OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a common mental condition where an individual often feels consumed by recurrent thoughts and/or ritualized momentary behaviours which can be overwhelming. Typically, the human brain is habituated to keep us in the know about anything that could pose a threat to our existence, but in the case of OCD, this system can tend to act up. These unhealthy behaviours thus invariably cause significant amounts of distress. They are usually fueled by superfluous thoughts and constitute two sections: obsessions and compulsions. An individual may experience either one or both and these can drastically disrupt his/her life. They tend to manifest in several ways, with the most common given below:
- OCD intrudes an individuals mind unconsciously appearing as intrusive and repetitive thoughts, imagery, notions and impulses
- These are often rendered irrational and stupid by the individual. However, he/she might still not be able to control their thoughts or behaviours.
- Compulsions are associated with repetitive acts or behaviours and are often looked at as ways to manage obsessions
- The individual is overcome with feelings of compulsion to perform these acts as a way of avoiding anxiety
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- These behaviors are recognised as senseless but taken on as the individual feels like he has to work on certain things till they feel right. It is often associated with marked distress or impairment in functioning.
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- OCDs can create a cycle of guilt that is built around doubting oneself. The individual is overridden with questions regarding the authenticity of his/her own decisions. These individuals tend to become their own worst critic.
- A fear of contamination by contracting germs from places, things, and even people. There is also mental contamination where the individual feels 'dirty' after being looked down upon or mistreated.
- Fears of acquiring disease
- Riddled with thoughts of causing harm or consequences
- Experiences of sexual obsessions marked by forbidden themes such as infidelity, underage sex, sexual abuse or violence, among others.
- Frantically washing and cleaning
- Aggressive scrutiny rituals to reduce distress that can be a result of doubt and being fearful of consequences.
- An uncontrollable urge to count (such as steps, items, and numbers), arrange meticulously and touch constantly. They are preoccupied with exactness and order.
- Mental rituals such as repeating words or phrases. For instance, re-reading a specific passage in a book over and again or saying the same thing again and again. It is usually done to assuage fear.
- OCD does not instil pleasure in the individual carrying out those behaviours. He/she does it under stress and reluctance only to fend off obsessive thoughts. However, they only provide short-term relief. When these rituals arent performed, they increase anxiety.
- The illness ranges widely in severity.
- OCD is not curable. However, the treatment can reduce the intensity of the illness and allow for normal, everyday functioning of the individual.
- A debilitating disorder, it affects the patient profoundly, impacting his/her quality of life
- In cases where there is a lack of empathy and acceptance of the individuals agony, depression is likely to manifest.
Basis the personal situation, OCD can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. Often, effective treatment involves a combination of the two.
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- Psychotherapy - A type of therapy called CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy has been used successfully in treating OCD in both adults and children. It involves retraining routines and thought patterns of the persons here and now issues, deeming these behaviours unnecessary.
- Medications: Antidepressants are often the first resort as they increase serotonin levels which may be on the low in a person with OCD. Psychiatric medications can aid in overpowering the obsessions and compulsions.
Article by Ms. Jayashree Sarda (Mphil),
Consultant Psychologist, CallHealth
Have a Question? Consult Ms. Jayashree Sarda Online.