What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD is a disorder where individuals need to perform certain rituals, check things repeatedly, or have certain thoughts repeatedly. Sometimes individuals might have thoughts that enter their minds on occasion or they may check to make sure the doors are locked or the oven is turned off before leaving their house. The difference between regular concern and OCD is that OCD involves behaviors that are so consuming that the individual has little time for anything else. The rituals such as checking or counting are so pervasive that the individual’s daily functioning is affected. The obsessions and the compulsions are uncontrollable and must be acted upon.
OCD begins with obsessive thoughts that do not go away. One does not necessarily want to have these thoughts but they are unable to stop them. These obsessive thoughts can become intrusive and are a distraction to daily activities. Compulsions are the actions that help to alleviate the obsessive thoughts. If a person is worried about germs, they might wash their hands over and over and over again to help alleviate the thought of contamination. This is the cycle of OCD.
Most individuals with OCD have one type of the disorder, which could include hoarding, counting, checking, doubting, and washing. Hoarders have been popularized on television but there is a real problem present with the hoarder. The hoarder may feel that something bad will happen if anything is thrown away. The compulsion of hoarding is having things that one does not use. Individuals who count are obsessed with order and having things lined up symmetrically. Checkers compulsively check to make sure the door is locked or the iron is turned off before leaving the house. There is an association between those who check and needing to be safe with things that can cause them harm (fire, robbery, etc.).
Doubters worry that if everything is not done right, something terrible will happen. Compulsive washers have problems with contamination and germs. Many compulsive washers clean their homes constantly to make sure it is clean or they will wash their hands repeatedly to get rid of germs.
These compulsive behaviors are time consuming and can interfere with social, occupational, family, and physical functioning. Many individuals with OCD might spend hours preparing for work in the morning by taking multiple showers, causing tardiness and absenteeism. Those who clean compulsively might only sleep two to three hours per night, as the obsessive thoughts about germs are overcome with the compulsion to clean the house.
For the individual with OCD, help is available. There are mental health professionals that specialize in treating OCD and can help you on a path to recovery.
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