Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

What is OCD?

OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is a condition where you have unreasonable thoughts or fears (obsessions) that cause you to do repetitive actions (compulsions). You might realize that your obsessions are unreasonable, so you'll try to ignore or stop them, which causes even more anxiety and distress. You'll feel driven to do compulsive actions to mitigate stress. OCD usually centers around certain themes, such as fear of contamination. To relieve yourself of these fears, you might repeatedly wash your hands until your skin is raw and sore. Even though you try to forget about your unwanted worries, they keep coming back, leading to more ritualistic behavior.

How It Affects You & How You Can Treat It

It affects your quality of life because you constantly have unwanted urges or thoughts that cause anxiety or distress. Obsessions usually theme around fear of contamination, having objects orderly or symmetrical, or aggressive thoughts about self-harm or harming others. Obsession signs may include the following:

  • Being fearful of contamination from shaking other people's hands or touching things others have touched
  • Questioning if you've locked the door or left the stove on
  • Images of harming yourself or others
  • Thoughts about shouting/doing inappropriate things
  • Avoiding scenarios that will trigger obsessions, like touching a doorknob

You might do compulsions to try to reduce stress related to your obsessions; however, these compulsions usually bring a modicum of relief and usually don't bring pleasure. They are usually themed around counting, checking, washing & cleaning, ordering reassurances, or following a set routine. Compulsions usually include:

  • Washing your hands repeatedly until your skin is raw and sore
  • Checking doors repeatedly to make sure they're locked
  • Checking the stove repeatedly to make sure it's off
  • Counting in certain patterns
  • Silently repeating a word or phrase
  • Arranging objects to face a specific direction

It's a good idea to get treatment as early as possible to mitigate OCD symptoms and to improve your quality of life. Depending on the seriousness of your condition, your doctor might recommend counseling and/or prescribe an antidepressant. The most effective type of counseling is called "exposure & response prevention", where you expose yourself to an obsession but refuse to do the compulsion. For example, if you touch a doorknob, you attempt to resist washing your hands. This therapy can be done with a therapist or at home with directions from the therapist. Your therapist will ask you to list your obsessions based on how much anxiety it creates, starting with obsessions that create moderate anxiety and up the list to obsessions that create the most anxiety.

OCD can negatively impact your lifestyle because you're constantly having to do compulsions to get rid of your obsessions. Although OCD isn't curable, both medicine and treatment can help you live your life to the fullest, relieving you of the stress and anxiety of OCD.