What the frig frag is OCD? Isn’t it just someone who likes to wash their hands a lot? Well, actually an obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where someone experiences thoughts and fears that turn into obsessive behaviours. This can impact daily life and relationships with friends and family.
What is obsessive compulsive disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which time people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.– Psychiatry.org
Obsessions are repetitive and unwanted thoughts, images or impulses that cause anxiety and are hard to stop and control. Compulsions are repeated actions or behaviours that you feel that you have to do, even if you know they don’t always make sense. Compulsions are often linked to obsessions and can become rigid or a ritual and can relieve the anxiety temporarily.
Obsessive compulsive disorder generally starts gradually and builds until it interferes with day to day life.
What are the signs of obsessive compulsive disorder?
OCD varies from person to person. The main signs are the obsessions and the compulsions. Most people have both the obsessions and the compulsions but some people experience only one of the two. It is important to note that a lot of people have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviours. This does not mean that you have OCD. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviours take up a lot of time (at least an hour a day) and cause high levels of anxiety. They also interfere with daily life and relationships.
Common signs of obsessive compulsive disorder are:
- worry about dirt and contamination, which leads to excessive washing and avoiding possible dirt
- doubt, leading to checking things have been done properly – like locks being locked and stoves turned off
- unusual or repulsive images in your mind, these may be about religion, sex, violence or suicide and may raise unrealistic fears about your safety or the safety of your family or friends
- the obsessions are more than just excessive worries about real-life problems
- obsessions are severe enough to be time-consuming, that is, they take more than one hour a day, and cause significant distress
- interference with normal daily activities and relationships
- requiring order or things to be a certain way and feeling intense anxiety or stress when objects aren’t orderly.
- following a strict routine and being upset when it gets disrupted
- compulsive counting – sometimes in particular patterns
What causes obsessive compulsive disorder?
Obsessive compulsive disorder usually starts during childhood or teenage years and can fluctuate in severeness over time. As with many other mental illnesses, the cause of obsessive compulsive disorder is unknown but may be linked to parts of the brain responsible for starting and stopping thoughts and actions and responding to new information do not work properly. OCD is also linked genetically.
Obsessive compulsive disorder may be triggered by stresses that increase anxiety. And can worsen during stressful times.
How to manage obsessive compulsive disorder
There are several ways to manage obsessive compulsive disorder. Therapy and medications are proven options and when combined, the success rate is high.
Anti-depressants are often used to treat OCD for stabilising moods and easing the anxiety associated with obsessive compulsive disorder. As with most medications, it is trial and error to get the right medication for you. One that has the least amount of side effects might take a couple of attempts.
Talking therapies can be effective and different types will be offered according to the severity and circumstances you are in. There are many different types of talking therapies including:
- cognitive behaviour therapy
- family therapy
- group therapy
Education is important, the more you know about OCD, the more power you have. There are loads of self-help websites, brochures and information available. I have listed some resources at the bottom of the page.
Exercise is key for many mental health illnesses. Exercise is proven to relieve anxiety, helps refocus your mind when obsessive thoughts and compulsions arise and is a natural way to increase endorphins.
Some complementary therapies may be helpful when treating obsessive compulsive disorder.
Complementary therapies include:
These can be used in conjunction with medications and talking therapies. Make sure that you have a wee ole chit chat with your GP before taking on any of these. You don’t want them to interfere with ya meds.
Where to go for help
Talk to your GP if you think that you or your loved one live with obsessive compulsive disorder. They will be able to help you get on the right track regarding medications, complementary therapy and talking therapies. OCD can be managed if you get the right help. Support groups are a great way to connect with others and not feel like you are alone. Your GP will be able to point you in the right direction for these.
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