I had heard of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but strangely it was only when I read a work of fiction – Barbara Claypole White’s book ‘The Promise Between Us‘, did I begin to understand just how crippling it can be.
Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
If you see people cleaning excessively and compulsively, doing things repetitively, ordering and arranging more than normal people do, chances are they have OCD. What is it exactly? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a common mental health condition in which the person affected has recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations that make them do something repetitively.
In simple words, the person with OCD has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
Even though people with OCD recognizes that what they are often obsessing about is not true and unreasonable, they still can’t stop the urge of obsessing over it and doing compulsive actions because not doing so will cause them distress.
Have you seen the TV series Monk? Adrian Monk has OCD and people often make fun of him for his quirks and unusual behavior. His OCD however is what makes him a good private investigator as he sees the “wrong” in the picture which normal people usually overlook or ignore.
A simple task can take a long time especially cleaning because he can be overly meticulous in checking especially for germs or flaws as a single spot can give him so much stress.
Non-fictional famous people who have OCDs are Nikola Tesla, Charles Darwin, film producer and director Howard Hughes, Harrison Ford, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Alba.
OCD often begins as early as childhood and sometimes during adolescence or early adulthood and can affect both men and women.
19 years is the average age when the symptoms of this disorder are usually manifested.
Causes of OCD
Family history may be a cause of OCD at it may develop if a family member has it. It may also come from trauma in the past like abuse or neglect.
It may also be caused by low levels of serotonin in the brain which is known as natural mood stabilizer. Normal serotonin makes a person happier, calmer and less anxious.
People with OCD often obsess about harm, organizing and making sure things appear in symmetry or exactness, sexual thoughts, and cleanliness. These obsessive thoughts are recurrent and persistent so they try to suppress it or shift their focus on other thoughts or activities.
Psychiatry defines compulsions as repetitive behaviors or mental acts that a person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession.
Put simply, obsession is an unwanted and unpleasant thought, image or urge that you repeatedly think about and can cause feelings of anxiety or disgust.
Compulsion on the other hand is a repetitive behavior or action that you feel you need to do to relieve the unpleasant feelings brought by your obsessive thought.
You may hear of stories of people trying to fix a stranger’s collar or tie, arrange and re-arrange hotel rooms, or reorganizing and cleaning closets repeatedly due to compulsive urges. A normal routine may be impossible as they usually have rituals or repetitive actions during the day.
Needless to say, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can interfere with your life if not controlled or not properly treated.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is usually needed to help the person with OCD face their fears or deal with their thoughts.
If you think you have OCD, see a doctor to be properly diagnosed and to find out if you have specific needs like medication and therapy.
Medication can also help balance the chemicals in your brains that affect your obsessive thoughts.
More importantly, the person with OCD needs the support and understanding of the people around them. They may seem idiosyncratic or strange but they are not mad. They just need to be more focused and control their thoughts and behaviors.