Do you have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? | Symptoms | Treatments
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or OCD, in short, is a mental health disorder linked to excessive thinking and repetitive activities, disrupting the life process.
In fact, the brain structure changes for the patients suffering from OCD. A Neuroimaging study showed that the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulated cortices of the brain showed a significant change between an OCD patient and a normal person.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a common mental health disorder across the world ranking among the top 20 list of mental health ailments. WHO study estimates about 1.4% of the world population suffer from OCD, among which 1.3% are males and 1.4% are females. Though the numbers are low, it is commonly seen that people casually put the ‘OCD’ tag on themselves or others around them- more than necessary.
We label cleanliness freaks or highly distressed people as those suffering from OCD. However, we need to draw a line here. OCD is coined as a mental disorder because it affects the patient’s life severely. And it is not to be used carelessly.
Let say, a person is able to ignore or mitigate their OCD traits and carry on with their life activities. Then the person does not fall under OCD. However, if the same person is incapable of managing her day to day life because of the OCD symptoms, she will be diagnosed as a sufferer from OCD.
In short, everyone has some degree of OCD symptoms, but we only need to put the tag if our life is in jeopardy due to the disorder. And, is diagnosed with the same by a licensed doctor.
Obsessive thinking creates a nonstop chain of thoughts in the patient’s mind that is mostly illogical and irrational. Such thoughts include worrying and doubting about something or someone- keeping their mind occupied for no reason.
It seems like the thoughts that the mind plays have no escape route- as if playing a song in a loop. And the patient is unable to limit his thinking about those thoughts.
Some examples of obsessive thinking include:
- Fear of losing control over something
- Afraid of losing loved ones
- Fear of own death or contracting illnesses like cancer
- Contamination phobia from germs
- Fear of someone harming
- Doubt about completing daily activities like locking the front door
- Doubt about significant other’s fidelity
And the list goes on.
Now, it is significant to understand that these thoughts are very common to all of us. They seem to be dominant from time to time. But what distinguishes normal people from OCD patients is that- normal people can still function normally with these thoughts. It does not affect them as critically as it does to an OCD patient.
Generally followed after Obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviors are the actions done repetitively for a good number of times to ease the mental pressure. On the other hand, this develops into a habit of keep doing certain activities (to soothe the mind).
The strong desire for these compulsive behavior conditions the mind for more obsessive thinking- leading to more compulsive actions and stronger desire. Thus the vicious cycle gets strengthened each time.
The feelings to do these activities are so draconian, one may think of going mad if they try to ignore the urge. It is like your mind is rewarding you for the tasks you do. So, you do more for the rewards the mind gives you later. And, this becomes a never-ending game.
Some examples of compulsive behaviors are-
- Washing hands after every 10 mins
- Cleaning every nook and corner of the house every hour
- Checking your spouse’s mobile phones every few minutes
- Touching something or someone constantly
- Keeps mumbling a phrase or sentence repeatedly
To cut a long story short, obsessive thinking can lead to compulsive behavior most of the time. So, these repetitive actions soothe the patient’s mind momentarily. But again the thoughts begin to form and this cycle continues. And when it blows out of proportion and your daily life activities are hampered, it is better to visit a psychiatrist for consultation.
Stress has a major role to play in aggravating the OCD symptoms. Due to the obsessive thinking-compulsive behavior loop, stress starts building up and one may only see a downward journey from there.
A person with a history of sexual abuse or other traumatic events in the past can create PTSD- which can also add up to obsessive thinking and other mental health problems.
Low levels of serotonin levels in the brain’s chemical composition can also cause OCD among other mental health disorders like depression.
Level of OCD
The patients will be declared to suffer from OCD only if they spend more than 1-2 hours a day in excessive thinking and behaving in a weird way. Higher the amount of time they suffer from it, the higher is the critical level of the situation.
If people experiencing OCD try to ignore their thoughts and compulsively activities, they can become anxious or get panic attacks. As a result, this can devastate a person causing more stress and depression.
Young adults and teenagers are most prone to the disorder. Though the disorder is common between both genders, it is mostly seen among females in the older age group. However, more boys tend to suffer from OCD in childhood years.
Dominant thoughts and actions
A person with the obsessive-compulsive disorder has fear and doubt as to their dominant emotions. For that reason, they would feel almost confident about something bad about to happen in their life. And, because of these obsessive thoughts, they would be unable to reason with their intellectual brain.
The most dominant compulsive behaviors seen among the OCD patients are cleaning and investigating. Indeed, washing clothes or cleaning a house or checking the partner’s mobile phone frequently can be a few signs of compulsive behavior.
Alcohol or drug consumption
Many OCD patients try to drug themselves to stop the erratic behaviors hoping that it would sever the chain. But, alcohol and drug consumption only make the matter worse.
Therapy is an effective solution for OCD. Likewise, the disorder disappears with multiple therapy sessions. However, different patients have an appetite for different therapy systems.
The most common therapies that help with OCD are-
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is one such therapy that is very effective in treating OCD. CBT deals with a scientific approach to behavior and thought patterns. The patients require multiple follow-ups but the results are amazing.
Group therapies work wonders for OCD too. The patient comes in contact with other OCD sufferers. As a result, they get a sense of belonging and try to fight out their inner demons.
The ones who suffer the most from OCD apart from the patient himself are the family members. So, they require as much support and guidance to handle the situation as the patient.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder patients mostly get recovered with therapy. They do not require medications compulsorily. However, in serious cases, where the patient suffers from severe depression and anxiety, the psychiatrist may prescribe medicines along with therapy.
Antidepressants and SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) are popular choices for treatments. Hence, consult a psychiatrist or a psychologist for more help if you are suffering from OCD.
Surgery for OCD is rare. However, if medications don’t work, psychiatric surgeries may be necessary. Additionally, severe patients would undergo surgeries like deep-brain stimulation or transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Concluding Thoughts On OCD
I would recommend to those suffering from the obsessive-compulsive disorder with mild symptoms- You can start jotting down your thoughts on a diary- a type of brain-dumping. And after a few hours, go through the diary and try to understand the root cause of the issue. This can alleviate the anxiety and stress caused by OCD.
Finally, OCD has the potential to become severe with time. So, it is vital that the patient suffering from the mentioned symptoms visit a doctor and treat it immediately.
Breaking the chain of obsessive thinking and compulsively behaving is the key to getting rid of OCD.