ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

Updated on May 20, 2014

The clinical picture of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

We all tend to experience minor obsessive thoughts during our daily lives such as persistent thoughts about a trip or date or a haunting melody we simply cannot seem to get out of our minds. The obsessive personality, however, have thoughts that are much more persistent and irrational which may interfere with everyday behavior.

These neurotic-obsessive thoughts will centre on a wide variety of topics, such as concerns over bodily functions, committing immoral acts, attempting suicide or perhaps finding the solution to some seemingly unsolvable problem. Thoughts of immoral acts are quite common such as murder and assault. For example, a wife may be obsessed with the idea of poisoning her husband or a daughter with the thought of pushing her mother down a flight of stairs. These obsessive thoughts may not be carried out but remain a source or torment to the individual.

There is consistent evidence of minor obsessive thoughts during our daily lives such as stepping over cracks in sidewalks, walking around ladders instead of under them or turning away when a black cat crosses our path. These thoughts do not, however, have that strong element of compulsiveness exhibited by the neurotic individual. Some time or other we will resort to obsessive-compulsive patterns under severe pressure or when trying to achieve goals that we consider to be of critical importance. History has shown that many unique individuals had shown an “obsessive compulsive” adherence to their goals despite discouragement and ridicule. For example, Columbus persisted for 18 years to secure financial aid for his expedition to India and Darwin assembled evidence for 22 years before he could present his ideas on evolution.

Neurotic-compulsive individuals, on the other hand, feel compelled to perform some act which seems strange and absurd to them and which they do not want to perform. These compulsive acts may vary from relatively mild ritual-like behavior, such as making the sign of the cross periodically during the day to more extreme behavior such as washing one’s hands as often as ten times a day. The compulsive act usually brings a feeling of reduced tensions and satisfaction but anxiety could also mount if the person tries to resist the compulsion.

This disorder is considered maladaptive as it represents irrational and exaggerated behavior when stresses occur that are usually not too upsetting to most people and such patterns reduce the flexibility and the capability for self-direction. This behavior takes place in the context of a person who showcases feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, rigid conscience development, a tendency towards guilt and high vulnerability to threat.

What is OCD?


The causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Substitutive thoughts and activities

Individuals who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder defend themselves from anxiety by persistently thinking of doing something else each time threatening thoughts or impulses arise. “Safe” obsessive thoughts are substitutes for more unpleasant or dangerous ones.

The individual might have a compulsive preoccupation with some unusual activity such as working on a new invention, writing a ground breaking novel or developing a system to beat the horses. This insurmountable task may never be completed but by working on it the individual is kept so busy that there is no time to deal with unpleasant problems. The compulsive behavior may also be directed toward a constructive task. It does become neurotically compulsive if it is used as an escape from marital, sexual, interpersonal or other problems and generally interferes with effective living.

Substitutive thoughts may be more complicated and could involve the defense mechanism of reaction formation. The individual may then think or act in ways directly contrary to the dangerous thoughts or impulses.

In certain stressful instances obsessive fantasies may also help repressed desires and provide a substitute for overt action. However, not all individuals with obsessive thoughts of violence towards others escape guilt feelings.

Guilt and fear of punishment

This condition could also evolve from feelings of guilt and self-condemnation. For example, Lady Macbeth’s symbolic hand washing after her participation in the murder of King Duncan reveals her ritualistic behavior aimed at the cleansing of guilt for immoral behavior.

Assurance of order and predictability

A rigid ordering of behavior can be temporarily adaptive during a difficult period. The neurotic-compulsive individual confronted by danger may soon attempt to maintain some semblance of order and control by becoming unduly meticulous and methodical. This rigidity helps to prevent anything from going wrong and provides some security and predictability. However, if anything fails during this strict regime the entire defensive structure is endangered and the individual feels threatened and anxieties.

Apparently this pattern is similar to the repetitive and rigid rituals used by underdeveloped civilizations as a means of warding off evil forces in an unpredictable world. These rituals had to be faithfully observed and performed in rigidly prescribed ways in order to be effective.

Three basic aspects of therapy

Therapy usually follows three basic strategies: helping the individual to discriminate between thought and action, to accept “forbidden” desires and to integrate them into a self-structure; helping the individual to discriminate between objective and imagined dangers and to respond selectively to each and blocking obsessive-compulsive rituals by rewarding departures from such neurotic behavior.

These strategies are aimed at eliminating neurotic defenses and helping the individual realize that lives are by no means over after their removal. However, the basic obsessive compulsive lifestyle may not be changed although therapy does lead to an alleviation of symptoms and ensures the way for long term improvement.

The OCD Cycle


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)