Most of us are familiar with the stereotypes of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
It may be somebody with an over the top approach to housework and cleanliness; a need to put everything in order; to follow a set routine whenever they leave the house.
It can manifest itself in many different ways, and be as unique as the individual; no two people have exactly the same symptoms or rituals for the same reasons.
Examples of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
To give you a better idea of what it is like to have OCD, this could manifest in a person having:
- Fear of germs or contamination;
- Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, and that harm is going to come to them, loved ones or even people they don’t know, unless they carry out a ritual;
- Aggressive thoughts towards others or self;
- A need for things to be symmetrical or in a perfect order – which is relatable to controlling what you can (your inner environment such as home) to try and control those things that you cannot – life.
- Feelings that they are putting family/friends/strangers at risk of harm IF they do not complete certain rituals.
What are Compulsions?
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours that a person with OCD feels the urge to do, in response to an obsessive thought.
If you have OCD, it can feel like not completing these tasks may make something ‘bad’ happen to you or family and friends.
Or it can feel like your day is just not going to work out ‘right’ and something bad may happen; or whatever it is your anxiety may be about. These behaviours are all anxiety driven, and they are both exhausting and draining, and can have a massive impact on your life.
Common compulsions include:
- Excessive cleaning and/or hand washing;
- Ordering and arranging things in a particular, precise way;
- Repeatedly checking on things, such as to see if the door is locked, or the oven is off, and hair straighteners unplugged;
- Compulsive counting;
- Rereading or rewriting;
- Repeating routine activities (eg going in or out doors, getting up or down from chairs);
- Repeating body movements (eg tapping, touching, blinking);
- Repeating activities in “multiples” (eg doing a task three times because three is a “good,” “right,” “safe” number).
Not all rituals or habits are compulsions, and it is fair to say everyone double checks things sometimes – we can all have days where we are rushing and have to go back to check the door or alarm. But a person with OCD generally:
- Can’t control his or her thoughts or behaviours, even when they recognise those thoughts or behaviours as excessive;
- Spends at least 1 hour a day minimum on these thoughts or behaviours;
- Doesn’t get pleasure when performing the behaviours or rituals, but may feel brief relief from the anxiety the thoughts cause;
- Experiences significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviours.
Intrusive and Worrying Thoughts
A person with OCD may be fully aware that excessively checking and re-checking the house is not ‘logical’, however due to intrusive and worrying thoughts, will still continue.
Some people need to check their house up to 5+ times before it feels ‘right’ and nothing ‘should’ go wrong that day.
Rituals and checking can be extremely distressing for the individual – for example, driving to work, troubled by persistent, intrusive thoughts of ‘Did I lock the door?’ or ‘Did I turn the iron off’? If these thoughts then cause them to turn around and drive home to check, thereby making them late for work, even though they ‘know’ they are extremely vigilant about these things – they give in to the self doubt.
Treatment for OCD
Treatment for OCD may consist of medication and/or therapy to challenge these thoughts and rituals; identifying what it driving them is an important weapon in reducing their impact.
If you are one of the half a million people in Australia suffering from this condition, then remember: there is no judgement when you come for counselling and treatment, only support.
Author: M1 Psychology
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129