Mental health has always been stigmatized in society. Fewer people are aware of how troublesome having a mental condition can be because people fear being ostracized and taken to be fools. But are they fools, or people who need our help? There are various mental disorders that a person may suffer from. Each of these disorders has different attributes and characteristics which make them unique and requires distinct methods of treatment. One of these mental disorders that quite a few people suffer from – whether they are conscious of it or not – is known as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). But what is OCD? How does it affect us in our daily lives?
What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder often referred to as OCD, is a mental health disorder that may affect people of all genders, age, and walks of life. It is a common, chronic and long-lasting mental disorder where the person affected has a series of episodes of obsession and compulsion.
Obsessions are uncontrolled and unwanted and disturbing images that re-occur. These thoughts and urges may come into a person’s mind, causing a great sense of discomfort, stress, and anxiety. Meanwhile, Compulsions are behaviors or actions that the person may engage in to get rid or reduce the obsession. Most often, compulsions become part of a ritual or habit that the person needs to carry out to satisfy his obsession.
A typical example of an OCD behavior is the need for being a perfectionist. Many people, though unaware, practice this.
Due to the love for perfection and keeping things in a well-organized manner, a child may think that studying at a messy table will not help absorb the things required to study (obsession). To satisfy this certain thinking, the child will clean the table, organize everything in it (even up to the point of color-coding pens and papers), and ensure that there is nothing out of the line for him or her to start studying. The act of cleaning and sorting things out is the compulsion.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of OCD In Adults?
People suffering from OCD may have signs and symptoms of obsessions or compulsions, but most of the time, both. Having these symptoms will interfere with how they live their life, affecting certain key areas.
Common obsessive symptoms include thoughts of:
- Fear of contamination
- Fear of harming self or others
- Unwanted and forbidden thoughts on sex and other violent ideas
- Obsession with religion or moral ideology
- Obsession related to perfectionism
- Fear of losing important things
- Strong beliefs in superstitions
The above obsessive thoughts and fears will often result in these common symptoms of compulsion:
- Excessive cleaning and hand washing
- Repeatedly checking self and others, as well as constant checking that nothing bad happened
- Confessing, again and again, to get reassurance that things are normal
- Excessive praying or having religious rituals to satisfy moral and religious duties
- Repeating things, again and again, to ensure that everything is perfectly in order
- Constant checking that things are there and in order
- Acting out on superstitious beliefs in most, if not all things
It is important to note that not all rituals or habits are a sign of obsession and compulsion. There are quite a few people who double check things to ensure that everything is in order. However, a person suffering from OCD will generally:
- Not be able to control his thoughts and actions even if these are already recognized as obsession or compulsion
- Spend at least an hour every day just on thinking about these thoughts and act upon them
- Not feel pleasure in doing the rituals, but can have a temporary relief from the anxiety they had caused
- Experience problems in their daily life because the thoughts and behaviors are too hard to handle and control
Some signs and symptoms of OCD will also include motor and vocal tics. Motor symptoms will be manifested through sudden, repetitive and brief movements like eye blinking, shoulder shrugging, and head jerking. Vocal symptoms, meanwhile, may include repetitive acts of sniffing, grunting or throat clearing sounds.
The symptoms may either lessen or worsen over time depending on how the person handles his OCD tendencies.
What Are The Risk Factors In Developing OCD?
The causes of OCD are not known. However, several risk factors include:
- Genetics. People who have first-degree relatives with OCD are likely to be in danger of developing the disorder themselves. The risk is relatively higher if the first-degree relative has developed his/her OCD while he/she was still a child or in teens.
- Brain Structure And Functioning. People with OCDs and normal people have different brain structures. Studies found that there are differences in the frontal cortex and subcortical structures of those with OCDs.
- Environment. Environment plays a role in OCD development as well. People who have suffered from physical or sexual abuse are at higher risk to develop the disorder compared to those who have not.
- Streptococcal Infection. Children who have suffered from streptococcal infection may develop OCD or OCD symptoms too.
What Are The Treatments And Therapies For OCD?
Treatment for OCD often includes medication, therapy, or both. Though treatment may be a big help to eliminate
OCD practices, there are still those few who experience the symptoms.
- Medication. The serotonin reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to reduce the symptoms brought about by OCD.
- Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavior therapy is an effective tool to get rid of OCD behavior among individuals. There are also studies that show people responding positively to psychotherapy even if they do not respond well to certain medications.
- Other Treatments. Other treatments are in the making, especially for those people who do not respond to both medications and psychotherapies. Currently, other techniques such as deep brain stimulation are being administered.
Essential Read: How To Treat OCD and Prevent Side Effects?