15 April 2009

OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorders

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the label put on the inability to avoid persistent thoughts and stop repeated behaviors that are negatively affecting one's quality of life. About 2.2 million people in the US suffer from OCD which is classified as an anxiety disorder. It is often accompanied by one or more other problems such as other anxiety disorders, eating disorders and especially depression. OCD usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood.

Obsessions are thoughts that one can't get out of their head. No matter how hard one tries, the unwelcome thoughts return. Common subjects are germs/contamination, doubting that something was done, orderliness/organization, fear of impulsive behavior (saying something inappropriate/doing something terrible), fear of having terrible thoughts.

One way to cope with the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts is to take action. These actions can get out of control and interfere with life in a negative way. The thought and action are not necessarily connected in logic. Now they are called "compulsions." Here are some examples:
  • If someone is afraid of germs, they might start cleaning and sterilizing things constantly (more than the average person would) as well as refuse to touch anything in a public place or shake hands with anyone. They might also start washing/scrubbing their hands many times a day.
  • A person who doubts might start checking things over and over and over. Ten minutes later, the doubt returns and they have to check again. It's as if they don't remember or trust their memory. Did I lock the door? Did I close the garage door? Is the stove turned off? Did I put something away? Did I turn on/turn off something?
  • People who obsess on orderiless and organization can't stand anything out of place. Everything has a place. No paperclip can sit outside of the official paperclip box. The lamp is not allowed to be an inch out of place on the tabletop. Couch cushions have to be just so. These people might also fixate on a certain type of thing that is out of place everywhere they go. Imagine walking to work and having to pick up every piece of trash (no matter how small) found on the street.
  • Some people with OCD are afraid of their own impulses to say something inappropriate (vulgarity, insults, lies, hoaxes) and so they avoid going places and being with people. It's like being afraid of suddenly being overcome with Tourrette's Syndrome when one doesn't even have it in the first place. Some people are afraid of doing something inappropriate, dangerous or worse. Again, these people isolate themselves to protect others.
  • Fixation on words, phrases or repeated actions are another way to deal with the anxiety. Some people will say certain words or phrases over and over until they "feel better."
  • Hoarding is another OCD compulsion. Suffers might keep something for a reason that seems logical to them but it gets out of control and becomes extreme. Imagine keeping an empty jar because it would be good for storage. Compare that to someone who has accumulated hundreds of jars, none of them used, to be saved for a future, possible use. There are also people who hoard animals to the point of their homes becoming filthy and they are unable to afford to feed and provide proper veterinary care for their pets.
  • Some people become obsessed with negative parts of their body. They scrub or wash or pluck to the point of causing damage to their appearance and/or health.
  • Scrupulosity is an religious expression of OCD that goes way back into history. A person focuses on their religion, or a certain aspect of their religion, way too intensely and loses sight of the big picture. Clergy in many faiths have been helping their members with this problem for hundreds of years. This is not to be confused with being religious and devout. This is a situation of extreme religion when even the leader says there is a problem.
Thoughts and behaviors are usually classified as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders when they take up (waste) more than an hour of day of one's time or interfere negatively with one's life. Sometimes it's so severe that sufferers can't hold down a job, take (almost) forever to get tasks done, and isolate themselves from friends and family. Some sufferers turn to alcohol and drugs to "calm down" and control their OCD. Not the best choice.

Psychiatry and psychology have come a long way in the past 50 years. Now there are ways to deal with the anxiety. OCD can't be cured, but it can be managed and it's impact on life lessened . There are many anxiety medications available. There is also Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help people react and deal with anxiety.


  1. I have pretty much conquered mine but my three year old we are working with. It is strange how someone so young can have certain "rules" to her life. It can be very hard on those around someone with OCD. It is really not a joke as some make it out to be.

  2. Shane - thanks for sharing. It can be very frustrating for the person as well as their loved ones. Glad she's getting help right away. Glad that you were able to work things out for yourself as well. Been there, done that, too! :D

  3. Thanks for sharing the information.

    This is a kind of disorder we can explore in ourselves and can find people (or even me) having it. This helped me to the overall awareness of this type of disorder and I myself can now detect people having this.

  4. Shankha - having OCD defintitely helps us understand and have better compassion for others w/ it.

  5. right .it is strange how someone so young can have certain "rules" to her life. It can be very hard on those around someone with OCD.

    Work From Home India

  6. Happy Holidays! My name is Lisa Hope and I am the assistant editor of Disorder.org. I am contacting you today in hopes of developing a strategic partnership with your website; we have seen your site and think your content is great. Disorder.org is an online gateway for people to find information regarding disorder diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment -- and is continually adding content. More specifically, Disorder.org is starting a campaign to promote awareness about eating disorders of all types. If you're interested in a partnership, please contact me at lisa.disorder.org@gmail.com.

  7. Anonymous5/25/2010

    My boyfriend has OCD and I'm looking up Information so that I can understand him better. Is there advice you have for me??

  8. Anonymous10/04/2010

    Hi all, I have never told no one but think my mum knows i have OCD and deep down i know it too. I dont like to admit it as im embarrest over it. I hate it and its ruining my life. I dont have the type of OCD were i wash my hands over and over, Mine is things such as when i turn the light off i feel the need 2 turn it on and back off over and over till i feel right inside. Il touch things over and over till i think its been touched properly. If i have an itch on my leg i then itch the other to make it equal. And if my mind says "if i dont do that again something terribke may happen" so i do it again and again. I desperatly need help and im to ashamed to go see my doctor xx

  9. OCD is often the negative self-esteem and defeatist attitudes that develop as a result of the symptoms that are the most damaging. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be especially effective in addressing these issues.

    1. Debera4/30/2012

      I agree that cognitive behavioral therapy can be very effective. It was helpful for treating my OCD. What was also helpful was http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/social-work-ceus-ocd. There are a lot of resources that people with OCD can use to deal with their issues.