Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Its Treatment
Obsessive/compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder in which time-consuming obsessions and compulsions significantly interfere with a person’s routine, making it difficult to work or to have a normal social life or relationships. OCD can strike at any age hut often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Afflicting nearly 4 million Americans, OCD is equally common in men and women and knows no geographic, ethnic, or economic boundaries.
Obsessions are constant, intrusive, unwanted thoughts that cause distressing emotions such as anxiety or disgust. People experiencing obsessions recognize that these persistent images are a product of their own mind and are excessive or unreasonable. Yet, these intrusive thoughts cannot be settled by logic or reasoning. For example, some people may constantly fear bringing harm or injury to themselves or others or worry that they could violate social norms by swearing or making sexual advances. Others worry about germs and contamination.
Most people quickly become accustomed to an experience that only appears to be a threat. After repeated exposure to it, they eventually no longer feel threatened by it. People with OCD continue to experience these anxious feelings of threat and do not realize that the “threat” might be minuscule. Over the course of several months, these feelings develop into an obsession that becomes a threat on its own. Often, people with OCD find that repeated behaviors (rituals) decrease their concern, and so they feel compelled to repeat them in order to reduce their discomfort.
Compulsions are urges to do something to lessen discomfort, usually dis-comfort that is caused by an obsession. Rituals are the behaviors in which people engage in response to a compulsion.
In the most severe cases, a constant repetition of rituals may fill the day, making a normal routine impossible. Compounding the anguish these rituals cause is the knowledge that the compulsions are irrational.
Cleaning Provoked by the fear that real or imagined germs, dirt, or chemicals will “contaminate” them, some spend hours and hours washing themselves or cleaning their surroundings.
Repeating To dispel anxiety, some utter a name, phrase, or behavior several times. They know these repetitions won’t actually guard against injury but fear harm will occur if they don’t do it.
Completing People with this compulsion must perform a series of complicated behaviors in an exact order or repeat them again and again until they are done perfectly.
Checking The fear of harming oneself or others by forgetting to lock the door or turn off the gas stove develops into the ritual of checking. Others repeatedly retrace routes they drive to be sure the haven’t hit anyone or caused any accidents.
Being meticulous While neatness and tidiness don’t signify a disorder, some individuals with OCD develop an over whelming concern about where things go on a desk or the appearance of a room.
Avoiding Compulsive avoiders stay away from the cause of their anxiety and anything related to it. One patient became so anxious about chocolate that she avoided not only the candy but also anything else that was brown.
Hoarding One of the less common compulsions, hoarding involves the constant collection of useless items. People with this compulsion may collect anything—scraps, newspapers, clothing, containers, cans, stones, garbage, even excrement—to the point that rooms are filled, doorways are blocked, and health hazards develop.
Slowness Also a rather uncommon compulsion that strikes mostly men, this compulsion causes people to do certain tasks very, very slowly.
Other varieties of compulsions include excessive and ritualized praying, counting, and list making.