I often hear people comment that they are “so OCD” and I often wonder if they know what they are actually speaking about. I suffer from a mild form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and it’s no less difficult to deal with than those who have it more severe. OCD is not something to joke about. Its a real disorder that affects a person’s standard of living and when it’s an extreme case, it can even be life threatening.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Facts
* OCD can begin early, starting between ages seven and 12. In fact, up to half of all adults with OCD say their symptoms started when they were children
* OCD is more common in boys than girls in childhood, but into adulthood, women are affected at a slightly higher rate than men
* OCD symptoms can change over time. For example, when OCD first appears your child might begin with excessive washing compulsions, but over time this can shift to excessive checking compulsions while compulsive washing disappears
* OCD occurs in 2-3% of children and adults during their lifetime
Seeking reassurance from others that things will be okay or a ritual was completed “correctly” is common in children and teens with OCD. This can include asking parents and siblings to do rituals as well
What are the signs and symptoms?
Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviors cause tremendous distress, take up a lot of time, and interfere with your daily life and relationships. For example, you may check the stove 20 times to make sure it’s really turned off, or wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw.
Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have both obsessions and compulsions, but some people experience just one or the other.
Common obsessive thoughts in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) include:
Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
Fear of losing or not having things you might need
Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”
Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky
Common compulsive behaviors in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) include:
Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches
Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe
Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety
Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning
Ordering or arranging things “just so”
Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers
What’s the difference between Obsessions and Compulsions?
Obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that occur over and over again and feel outside of the person’s control. Individuals with OCD do not want to have these thoughts and find them disturbing. In most cases, people with OCD realize that these thoughts don’t make any sense. Obsessions are typically accompanied by intense and uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disgust, doubt, or a feeling that things have to be done in a way that is “just right.” In the context of OCD, obsessions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values. This last part is extremely important to keep in mind as it, in part, determines whether someone has OCD — a psychological disorder — rather than an obsessive personality trait.
Compulsions are the second part of obsessive compulsive disorder. These are repetitive behaviors or thoughts that a person uses with the intention of neutralizing, counteracting, or making their obsessions go away. People with OCD realize this is only a temporary solution but without a better way to cope they rely on the compulsion as a temporary escape. Compulsions can also include avoiding situations that trigger obsessions. Compulsions are time consuming and get in the way of important activities the person values.
Who is at risk of suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Factors that may increase the risk of developing or triggering obsessive-compulsive disorder include:
Family history. Having parents or other family members with the disorder can increase your risk of developing OCD.
Stressful life events. If you’ve experienced traumatic or stressful events or you tend to react strongly to stress, your risk may increase. This reaction may, for some reason, trigger the intrusive thoughts, rituals and emotional distress characteristic of OCD.
What treatments are available?
OCD will not go away by itself, so it is important to seek treatment. The most effective approach to treating OCD combines medications with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy : The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to teach people with OCD to confront their fears and reduce anxiety without performing the ritual behaviors (called exposure therapy or exposure and response prevention therapy). Therapy also focuses on reducing the exaggerated or catastrophic thinking that often occurs in people with OCD.
Medication therapy : Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Luvox, Prozac, and Zoloft, may be helpful in treating OCD. Older drugs — tricyclic antidepressants like Anafranil — might also be used. Some atypical antipsychotics, such as Risperdal or Abilify, also have been shown to have value for OCD either when used alone or in combination with an SSRI.
In severe cases of OCD and in people who do not respond to medical and behavioral therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or psychosurgery may be used to treat the disorder. During ECT, a small current is passed through electrodes placed on the scalp while the patient is asleep under general anesthesia This causes a brief seizure. Repeated ECT treatments have been found to help improve OCD symptoms in some cases. A newer, surgical form of brain stimulation called deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting small electrodes into brain areas that are a part of the brain circuitry associated with OCD symptoms.
What are the Common Situations or Affected Areas?
* School or athletic performance
* Recreational attendance and participation
* Organization and focus
* Meal times
* Personal hygiene
If you, or someone you know, suffers from depression, or any other mental health issues, and needs help, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. On this website you will find comprehensive mental health information and resources to help you, a family member or loved one.
Should you wish to share your story, please feel free to contact me by clicking on the green email icon on the top right side of the blog.