What Is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the clinical name given to a condition where people have continuous and upsetting obsessions and compulsions; repetitive and upsetting thoughts and behaviors.

  • Do you often feel the need to check and re-check things over and over?
  • Do you have the same thoughts constantly, and repetitiously, leaving you feeling concerned that you may act on them or feeling that you must be a 'bad person'?
  • Do you feel a very strong need to perform certain rituals repeatedly and feel like you have no control over what you are doing?
  • Do you find that after completing these rituals you get no respite to your feelings and thoughts and the rituals start up shortly thereafter?
  • Then you may have OCD

    OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform.

    If you have OCD, you probably recognize that your obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are irrational – but even so, you feel unable to resist them and break free.

    Are involuntary thoughts, images and/or impulses.

    The main distinguishing feature of OCD obsessions is that the thoughts, images (mental) and impulses are involuntary, frequent, automatic, upsetting and difficult to control or stop, as distinct from ordinary thoughts, images, urges and preoccupations.

    Some examples of these obsessions are:

  • Fears about dirt, germs and contamination (being infected.
  • Fears about being and acting violent, having aggressive thoughts or impulses, harming oneself or someone else.
  • Abhorrent and blasphemous thoughts and language and sexual thoughts.
  • Inordinate concern with symmetry, neatness, order and methods of organization.
  • Inability to discard worn or used things - being an incredible 'squirrel'.
  • Fear that things are not safe; electrical appliances, locks, lifts, etc.
  • Of which there are many, are generally carried out in order to reduce the anxiety felt from an obsession. They can be observable, such as hand-washing on mental, such as prayers, counting, special words or phrases..

    Common OCD compulsions include:

  • Excessive hand-washing and cleaning - wearing gloves for everything (a washer).
  • Repeatedly checking on loved ones that they are safe. Ritualistic behavior of putting harmful things (any thing sharp) out of the way (a harmer).
  • Praying excessively or engaging in religious rituals triggered by religious fear (a sinner)
  • Ordering and arranging things so they are 'perfect' (an arranger).
  • Accumulating 'junk', news papers, old clothes, empty food containers (a hoarder).
  • Counting, tapping, repeating phrases, or other senseless things to reduce anxiety. Individuals can also have set rituals for luck which is found in the behavior of many sports persons, actors and gamblers, such as, talisman, socks on backwards, getting dressed in a particular order, particular spot in a dressing room, etc. If these rituals are not able to be performed then the person can become quite incapacitated (a counter or ritualiser).
  • Excessive double-checking of doors, locks, light switches, appliances, windows, lifts (a checker).
  • Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviors cause tremendous distress, take up a lot of time, and interfere with your daily life and relationships.

    Most people have behaviors like these and 'odd' little characteristics that you can see in every day life.

    With OCD, however, they are unable to dismiss these thoughts nor stop these behaviors. People with OCD cannot ignore unpleasant thoughts and pay undue attention to them. This means that the thoughts become more frequent and distressing and, over time, they can affect all areas of a person's life, often their job and their family and social life.

    A person with OCD can, however, appear to function perfectly normally despite being greatly distressed. This often makes it possible for people with OCD to hide their OCD (because of this, OCD has often been called the 'secretive disorder').

    Two important things which professionals look at when assessing and diagnosing OCD is not so much the obsession and compulsions in themselves, but how much distress they cause the sufferer and the impact they have on the person's life and those around them. So it is not the compulsions that are the problem, but how long they take, how often they occur and what happens when they get interrupted or can't be performed or completed.

    OCD Spectrum Disorders comprise:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) - preoccupation with a perceived defect in one's appearance (body).
  • Compulsive Hair Pulling - Trichotillomania (TTL)
  • Compulsive Skin Pulling (CSP) - repetitive picking at one's own skin to the extent of causing bleeding or damage to the skin in order to relieve anxiety or urges.
  • The British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in association with The National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health(NCCMH) provide what I think is the best Clinical Guideline on Interventions in the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder within the NHS.

    You should certainly look at these if you think you suffer from an OCD Spectrum Disorder as these guidelines give a clear indication of the process you will go through, what symptoms you can self treat and which ones you should seek professional help as well as a clear description of the drugs that will be used and why they are successful with OCD and OCD Spectrum Disorders.