Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder OCDS
What is Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic (long-term) mental health condition characterized by impairing obsessions and often accompanied by avoidance behaviours. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder have obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours and therefore do something repetitive (compulsions) to alleviate the unwanted thoughts.
As human beings, we may have distressing thoughts or repetitive behaviours occasionally that are usually not associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour. But people with OCD have recurring thoughts and rigid intrusive behaviours, which can significantly interfere with their lives.
Different Symptoms of OCDS
People with OCD will normally experience recurring obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. Obsessive thoughts and ongoing worry usually drive sufferers of OCD to do something repetitively to get rid of the thoughts and feelings (compulsions). With an attempt to try to put right the distress and relieve the anxiety, a quick check becomes several checks and then becomes hours of checking and finally endless checking. But instead of going away, the images intensified.
Obsessions are undesirable and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that enter the mind and may be hard to control and cause distressing emotions such as anxiety, concern, fear or disgust.
Common Signs of Obsessive Thoughts:
- Fear that contamination might harm them or a loved one.
- Fear of touching shared objects.
- Intrusive thoughts, images, sounds, talks or music
- Suspicion of being harmed.
- Fear of shaking someone’s hand.
- Fear of using public toilets or shared toilets.
- Fear of touching door handles.
- Fear of using plates, glasses, or cutlery in a public place.
- Fear of using public telephones.
- Fear of visiting hospitals or GP surgeries.
- Fear of visiting someone else’s house.
- Fear of causing harm to loved ones or oneself.
- Religious persons tortured by blasphemous thoughts.
- Disturbing sexual thoughts or sex images.
Compulsions are mental or physical actions that someone with OCD will have the feelings of doing often and repeatedly to relieve the anxiety from obsessions.
Common Signs of Compulsion Thoughts:
- Fear of health conditions and continuously checking the symptoms online.
- Constantly aspiring for approval or reassurance.
- Repeatedly checking that you have your wallet, purse, phone, or keys on you.
- Excessive hand washing or cleaning, showering, brushing teeth and toileting for fear of contamination by individuals or the environment.
- Checking on things continuously for fear of losing or scrapping something important
- Symmetry, ordering and counting because of extreme worry that some things are incomplete.
- Performing self-defence activities such as repeatedly checking locks, switches, appliances, and doors.
- Avoiding certain people, numbers, situations, and places that may trigger obsessions and compulsions.
Facts and Examples of Compulsive Behaviour
Obsessions are the hallmark of OCD. Most people with OCD have both obsessions and compulsions, but in some cases, some only experience obsessive thoughts while others engage in compulsive behaviour without having an idea of it.
People with OCD are more attached to compulsive actions, and the inability to perform the behaviours can cause feelings of distress and fear of bad outcomes.
Numerous people with OCD may suspect that the obsessional thoughts are unrealistic but usually find it difficult to stop the compulsive actions.
Some people may have slight symptoms but not meet the entire diagnosis criteria for OCD.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects thousands of people each year. The symptoms usually start during early adulthood but may begin around puberty for some people.
Women are more likely to be affected than men. Caring and sensitive people are more susceptible to OCD. For instance, a loving mother who has obsessive thoughts of harming her children may try to reduce the risk by stabbing them or putting them in a strange place, such as the microwave or water well. A new mother who is overly sensitive or caring may imagine her child’s neck snapping (obsessive thoughts), and being around knives can make her chest tighten and her breathing get shallow(compulsive behaviour).
A sensitive and caring driver may imagine himself jumping out of a moving car and can’t get those thoughts out of his head (obsessions). Consistent attempts to hide under the chairs or cover the mirrors that are supposed to give him a clear view of the roads are counter-productive and damaging(compulsive behaviour). He tries to reduce the risk in ways that increase and exaggerate his perception of the risk itself.
An individual who values cleanliness may constantly worry about the idea that they are spreading contamination or germs (obsessive thought) and try hard to clean their hands or shower repeatedly (compulsive behaviour) to keep things in control.
In situations such as the aforementioned, solutions become the problems without the sufferer being aware of them, and the more they try to deal with the obsessional ideas, the more distressed they are.
OCD will often make you feel like something else is the problem. An individual with OCD will usually feel dirty, unsure or feels responsible for harm, and it seems like these feelings reflect reality. These feelings and intrusive thoughts arise spontaneously and universally, interrupting the normal flow of thought and forming the basis for vulnerable people to develop obsessive problems.
Causes Of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
The causes of OCD might sometimes be unclear to understand. However, research established that mental disorders are caused by several different factors, such as biological, environmental, psychological, and genetic factors.
Neuroimaging technologies researchers found certain areas of the brain function differently in people with OCD compared with those without OCD. Research also suggests that OCD symptoms may involve communication errors among different parts of the brain, including the orbitofrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex (both in the front of the brain), the striatum, and the thalamus (deeper parts of the brain). Abnormalities in neurotransmitter systems – chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, glutamate (and possibly others) that send messages between brain cells – are also involved in the disorder (beyondocd.org; National Institute of Mental Health)
Some people with OCD have areas of unusually high activity in their brains or low levels of a chemical called serotonin. Cognitive theorists also ascertained that people with OCD have faulty or dysfunctional beliefs about their intrusive thoughts and when these (intrusive thoughts) are misinterpreted can cause the creation of obsessions and compulsions. And when these obsessions become distressing, they tend to engage in compulsive behaviour to resist or neutralize them.
Environmental factors may also contribute to the onset of OCD.
Infection does not cause OCD, but sufferers begin to exhibit the symptoms of OCD after a severe bacterial or viral infection.
Environmental factors such as stress and parenting styles can also cause OCD in someone predisposed to it, and OCD symptoms can worsen in times of severe stress.
Psychological factors are the elements of human personality that determine how we think and our approach to life events.
People with illogical and uncontrollable fear (Phobia) are more likely to develop OCD.
A personality type can determine how we manage life, relationships, feelings and behaviours. People with a strong sense of responsibility for themselves and others tend to stay extremely neat, accurate, methodical and anxious to prevent themselves or loved ones from harm and this practice can put them at risk of developing OCD.
The combination of psychological factors and environmental factors can increase the risk of an individual’s exposure to OCD.
For individuals with high personal standards, life events such as bully, abuse or neglect, childbirth, bereavement, social disadvantage, poverty, debt, racism and experience of discrimination and stigma and
accident can sometimes contribute to the onset of OCD. A long-term physical health condition and social isolation or loneliness can also increase an individual risk of OCD.
Certain mental disorders run in families and having a close relative with OCD could mean you are at a higher risk. In most cases, if a family member has OCD, it does not necessarily mean you will develop one. But the family health history also plays a role in determining your risk of developing OCD.
Gene variants also play a role in increasing an individual risk of developing OCD. It could be passed down from parents to children.
Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
It is hard for sufferers to gain the perception they need to break out of the obsessional worry leading to compulsive behaviours. But treatment can help you keep it under control. The treatment consists of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) alone or in combination with medication such as antidepressants.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Nowadays, CBT is considered the first-line therapy for the treatment of OCD. Nonetheless, what works for patient A may not work effectively for patient B. CBT techniques aim to correct dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs and change compulsive behaviours. CBT also help patients with OCD conclude that the problem is not in the intrusive thoughts but in the meaning they attribute to them, and with the adoption of different management techniques, some of them may be able to control both the intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the most common CBT and effective treatment for OCD. (ERP) treatment sessions will usually expose patients to situations or images that focus on their obsessions or cause anxiety.
At first, the treatment may advance patients’ anxiety, but it also helps them realize that their fearful thoughts are mere thoughts, which may not lead to terrible situations even when they do not perform the routine. Unfortunately, some patients may decide not to participate in CBT because of the initial anxiety it stimulates, but it is the most effective tool known for treating all kinds of OCD.
Medication like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can also be effective for effective treatment of OCD. (SSRIs) is an antidepressant typically used to treat depression and can alter the balance of chemicals in the brain.
The maximum benefit usually takes six to twelve weeks or longer to be fully perceptible. Both CBT and medication have proved effective for treating OCD, but it also depends on patient preference, cognitive abilities and level of insight, the presence or absence of associated psychiatric conditions, and treatment availability.
Research has shown that patients with OCD who receive proper treatment generally experience increased quality of life and improved functioning.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you cope with OCD. Develop the habits of getting sufficiently good quality sleep, always eating healthy food, exercising regularly, and spending time with those that can help overcome all kinds of mental health.
The research found that the onset and maintenance of OCD are associated with maladaptive interpretations of cognitive intrusions (The Obsessive-Compulsive Cognitions Working Group; Beyondocd.org).
The Obsessive-Compulsive Cognitions Working Group identified six types of dysfunctional beliefs associated with OCD:
- Inflated responsibility is a belief that you can cause OCD, in the same way, you are responsible for preventing negative outcomes ;
- Over-importance of thoughts (thought-action fusion) is the belief that having a bad thought is morally equivalent to actually doing it;
- Control of thoughts is the belief that it is both essential and possible to have total control over one’s thoughts;
- Overestimation of threat is a belief that negative events are very probable and that they will be particularly bad;
- Perfectionism is a belief that one cannot make mistakes and that imperfection is unacceptable; and
- Intolerance for uncertainty is a belief that it is essential and possible to know, without a doubt, that negative events won’t happen.
To function adequately with OCD, make treatment your top priority. In addition to getting medical support, you can use SMIF self-help mechanisms associated with OCD.
Gradually, you may overcome Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder with SMIF simple mechanisms:
- Be assured that these intrusive thoughts only exist in your mind. Take charge and consider externalizing the thoughts by journaling or consistently speaking them out loud. This practice will help you take on outsized power to conquer unrealistic thoughts and feelings.
- Visualizing your thoughts can be an effective way to handle them. The techniques often help visualize your thoughts over and over until they feel unrealistic and temporary, increasing your perception of your actions and helping you prevent ritualizing them.
- Mental rehearsal is another common visualization technique. You can conduct mental rehearsal by imagining that you do not need to engage in canter activities to alleviate the thoughts.
- Some people also enjoy creating affirmations as a visualization technique. Affirmations are statements that describe your expected outcome from the perspective that the intrusive thoughts are not true-to-life. Using positive language to create affirmations can help you maintain your attitude and motivation.
- Grounding techniques such as deep breathing, active meditation and body scan meditation can prevent defective thoughts and subsequent harmful events.
- You can also control your thoughts by reframing the intrusive thoughts and approaching them with inquisitiveness and further investigations.
- Both correlational and experimental research has demonstrated that interacting with nature has cognitive benefits for stress reduction and attention restoration. Spending time in nature can act as a balm for our busy brains.
- Recently animal-assisted therapy was introduced as a treatment adjunct for traumatized patients. Animals like dogs are used directly after a traumatic event to reduce stress and anxiety. Spending time with animals can lower anxiety levels, have fewer negative effects, reduce troubled thoughts, and provide distraction and uncomplicated emotional support.
- You must understand that we are all imperfect humans and prone to mistakes. Imperfection is acceptable! Let go of any awful life events that may increase your risk of OCD.
- Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, visualization, and massage can also help ease stress and anxiety.
- Support groups
- You can also use the link below to join our support group, where you will have to find people living with OCD and mental health professionals for information and advice.
How can I Support a Loved One Struggling with OCD?
The involvement of family and friends is a predictor of treatment success. The family, friends, caregivers and loved ones can continuously reassure people with OCD that their intrusive thoughts are not real and help them practice recommended management techniques.
Hirschtritt et al
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)