What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD is a mental disorder used loosely to describe the need for extreme order and having thoughts that force one to act in a certain way. However, it is more than that.

OCD is characterized with intrusive thoughts which are unwanted because they cause obsession and compulsions which when you yield to, could mean committing an act that is hurtful to not just you but also those around you, strangers included. OCD crops when an individual gets caught up in a cycle of both unnerving obsessions and compulsions.

In other words, OCD thoughts refer to the unwanted impulses and thoughts, ideas or mental images. The thoughts are often associated with fears of committing acts considered violent, harmful, sacrilegious or even sexually inappropriate. These thoughts are, in every way, intrusive. Often affected individuals do not have any intentions of acting on the thoughts regardless of how persuasive they are, and fighting these thoughts causes extreme distress.

Individuals with these intrusive thoughts struggle with the obsessions and compulsions to a great deal.

Obsessions – First part of OCD and OCD thoughts

It is a word we use all the time but, speaking in OCD terms, obsessions mean those images, thoughts, and impulses which occur in an endless loop and they feel completely out of control of the affected individual. If you have OCD, you don’t want to have or deal with these disturbing thoughts because they hardly make sense.

Accompanying these obsessions are uncomfortable and intense feelings like repulsion, doubt, fear, and feeling that things have to be done in a way that is ‘considered just right.’ These obsessions are, and they get in the way of an individual’s valuable activities. Note that the debilitating effects of an obsession will determine if an individual gets diagnosed with OCD, the psychological disorder or the personality trait.

Also, to note is that to obsess in an everyday sense could mean listening to one song over and over again, or doing an activity repeatedly but, it’s not the case with OCD.

Common Obsessive and Intrusive Thoughts around OCD

Contamination

Here, an individual is obsessed with getting contamination by bodily fluids like feces and urine, germs and diseases, household chemicals, dirt, and even environmental contaminants like asbestos radiation.

Loss of control

These are obsessive and compulsive thoughts around the fear of acting on an impulse on something like self-harm, acting on impulse to harm others, engaging in horrific or violent acts, blurting out obscenities or even being afraid of stealing things.

Harm

These unwanted thoughts make you afraid of being responsible for something bad and harmful happening, like a burglary or a fire. You could also be afraid of harming others if you are not too careful.

Perfectionist obsessions

In this type of OCD obsession, you are always concerned over the exactness or the evenness of things, the need to remember or know every detail, or even the fear of forgetting or losing important details when throwing things out. This is often associated with hoarding and checking, two of the main types of OCD. You could also be obsessed with not having the ability to decide if you should keep or discard things, as well as the fear of losing things.

Other obsessions in individuals with OCD include having obsessive sexual thoughts or having religious thoughts.

Compulsions – the second part/ the result of the OCD obsessions

Compulsions refer to the second part of OCD. They are the repetitive thoughts and behavior which individuals take on to neutralize or to make the obsessions above go away. While individuals with OCD note that the compulsions are only temporary fixes, they act on them as temporary escapes because they do not have alternate solutions, despite the fact that the compulsions are not only time consuming but also distracting.

Note, however, that not all repetitive behaviors or rituals are compulsions – having a bedtime routine is not a compulsion but a functional and a positive part of normal life. While persons with OCD budge to their compulsions, they do not want to.

Some of the most common compulsive thoughts in OCD include:

  • Washing and cleaning: excessive showering, excessive handwashing, cleaning household items excessively, or doing things to avoid contaminants.
  • Checking: that you did and will not harm others or yourself, checking that you did not make a mistake or that something bad happened.
  • Mental compulsions: These include mental reviews of events to prevent harm to others or oneself, counting while doing something to end in a safe, good or right number, or canceling or undoing things to cancel out the potential effects.
  • Repeating: these compulsions force an individual to rewrite or reread things, repeat activities, repeat body movements, or wanting to repeat things in multiples.
  • Other compulsions would include putting things in a certain order
  • Confessing, asking, or telling for reassurance

What these obsessions and compulsions mean is that you may not be able to control those OCD thoughts and trying to control the thoughts will only worsen things. So, you need to try not to stop the OCD thoughts, as hard as it is. Just don’t them seriously though they are creations of your mind. Your thoughts are not your values or your morals. Instead of pushing away those thoughts, you should:

  • Be easy on yourself and don’t beat yourself up for feeling guilty and fearful
  • Seek professional help and medication or therapy
  • Practice mindfulness techniques

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