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OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Updated on September 3, 2014
Cynthianne profile image

Cynthianne has a B.S. in Psychology and is licensed in Astrology. She is autistic, as are three of her children.

Cleanliness: Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms

You can like things neat, but it can be a compulsion or obsession.
You can like things neat, but it can be a compulsion or obsession. | Source

What is OCD, Really?

In social networking, it seems to be common to see someone say “OH, I am so OCD”. But in reality, they are using this as a phrase to mean that they have particular interests or likes things a particular way. This is not OCD. Here is what it really is.


OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a disorder that goes beyond wanting things to be in a particular way. It is ok to have preferences, unless those preferences become so intense that they interfere with your everyday life.

OCD is an anxiety disorder with a blend of compulsions and obsessions, or just one or the other. One does not have to have all the symptoms to receive a diagnosis of OCD, but the symptoms must be disruptive, according to the MayoClinic. Stress increases the compulsions or obsessions and acting out the compulsions or obsessions does not relieve the anxiety. The person suffering from OCD, though, may not be able to stop thinking about their compulsion or obsession until they complete their ritual or act that they do to relieve the anxiety around the act. There may be some relief, but this is only temporary, carrying out the act or thought does not remove the anxiety for any helpful length of time.

OCD is Not a Choice

OCD is not a choice, it is not something the person set out to do or get, it is not just wanting things in a particular order or having preferences. This fact cannot be stressed enough. People with OCD know that they have compulsions and obsessions that are not the norm, but feel helpless and can become disabled by their anxiety.

Watching time slip by and feeling anxious can be a sign of OCD.
Watching time slip by and feeling anxious can be a sign of OCD. | Source

Signs and Symptoms

Some examples of obsessions and compulsions that are common with OCD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health for OCD are:

  • Thoughts of sexual acts
  • Thoughts of harming someone
  • Worrying about turning the stove on and off
  • Locking and unlocking the door
  • Washing hands every time they touch something
  • Worrying about hair or appearance
  • Arranging food on their plate before eating
  • Feeling excessive stress and anxiety when objects are not aligned in a certain way
  • Thoughts of shouting obscenities at others
  • Counting objects
  • The act does not relieve the stress like having a preference would

This list can go on and on as the obsessions and compulsions can vary from person to person, but this gives you an idea. Anything done in excess, and to the detriment of everyday life, is not normal and could be considered an anxiety disorder, or OCD.

Counting and Arranging Objects

Obsessive behavior such as pen counting can disrupt the daily life.
Obsessive behavior such as pen counting can disrupt the daily life. | Source

Consistent Symptoms or Not?

One thing that can be frustrating for the person with OCD is that the symptoms may vary, depending on their stress levels and coping abilities at the time of the flare. A person with OCD may have many months symptom-free, only to get hit with anxiety and symptoms that cause disabling situations such as inability to leave the house, go to work, or even get groceries. They may find themselves watching television for hours upon hours, flipping through news channels, worrying about the safety of the world. This type of worrying is excessive and can prevent a person from living a normal life.

Examples:

If the person associates their anxiety with germs, any trip outside of their home environment may be seen as dangerous. There are germs everywhere. Yes, people can use hand sanitizers, for example, but to the person with OCD, this may not be enough, or they may be so worried about germs that their hands are raw and bleeding.

Another, more severe symptom of OCD is inappropriate thoughts. Not everyone with OCD suffers from the more severe symptoms, but imagine how hard it would be for someone to function in a normal way if every time they heard a certain tone, they got angry or had thoughts of hurting someone. This does not mean that the actions are carried out, just that the thoughts were there.

The kitchen can be a source of high anxiety when a person has the need to have all the items in the cupboards facing the same way, or the refrigerator organized in a certain way, and living with multiple people. The person with OCD may begin to cope with the inconsistencies that can happen when multiple people are in the kitchen, until something triggers the anxiety to a disruptive level. Then the person feels more anxiety and may spend many hours in the kitchen trying to keep everything in order as they see it.

A person may become fearful of rainwater, worrying about the germs or ruining their clothes with dirt splashed from the ground. This concern may cause them to not leave the house during inclement weather.

Perhaps they become concerned about their public appearance to the point of spending hours in front of the mirror, combing their hair. The person may become so obsessed and worried about their appearance that they do not realize how long they have stood there, combing their hair.

Some people may not be able to function until they counted the pens and pencils on their desk, or how many steps it took to walk to the door. They may repeat their actions until they feel comfortable with their counting enough to move on with their day at that time.

OCD can lead to other anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia, depression, eating and panic disorders.

Causes and Cures

The cause for anxiety disorders is not completely known at this time but it is known to be a disorder in the brain mechanism which has no cure. Therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral and Exposure therapy can help the person learn to control the behavior to a point, but the anxiety will always be part of their life. Antidepressants can help with the anxiety and control of the behaviors. Usually, though, it takes both medications and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the beginning of treatment. There are dangers of side-effects with medications so it is important to be aware of them, especially suicidal thoughts, and tell family and friends.

It is important to know that just because there is no cure, does not mean there is no hope!

Family and Friends

OCD may be hereditary as are other anxiety disorders, so it is important to know that other family members may have some degree of anxiety and not mention it. OCD usually shows itself more readily as an adult, but there may be signs in childhood, which is one reason for the belief that there may be a hereditary tie to the disorder.

It is also important to let your family and friends know what triggers your anxiety. If they are a good support system for you, this will help you learn to cope easier. Chances are, they have already noticed at least some obsessions without you telling them, so to know that you have sought help and been diagnosed, may encourage them to be a better support person for you.

OCD affects men and women equally.

Conclusion

People with OCD are not choosing to be overly obsessed or compelled to do something, this is a real disorder. Do not confuse this disorder as normal worrying over whether the doors are locked or the stove it turned off or even wanting to look nice. It is not the same thing. OCD is disruptive and stressful to the person having the obsession and compulsion; acting out the behavior does not bring relief like it would to a person who just has strong preferences. It is important to not make fun of or belittle a person who suffers this disorder as that only increases the stress and stress increases the symptoms of the disorder. Belittling and trying to force the person to stop will only make things worse. It is important to understand that the symptoms may return with stress as OCD is an anxiety disorder, so do not be dismayed or feel you or your family member has failed in some way at the return of symptoms, just work through the stress and try to return to functioning at a higher level.

© 2014 Cynthianne Neighbors

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