; such as checking, arranging, counting, hoarding, washing, and endless ruminating. Another common symptom is that of avoiding feared situations; however, this usually ends up exasperating the situation by increasing rumination. What is difficult is trying to decide what is a healthy fear (fear of painful compulsions caused by obsessions) and an unhealthy fear (I can't go into the bathroom because I will have to touch the door on the way out).

Most individuals with OCD know that their obsessions and compulsions are completely irrational, but feel totally incapable of stopping them. This is an extraordinarily desperate feeling. One almost feels as though they are trapped in their own private little hell. They feel as though they are completely isolated with no way out and no way to make anyone else understand. How would anyone understand when it seems so totally nonsensical even to the person that suffers with it?


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