Obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a psychological condition, more specifically an anxiety disorder, where the sufferer is plagued by intrusive, repetitive, and obsessive thoughts, which are relieved by performing compulsive actions. OCD sufferers attempt to relieve the anxiety they are experiencing by engaging in compulsive behavior, which can manifest in a variety of forms and habits. As with many mental conditions, OCD sufferers present somewhere along a scale, and symptoms can range from light to very severe manifestations that make a normal life near impossible.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can go back to childhood, or it can begin as a result of a period of stress. Yet, its origins may not be easily noticeable, because it can start with small changes in behavior that gradually increase in frequency and severity. If you find you are performing repetitive actions that are causing you stress or you are trying to hide your compulsive habits from others because you realize that it would be regarded as abnormal or “weird,” it is perhaps time to seek help. Below are five common types of OCD to watch out for:
People with OCD frequently have a fear of dirt or germs. Their behavior may include repeatedly washing their hands, showering or bathing several times a day, and repeatedly cleaning household items. Sufferers may prefer to avoid shaking hands or hugging other people.
They may go so far as to avoid touching doorknobs or first cleaning surfaces that other people may have touched, such as lift buttons and other public surfaces, for fear of contamination. It is important to bear in mind that OCD is distinctly different from normal habits of cleaning or keeping order. It’s significant that the OCD behavior is time-consuming and causes the sufferer distress.
These rituals involve locks, light switches, and appliances such as stoves and irons. OCD sufferers constantly doubt themselves when it comes to locking doors and switching off appliances, fearing that somehow they might make a mistake. They will repeatedly check whether the door is locked when they leave the house, whether they have locked a vehicle before leaving it, and whether they have switched off kitchen appliances.
People with OCD may feel compelled to perform certain actions a fixed number of times or repeatedly count to a certain number. They may also count actions they are performing, such as counting their steps when they are walking or running, or the number of sips they take when drinking something, or the number of times they perform any other arbitrary action.
Often the counting ritual is related to checking and safety, such as turning the key in a lock a certain number of times to make sure that it’s really locked. OCD sufferers may repeat pin numbers and codes, mentally repeating these in their heads, saying them aloud, or repeatedly writing them down on pieces of paper, because of a fear of forgetting important numbers.
Although the counting may be intrusive and lead to behavior that appears strange to others, these OCD sufferers feel great stress if they try to stop. If they are interrupted during a courting ritual, they may feel compelled to start again from the beginning.
The inability to discard possessions, regardless of their value, is frequently associated with OCD. Items that are typically hoarded are paper products such as mail, newspapers, magazines, and books; plastic products such as plastic bags and containers; and clothes.
As depicted in various popular reality television programs on extreme hoarding, in severe cases sufferers have greatly diminished living spaces because of storing such large quantities of items, sometimes leaving only narrow pathways for themselves to move from room to room.
Hoarders typically live alone: in the case of individuals who live with families, family members tend to keep a check on the OCD sufferers’ hoarding behavior. Especially in the case of females, hoarding is frequently associated with excessive acquisition behavior; that is, the sufferers will intentionally shop for more possessions, even though they already cannot cope with the number of possessions they have.
This disorder is also known as trichotillomania and involves pulling out individual hairs on the head or other places, such as the eyebrows and eyelashes. In severe cases, it can lead to a sufferer having noticeable bald patches on his or her head. The person feels a strong sense of discomfort that is only released by pulling on a hair until it is extracted at the root.
Hair pulling is typically triggered by anxiety or stress and most commonly begins in childhood or adolescence. Women are 10 times more likely to suffer from hair-pulling behavior than men. This is a condition where it is very likely that people “suffer in silence,” because sufferers tend not to report the condition to medical professionals or to seek help for their behavior, even though it causes them low self-esteem and significant distress.
The treatment of OCD depends on the severity of a case, but some medications are effective, and the condition can also be treated employing cognitive behavior therapy, which involves exposure and ritual prevention. Sufferers are exposed to typical anxiety triggers so that they become used to heightened anxiety while being taught to resist engaging in compulsive actions.
Eventually not engaging in obsessive rituals becomes habituated behavior. Extensive research has demonstrated that both medication and cognitive behavior therapy are effective in treating OCD, so if you suspect that you are a sufferer, seek help for this condition from a professional medical practitioner, your doctor, or a psychologist or psychiatrist.