You hear people exclaim “It’s my OCD!” sometime because they want something to be done perfectly, want their tables at work to be neatly arranged or their clothes organized in their closet.
But what is OCD?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is defined as a mental health disorder where a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
When a person has OCD, they exhibit either obsessive thoughts and urges or compulsive, repetitive behaviors.
Sometimes, people just take it lightly and joke about having OCD when they get too detailed about something. But, the truth is that OCD is a far more serious illness than just being occasionally obsessive.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, OCD affects 1.2% of people in the US every year. The onset of OCD usually occurs in adolescence or early adulthood and is less common in people ages 35 and above.
What it’s like having OCD?
People with OCD experience reoccurring unwanted, intrusive thoughts, impulses or obsessions that lead them to engage in compulsive rituals and repetitive behavior.
These “rituals” disrupt basic functioning because they are time-consuming. They tend to take hours doing these rituals. It’s often extremely distressing because of how much it interferes with daily life.
The hardest thing is knowing you want to stop doing it without being able to stop. They are aware that their compulsions and obsessions are irrational. Still, they engage in these rituals to ward off the obsessive thoughts and impulses they have.
Living with OCD
OCD isn’t just about habits like checking the door one more time before you go to sleep or always thinking negative thoughts. It is more than that.
An example of an obsessive thought is thinking your family members might get hurt if they don’t put their clothing on in the exact same order every morning.
An example of a compulsive habit is to wash your hands seven times after touching something that may be dirty.
A person with OCD may not want to do these things but they feel completely powerless to stop.
Because of these tendencies, the disorder can affect a person’s job, school, and relationships. They can keep someone from living a normal life because their thoughts and actions are beyond their control.
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Here are common compulsions arising from obsessions:
1. Repetition of words to prevent what they fear
When a person suffering from OCD fears something, they may try to prevent it from happening by repeating words, phrases or numbers as a way to prevent these fears from manifesting.
2. OCD counting rituals
They feel compelled to count certain items while performing an action or mentally count as a way to self-soothe.
Kissing Doorknobs, a book by Terry Spencer Hesser, speaks of a girl with OCD who jumps over and count all the 495 cracks in the pavement as she walks to ward off the fear of “breaking her mother’s back.”
3. OCD checking rituals
They repetitively check that things are exactly where they left them.
An example is checking numerous times to ensure that their door is locked every time they lock it. Or even rushing back home to confirm that their stove is turned off.
There is the gnawing fear that something will happen if they don’t check it continuously.
4. OCD cleaning rituals
These rituals stem from their fear related to germs or contamination.
An example is excessively scrubbing one’s apartment because the person with OCD fears the germs will cause death.
It could be as simple as wearing gloves when on public transportation or as painful as washing hands until they’re raw.
These reasons may seem ridiculous for those not suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For the person experiencing it, it’s completely real.
Let us be considerate and not make OCD a laughingstock because, for so many people, there’s no choice in the matter.
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