“I am so OCD”. A statement we hear thrown around so many times but what does it honestly mean? Do those who say it truly understand what those who suffer from OCD go through?OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a diagnosable condition that can be debilitating for those who suffer from it. Far from being a compliment on how neat and organized someone is, OCD is a deeply distressing condition. Those who live with it wish they were able to stop.
OCD is a mental health condition that is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive actions or behaviors (compulsions). In some cases, compulsive behaviors are a result of obsessive thoughts. People with OCD do these actions to soothe or relieve themselves from the anxiety those thoughts produce.
To give an example, people with OCD might obsess about getting an infection. To ensure that they do not get an infection or to help them stop obsessing, they will wash their hands constantly. Some suffer only from obsessive thoughts without any actions accompanying them, these people are said to be having what’s called pure O disorder.
Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms usually go together as one is an act of trying to counter the other. However, it is normal for a person to experience only obsession or only compulsions without any correlation with the other.
It is important to note that we all at some point might experience these symptoms, but it does not necessarily mean that we are OCD. For a diagnosis to be made, one has to be thoroughly assessed by a mental health professional.
Symptoms and signs of compulsions in OCD clients.
Those who struggle with compulsions go through life having to perform repetitive behaviors to soothe their anxiety. Here are some examples.
This is the need to check and re-check things to make sure all is well. This can be checking if the stove is off if doors are locked, or looking to see if you haven’t lost any personal items. Though checking is normal for most of us, those with OCD must do it multiple times whereas checking once is enough for most of us.
This is when the person does something repeatedly to reassure themselves. An example can be locking the car twice or three times even though once would suffice. This can also be seen by having repeated body movements, like tapping or rocking one’s body.
This can be in the form of repetitive ritual mental acts that are done to alleviate stress or anxiety. An example could be excessive prayer or regurgitation of events to see if your response at that time was acceptable. This can also include mental avoidance when one deliberately chooses to push certain thoughts away.
Cleaning and neatness.
This compulsion comes from a need to perceive things as clean and neat. Even though to other people what being cleaned might look clean already, those who struggle with OCD with their unexplainable fear of germs of getting sick will have a compulsion to clean repeatedly, sometimes even to their harm. This can be seen in people who wash their hands until they are raw from the friction of constant washing.
This comes from a place of wanting everything to be neat, orderly, and sometimes symmetrical. This need can be distressing as one does not have control over how other people order their worlds. In turn, this can cause high levels of anxiety in spaces where they cannot re-arrange.
Those struggling with OCD and using counting to try and mitigate it use it for reassurance, to achieve a sense of balance, or prevent something terrible from happening. These are people who count to a certain number before performing a task or count things to regain a sense of control.
Signs and symptoms of obsessions in OCD clients.
We have all felt obsessed by one thing or another in the past. It can be a new fashion fade or a new song. As much as this is normal, those who suffer from OCD experience obsessions much differently from the rest of us. Their obsession does not end with time, new information, or priorities. Obsessions come in various forms for those who struggle with OCD and here are some common examples.
These people are obsessed with their health. They are constantly worried that they are sick or that they are going to get sick. Because of this, they are constantly at the doctor’s office to check, or they start avoiding certain places or foods that they feel will make them sick.
These are unwanted, shameful thoughts that are sexual. This can be fear that the person might be a pedophile or thinks about having incestuous sexual relations. They also have sexual images that go contrary to their beliefs and are constantly afraid they might harm others sexually.
People with contamination obsession have an irrational fear of being contaminated by germs, viruses, fluids, or dirt that they deem to cause illnesses. This fear can lead to constantly washing fruits and produce or anything bought from the store, or avoiding shaking hands or hugging people.
Those struggling with religious obsessions are irrationally concerned with morality, in their own lives and the lives of others. They require performing religious rituals to avoid damnation or offending God.
Those struggling with violent or aggressive obsessions have a fear of causing harm to themselves or others. They are bombarded by unwanted images of gruesome violence like car accidents or being involved in shootings. Though they might have never acted on these obsessions, the fear that they might is what holds them captive.
These are people overly concerned about their safety and that of their loved ones. To try and alleviate that fear, they might check doors and locks over and over again. This world feels unsafe to them and this can also cause avoidance behaviors.
Impact of OCD.
Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has significant challenges. Hopefully understanding these can help us be more empathetic toward those going through it. Below are just some examples of how it can impact everyday life:
- Causes the development of other mental health issues like anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, anorexia, and hoarding, only to name a few.
- Disrupts everyday functioning and living as it takes time to perform ritualistic behavior.
- Has a huge impact on relationships as people with OCD have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others.
- Physical health is at risk from stress, or the physical harm that can come because of some repetitive behaviors.
- Job and school performance is hindered. People with OCD are unable to concentrate, perform as needed or make decisions.
- Can cause the onset of substance abuse disorder as a result of self-medicating.
- Those living with OCD might suffer from suicidal thoughts and behavior as they struggle to cope with its effects.
- They might encounter financial troubles if their obsession or compulsion requires them to use spending money they do not have. They might end up getting into debt.
- Living with OCD can cause a lot of stigma, which will in turn make those who suffer from it face judgment. This can lead to feelings of shame, disappointment, and guilt.
We are here to help.
For those living with OCD, it might feel like a never-ending nightmare. The good news is that OCD is treatable. With a combination of treatment methods, it is possible to live a normal life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, please get in touch with our offices. We have trained Christian counselors who are qualified to assess the situation and start a specific treatment course.
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