Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is characterized as a type of anxiety disorder. For many suffers OCD can only be described as a disabling condition that locks the sufferer in a dysfunctional, repetitive pattern of irrational thoughts and behaviors. Repetitive behaviors are engaged in impulsively. Individuals that suffer from OCD, do not desire to engage in the repetitive behavior or distressing recurring thoughts, the sufferer is often powerless to stop them. OCD suffers experience distressing thoughts, fears, images, or obsessions, that they would like to extinguish but are powerless to control. Like most behaviors that are continued and maintained, they become reinforced over time. Intense feelings of anxiety can lead to maladaptive means to alleviate negative behaviors and thoughts. Negative and otherwise intrusive thoughts can produce an urgent need to perform certain rituals or routines (compulsions). The compulsive rituals are performed in an attempt to alleviate some of the discomfort associated with the anxiety.
Although, ritualistic behavior may create a temporary relief of anxiety, this by no means allows the sufferer and understanding or reprieve from what is causing and fueling the anxiety. If anxiety is left untreated, maladaptive behaviors and thoughts will return once the individual is placed in a situation that leads to stress. The cycle of OCD can create interferences or prevent those that carry the disorder from living a healthy life. The sufferer may spend a lengthy period performing the same acts, having the same thoughts, without moving forward in a healthy or productive manner. People with OCD may be aware that their obsessions and compulsions are senseless or unrealistic, but they cannot stop them.
Symptoms of OCD Include:
- Fear of things being less than “perfect”
- Fear of dirt or germs
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of leaving doors unlocked
- Fear of leaving the stove or oven on
- Fear of embarrassing oneself
- Fear of having “unnatural or evil thoughts”
- Need for affirmation or validation
Symptoms of Common Compulsions Include:
- Repetitive hand washing, showering, etc.
- Constant counting of the same things
- Refusing to shake hands or touch doorknobs
- Constantly arranging and rearranging things
- Constantly eating the same foods or eating food in the same order
- Repetitively saying the same words or phrases
- Constantly checking doors, windows, lights, etc.
- Needing to perform the some of the same behaviors or “something bad will happen”.
- Hording behaviors, i.e., fear of throwing something away
The specific cause of OCD is not known; however, the following treatment options can be provided to alleviate some of the discomfort associated with the disorder. Treatment for the disorder include, psychotherapy (individual, family, or group) or antidepressant medications to reduce anxiety. Obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment may not result in a cure, but it can help bring symptoms under control so that they don’t rule your daily life. Unfortunately, some people will need treatment for the rest of their lives.