Repeatedly checking your keys or wallet before leaving the house? Eating specifically coloured M&M’s or Skittles? Washing your hands over and over again? Arranging things in a specific order? Counting obsessively and trying to fit everything in a pattern?
Well, such habits are not harmful until and unless they don’t get on your nerves and make you lose your calm. If your habits are your compulsions and their incompletion makes you anxious or stressful; it’s a warning signal!
Having too many obsessive thoughts regarding little things or uncontrollable urges to repeat an action constantly probably indicates having OCD. OCD stands for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. According to WHO, 2.2 per cent of the population suffers from OCD, making it one of the most common disorder worldwide. Since having OCD can an overwhelming experience it is important to be aware of it in depth.
Many people who have OCD know that their thoughts and habits don’t make much sense. The hardest part of all is that they might even not enjoy their habits, they just can’t seem to quit. Even if they stop, they feel so bad that they start again. Therefore, OCD in simple terms is about obsessions and compulsions!
These are recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or actions causing distress to the person. A person suffering from OCD will not resolve them rather try to ignore or deny them. Typical obsessions include cleaning, symmetry, organization etc.
Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or mental acts that a person performs in response to an obsession. Most times, these are irrational in nature. Rechecking, worrying constantly, arranging etc are common compulsions.
Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviours does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, such activities take a large part of your day and cause immense distress. Some of the common symptoms are listed below.
- Engaged in obsessive thinking or behaviour. This is uncontrollable and hence causing unnecessary worry.
- Performing compulsions would not cause any pleasure but might give a brief relief from anxiety.
- Experiencing significant problems in their daily life due to these thoughts or behaviours.
- Feeling anxious, depressed or having unstable emotions throughout the day.
- Sudden outbursts or mental breakdowns without any specific reason.
- Feeling overwhelmed on little issues.
In Children & Teens
- Having common obsessions or compulsions such as having grooming habits or constant need to please people.
- Having irrational fears.
- Throwing quite a lot tantrums.
- Misbehaving or being spiteful.
- Having immense anger over insignificant things.
List of common Obsessions and Compulsions
- Fear of germs or contamination. As a result, washing of hands, cleaning or bathing might become a compulsion.
- Unwanted forbidden or taboo thoughts involving sex, religion, or harm.
- Aggressive thoughts towards others or self for irrational reasons.
- Having things symmetrical or in perfect order.
- Compulsive counting
- Achieving perfectionism.
- Overestimation of threats believing that negative events are very probable, thus, they will be particularly bad.
OCD and Mental Health
Commonly, mental health deterioration increases with having OCD. Related conditions with which a person with OCD is likely to suffer include ADHD, Bipolar disorder, ASD, Eating disorders, etc. But, the most common ones are listed below which can severely affect mental health.
- ANXIETY DISORDERS: Anxiety disorders that may occur with OCD include Separation Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder (panic attacks). Excessive fear and anxiety are associated with it.
- MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER: Sudden loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, prolonged sadness, sleep pattern disturbances etc are some symptoms. If these symptoms are present for a long time one must get help. OCD generally triggers depression in people.
An association between childhood trauma and obsessive-compulsive symptoms has been reported in some studies. Loss of a loved one, untreated PTSD and substance abuse are common factors causing OCD. Therefore, experiences, circumstances or traumas leaving psychological scars might be a cause.
Although exact results are still unknown there might be a genetic component to OCD. A person is more likely to develop OCD if a family member has OCD. Approximately 25% of people living with OCD have a close family member with the condition.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder treatment may not result in a cure. But it definitely can assist in bringing symptoms under control so that they don’t rule your daily life. Depending on the severity of OCD, some people may need long-term, ongoing or more intensive treatment. Firstly, knowing the difference between overthinking and OCD is crucial for appropriate diagnosis. Therefore, it is discussed in detail as follows:
Know the difference
Overthinking and obsession are common activities in which almost everyone is engaged at some point. Now, this doesn’t mean you suffer from OCD. There is a difference between general anxiety and OCD. Learn to recognize the difference.
With OCD, your anxiety is fixated and doesn’t jump from one topic to another. It is quite overwhelming when it should not be. Most importantly, recognize the presence of compulsions. In other words, anxiety feels frantic whereas OCD feels like anxiety in an endless loop spiralling your mental and emotional health.
Coping with OCD by yourself
- Learn about OCD and Know the difference: This is quite important to be aware of in its detail. Also, recognize the severity of the disorder.
- Come up with a plan to counter OCD: The next step is acknowledging your triggers of disorder. for ex whether it is fear of germs, making mistake etc. Don’t be in denial them!
- Find healthy outlets of energy: Engaging yourself in recreational activities or hobbies helps.
- Learn relaxation and stress management: Stress management techniques such as meditation, massage, deep breathing, yoga or tai chi may help ease stress and anxiety.
- Join a support group. Reaching out to others facing similar challenges can support and help you.
- Stick with your regular activities. Try not to avoid meaningful activities. Going to work or school should not be halted. Make sure to spend time with your family and friends.
Thus, never beat yourself up for having OCD. Easing away your symptoms may take a long time, so be patient with yourself.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is effective for many people with OCD. ERP, Exposure and response prevention, gradually exposes you to your fears or obsessions and helps you to learn to deal with compulsive urges associated. As a result, you can enjoy a better quality of life once you learn to manage your obsessions and compulsions.
Consulting a Doctor & Medications
Consult a professional if the severity of OCD is quite high. If OCD harms you in any way such as your mental health or disrupts your daily routine way too much, GET HELP! Medication is effective to obtain a sense of relief temporarily. But it should be strictly taken under the supervision of a certified doctor.
OCD doesn’t make you less normal
In conclusion, having OCD is overwhelming for the person. We might not understand what and why they go through, but at all costs, we must never mock or insult them regarding it. People suffering from OCD have no reason to feel less normal in comparison to others. Therefore, this OCD awareness week let’s spread the awareness and help anyone in need.
Edited by: Devansh Dev