Do you wash your hands too often? Are you afraid of height, animals, falling sick or deaths? Most of the people will say “yes” to one or more of these questions, which is normal. We do have some eccentric habits and are prone to being afraid of something or the other. But, there is always a thin line between a normal behavioral action or thought and a mental problem with the above mentioned feelings, which is called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Many of us use the acronym OCD to say that we are obsessed with something which is a part of our lives, as simple exaggeration. However, OCD has been constantly misused as an adjective with wrong connotations. In fact, OCD is even used as a replacement for the word “obsession,” which may not be a disorder. Real OCD involves obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors with the potential to wreck the sufferer’s life.
Rebecca Bauman, a teacher, in her article “What’s the Harm in Joking About ‘OCD’?” – published in care2.com – reproduced a quote of Jeff Bell, author of When in Doubt, Make Belief: An OCD-Inspired Approach to Living with Uncertainty, “those of us with OCD derive absolutely no pleasure or true benefit” from the disorder.
This quote signifies the irony: those who find joy and pleasure in cleaning their house at 9 am everyday are not OCD patients, because those in the grip of OCD-derived behavior sense no pleasure in their actions at all. People suffering from OCD can have obsessive thoughts that bring horrible feelings of anxiety, disgust and distress. Compulsions are repetitive rituals that sufferers can’t resist or think will relieve the agony of their obsessions. The trouble is, the compulsions get out of hand and increase the anxiety and distress, rather than reducing it.
Signs and symptoms
According to National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in 100 people suffer from OCD in the United States. More than half of those cases are severe. People battling with OCD may have symptoms of obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school, and personal relationships.
Obsessions are repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety. Some symptoms are: fear of germs or contamination; unwanted thoughts involving sex, religion, and harm; aggressive thoughts towards others or self; having things in a perfect order etc.
Compulsions, on the other hand, are repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought. Some symptoms are: excessive cleaning or hand washing; arranging things in a particular manner; repeatedly checking on things like tap is closed, doors are locked, geyser switch is off etc.
Many people generally tend to double-check things. But OCD sufferers don’t get any pleasure when performing some actions, brood over a particular thought for hours at a stretch and can’t control antagonistic thoughts. Some individuals with OCD also have a tic disorder. Motor tics are sudden, brief movements like eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, repetitive throat clearing etc.
OCD diagnosis and treatment
Sometimes it is very difficult to diagnose OCD, especially in the early states. Symptoms can occur briefly, recur and may ease over time or become persistent. People with OCD might not discuss their mental health with anyone, may try to avoid triggering situations in a process of helping themselves, or may use drugs or related substances to calm themselves. But it is imperative to seek medical help as OCD can interfere in day-to-day functioning of life.
Research has shown that people with OCD have imbalances in serotonin, an important chemical in the brain involved in emotions. But symptoms can often get out of control due to stress. Therefore, treatment typically consists of psychotherapy coupled with medicines. Behavioral therapies and talk therapies can also work on OCD patients.
If you think you or your loved one is showing signs of OCD, seek medical advice at the earliest. Call the California Mental Health Helpline today at 855-559-3923 and speak with a professional about treatment options available in your area.