Like a needle getting stuck on an old record, OCD causes the brain to get stuck on a particular thought or urge. For example, you may wash your hands until they’re scrubbed raw, or you may check a hundred times if the lights are really switched off or you may be obsessed with order and symmetry, everything on your desk will be perfectly in line with one another.
What is OCD?
OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors you feel you have to perform.
Obsessions are uncontrollable thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again in your mind. Unfortunately, these obsessive thoughts are often disturbing and distracting.
Compulsions are behaviors or rituals that you act out again and again. Compulsions are performed in an attempt to make obsessions go away. For example, if you’re afraid of contamination, you might develop elaborate cleaning rituals.
There are different categories of OCD:
- Washers are afraid of contamination. They usually have cleaning or hand-washing compulsions.
- Checkers repeatedly check things that they associate with harm or danger.
- Doubters and sinners are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right something terrible will happen or they will be punished.
- Counters and arrangers are obsessed with order and symmetry. They may have superstitions about certain numbers, colors, or arrangements.
- Hoarders fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. They compulsively hoard things that they don’t need or use.
Signs and symptoms:
- The fear of being contaminated by germs.
- Fear of causing harm to yourself and others.
- Violent thoughts and images.
- Fear of losing things you might need.
- Order and symmetry.
- Double-checking things.
- Counting, tapping or repeating certain words.
- Ordering or arranging things.
OCD symptoms in children:
Younger children sometimes have symptoms that look like OCD. However these symptoms can be symptoms of other disorders such as; ADD, Tourette’s or autism. Before any diagnosis is made, a thorough medical and psychological exam is essential.
Treatment for OCD:
The most effective treatment for OCD is often cognitive-behavioral therapy. Antidepressants are sometimes used with therapy, although medication alone is rarely effective in relieving the symptoms of OCD.
Cognitive therapy may involve exposure and response to the source of your obsession. Another part of cognitive therapy is teaching you healthy and effective ways of responding to obsessive thoughts, without resorting to compulsive behavior.
When you are experiencing OCD urges, try shifting your attention to something else. Take a 15 minute walk or jog or read for 15 minutes to delay your response to the obsessive thought of compulsion.
Try doing yoga or practice deep breathing techniques as these stress relieving methods may help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and OCD.
Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep as sleep deprivation can cause anxiety which can trigger obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
You are not alone in your struggle with OCD, participating in a support group can enable you to both share your own experiences and learn from others who are facing the same problems. With therapy and the right medication, people with OCD are able to live normal, successful and happy lives.