Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD Symptoms and Behaviors
There are two types of disorders. There is Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Both disorders are characterized by recurrent, repetitive thoughts and behaviors. The personality disorder is more of a problem because there is no off switch.
For instance, your thoughts may cause extreme anxiety and you can't stop worrying about death all day or you may be fixated on not feeling safe. Many are germ-a-phoebes. They continually wash their hands all day long, shake hands or get too close to people.
Consequences of Personality Disorders
Tony Shalhoub of Monk and Howie Mandel are two well known personalities that talk about this problem openly. The personality disorder would take it a step further than the OCD person. They are obsessed with dirt so they bathe and wash their hair and hands frequently. They may develop dermatitis or skin lesions from picking at their skin.
Other types of repetitive behaviors include counting things frequently, cleaning things that aren’t dirty over and over again, and check on things continually, like is the stove or coffee pot turned off or the door locked. They are plagued with unwelcome thoughts and images. They may feel intense distress if something is not turned the right way. They may have images of hurting their child or someone in an auto accident; or impulses to shout obscenities in inappropriate situations. They are often plagued with doubt, hence the repetitive checking to see if the stove is turned off. These rituals are performed to seek temporary relief from the repetitive thoughts.
Monk on OCD
This is a description that one victim of this disease might have written: “I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ’bad’ number.”
“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I had therapy.”
“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. That was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”
The obsessive thoughts have themes, such as the fear of germs and to ease the contamination they start the compulsive hand washing to the degree their hands are chapped and sore. Despite these efforts, the thoughts keep returning, which leads to more compulsive behavior.
Common obsession themes according to Mayo Clinic are:
- "Fear of contamination or dirt
- Needing things orderly and symmetrical
- Aggressive or horrific impulses
- Unwanted thoughts of sexual or religious subjects, including aggression"
There is a difference between being a perfectionist and having OCD. OCD can become disabling and certainly produce a low quality of life.
Many of us have some of the characteristics of OCD (sometimes referred to as an anal personality). For instance, in a public rest room, I try not to touch anything. I wash my hands, and if possible I turn the water off with the paper towel I use to dry my hands. Then I use my left hand, with a tissue or the back of my hand if possible to open the door because I know many don’t wash their hands.
Considering the flu and other disease this could be called healthy living. I thought my mother might have OCD when I was a teenager as she had us cleaning the house very regularly. It seemed she wanted everything to look perfect, but told us it was good training for when we had homes of our own. I think she was probably right.
If your obsessions and compulsions are affecting your life, see your doctor or mental health provider. It is common for people with OCD to be ashamed and embarrassed about the condition. But even if your rituals are deeply ingrained, treatment can help.
There are medications that will help reduce the stress level. Counseling can certainly help, and research is yielding new improved therapies that help most people with their symptoms.
There is Christian counseling available that will help with shame based beliefs that often start this vicious cycle of OCD living. Don’t ignore the problem, as it probably won’t go away without some outside help. Take that risk to get help and have a good life.
Evaluate Yourself for Compulsive Traits
A few compulsive behaviors or maybe you're just careful?
© 2010 Pamela Oglesby