Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
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What is OCD?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental disorder that manifests as obsessive thoughts that cause distress in the sufferer, along with compulsions to perform certain behaviors in an effort to lessen the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts. Although obsessions and compulsions are common experiences even for people who don’t have OCD, the thoughts and behaviors in diagnosed cases of OCD rise to a level of severity that is disruptive to the daily life of the sufferer.
People with OCD may experience either obsessions or compulsions, or they may experience both at the same time in an irresistible cycle of behaviors.
The obsessive thoughts experienced by OCD sufferers are more than mere repetitive ideas or notions. They may be full-fledged thoughts, or they may be relatively simple mental images or urges that occur over and over again, and sufferers feel as if they have no control over when the obsessions begin or end.
Obsessions often bring negative feelings with them, including fear, doubt, or disgust, and they may be accompanied by the feeling that only doing things a certain way will make the negative feelings go away. OCD sufferers very often understand that their obsessive thoughts are not rational, but they remain powerless to stop the obsessions. As a result, the obsessions and their effects become disruptive to the person’s daily functioning.
Common Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder obsessions include:
- Fear of contamination by germs, chemicals, dirt, or other contaminants
- Unwanted sexual thoughts, often about taboo or prohibited sexual behavior
- Fear of doing something harmful to yourself or others, or being responsible for harm coming to someone
- Obsession with doing things perfectly, or a fear of being imperfect
- Obsession with following religious or moral rules
The compulsions experienced by people with OCD, again, differ from the common ritualistic or habitual behaviors that most people engage in. For OCD sufferers, compulsions are behaviors that provide some relief from the negative feelings brought about from obsessions, and the sufferer indulges in the compulsion to feel better, if only for a short time. Sometimes compulsive behaviors are rituals meant to avoid the situation that produces the obsession in the first place.
As is the case with obsessions, OCD sufferers are typically aware that their compulsive behaviors are not rational, but because they produce some relief from the anxiety produced from obsessions, the compulsions are tolerated. The person with OCD likely would prefer not to be driven by the compulsion, but there seems to be no other way out.
Common Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder compulsions include:
- Excessive cleanliness, including repeated handwashing, bathing, or housecleaning
- Repetitive checking to be sure that you haven’t harmed yourself or others
- Repeating or redoing actions over and over, or repeating actions (such as tapping or touching an object) a particular number of times
- Mentally constructing thoughts in a particular way (such as counting while doing something) as a ritual that will prevent harm from coming to anyone
- Arranging or ordering objects obsessively
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