How many times do we hear someone say, “I’m OCD about being tidy” or “I am obsessive compulsive about getting my spreadsheets finished on time”? In fact, a hotel group recently advertised for someone who was OCD about their work as they wanted a perfectionist.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is much more than being a perfectionist. It is a serious anxiety related condition which is often driven by the sufferer not being able to live with elements of doubt or needing black and white answers to everything in life, which is not realistic.
If someone has OCD they will have frequent, intrusive and obsessional thoughts that can take over their lives. This will be coupled with repetitive impulses and urges.
OCD comes in many forms and, as ever, everyone who has OCD will have different symptoms. In general, they will experience obsessional thoughts, images, impulses, fears and urges that interfere with their day to day living. These thoughts are not wanted but they continue to have them and the thoughts often intrude in all activities which then affect relationships despite the fact the sufferer knows they are irrational.
The only way for someone with OCD to get any relief from the anxiety that these thoughts cause is to complete compulsive behaviours. These again irrationally believe will protect them from harm or someone they love from harm. They often have an anxiety issue which is caused by a feeling of responsibility for other people’s well-being or protecting others from harm – it’s their ‘job’ to make sure others are ok. Sometimes they have no perspective on the threat of harm to others, for example, a person with OCD may feel that the plague is on its way back and it’s their responsibility to stop it getting to their children.
These compulsive behaviours can be physical, a thought process or avoidance and will become ritualistic. If the sufferer cannot complete these behaviours then their anxiety level is heightened and panic or shutdown may take place. The relief felt is only temporary for the person with OCD, so the original obsessive thought is then reinforced and the behaviour has to take place again.
OCD comes in many forms and, as ever, everyone who has OCD will have different symptoms. In general, they will experience obsessional thoughts, images, impulses, fears and urges that interfere with their day to day living.
OCD behaviours fall into several categories and can be seen as checking (the door, the gas etc.), contamination (cleaning, hand washing etc), hoarding (collecting food or clothing) and finally intrusive thoughts (the world is going to end, next door is a spy etc).
One of the most difficult issues for anyone with OCD is the fact that their logical brain remains active all the time when they have the intrusive thoughts and are compelled to take the actions they need to get relief. Most people with OCD know that their thoughts and behaviour are irrational but cannot find a way to stop them. The fear is too great for them to stop as there will be a negative outcome for themselves or a loved one. So, no matter how small the risk or how much someone with OCD knows this, they still have to complete the compulsive action.
OCD often comes with other mental health issues that have anxiety driven behaviours. These include Body Dysmorphic Disorder where someone obsessively worries about the perceived bodily flaws they have and so develop compulsive behaviours to deal with these worries. Compulsive skin picking to relieve anxiety and similarly, Trichotillomania or hair picking, for the same reason. Obsessive Compulsive Personality disorder a personality disorder that is based on anxiety but manifests as a need for order, being unrealistic with standards for self and others, catastrophizing when a mistake is made or everything is not perfect.
The good news is there is help for OCD. Medication can help relieve some of the obsessive thoughts and this is usually an anti-depressant. Therapy will help and one of the best forms for OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as this will help sufferers break down the thoughts, emotions and behaviours that drive the OCD. Then the therapist will help someone with OCD to face up to the thoughts and fears appear and then fade without using the compulsive behaviour.
There are online groups and support groups available for people with OCD. The charity OCD action can provide lists and contact for this issue – http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/
The NHS also runs a community for people with OCD – https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Obsessive-compulsive-disorder/Pages/Community.aspx
If OCD affects your life you do need to get professional help from a therapist or your GP, the sooner you seek this the sooner you can be free from the disturbing thoughts and obsessive behaviours.
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