Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is basically a neurological Anxiety disorder. People suffering from this disorder would generally have uncontrollable, irrational thoughts or obsessions which are repetitive in nature and compulsive behaviors which they cannot compromise with or give up at any point. These repetitive “worry thoughts” are known as OBSESSIONS and they drive people experiencing them to act out time-consuming rituals known as COMPULSIONS. This mental disorder is the fourth common illness in the world.
OCD is like having your worst fears in life, the things that you hate the most and that make you feel absolutely terrified, constantly put in front of you and placed at the front of your mind. This means that there seems to be no escape from them and, whether you like it or not, you are continually made aware of and feel threatened and in danger from them.
Researchers have not been able to figure out exactly what causes OCD. But they believe that it’s the biological and the psychological factors that play an important role in causing this disorder. OCD may also have genetic origins and is caused by an imbalance of Serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a chemical that acts as a messenger in the Brain) between the Orbital Cortex (the front of the Brain) and the Basal Ganglia (deeper structures of the Brain). When the Serotonin levels are imbalanced, the messages that go from one part of the Brain to the other are messed up, resulting in repetitive “worry thoughts” over and over – sort of like a CD skipping! Brain scans taken of people with OCD have actually shown that the Orbital Cortex in OCD patients is overactive.
OCD usually develops between 10 to 12 years of age or between 18 and 23. Some of the symptoms are:
- Persistent, irrational thoughts or ideas or images
- Urgent desire to perform certain action
- Excessive checking
- Being doubtful
These symptoms might get worse at stressful times and they affect their daily life and routine work and often results in emotional imbalance.
- Fear of infections by germs and dirt: People with this obsession would be washing their hands every now and then and would also try to avoid keeping their hands on the door knobs or any place. Similarly, cleaning, brushing, grooming over and over again are some of the other examples.
- Fear of illness or injury: The person might fear of either causing injury to oneself or to other person. For example, physically harming their loved ones or friends or animals or to themselves on impulse.
- Superstitious beliefs: These beliefs form part and parcel of their everyday life and they try to attach some kind of superstitious belief to each action. They might have superstitions about numbers, colors and even arrangements. For example, that certain numbers or colors are “lucky” or “unlucky. Behaviors based on superstitious beliefs, such as fixed bedtime rituals to “ward off” evil or the need to avoid stepping on cracks in the pavement.
- Orderliness and symmetry: An overwhelming need to align objects “just so.” . Even though the things are in order, they would arrange things in a certain way and would keep repeating it again and again. Abnormal concerns about the neatness of one’s personal appearance or environmentThey would always want it to be perfect.
- Fear of making mistakes or being unsure: The fear that they might make some mistake and checking their work again and again is one kind of obsession. They need to be constantly reassured about their work. For example, checking one’s homework repeatedly, counting money, etc.
- Obsessive violent thoughts and actions: This is a kind of obsession where they always think of violent ideas. The fear of having caused some terrible tragedy, such as a fatal fire. Repeating intruding images of violence. Example, car getting crashed, getting shot, etc.
- Sexual obsessions: This might involve intrusive feelings, ideas, thoughts or images of se*ual activities with their loved ones, strangers, and celebrities and also might include homosexual or heterosexual content.
- Nonsensical doubts: Unfounded fears that one has failed to do some routine task, such as paying the mortgage or signing a check.
- Counting or tapping: Counting compulsions, such as counting panes in windows or signs along the road. Before going to office or school, the person would have to count 25 cars or tap a particular place a specific number of times. Another person may not be able to get an odd/even number of anything. For example, when getting a paper towel they need a certain number, i.e. 3 sheets.
- Touching: The need to touch, tap or rub certain objects repeatedly, like touching every single fence post between workplace and home.
- Checking: Repeatedly checking to see if a door is locked or an appliance is turned off. Checking and rechecking for mistakes, such as when balancing a checkbook. Checking associated with bodily obsessions, such as repeatedly checking oneself for signs of a catastrophic disease.
- Dressing: Being always worried about their personality and checking on their tie or shoes and keep doing it until they feel right or trying on 5 dresses everyday before leaving the room.
- Arranging: The need for symmetry and total order in one’s environment. Arranging things in a particular order like the chairs or the office table until they are “just right.”
- Questioning: Asking a particular question over and over again until they are satisfied. Asking over and over for reassurance.
- Cleaning: Excessive, ritualized hand washing, showering, bathing or teeth brushing. The unshakable feeling that household items, such as dishes, are contaminated or cannot be washed enough to be “really clean.”
- Hoarding: People might hoard each and every thing like old newspapers, dolls, old furniture, etc with a fear that they might either lose it or would not get them when they require. The inability to discard anything because it “may be needed sometime.” A fear of losing something or discarding something by mistake.
- Repetitive rituals: Repeating routine activities for no logical reason. Repeating questions over and over. Rereading or rewriting words or phrases. A feeling of dread if some simple act is not performed.
- Other compulsions: Blinking or staring rituals. Mental rituals, such as reciting silent prayers in an effort to make a bad thought go away. Excessive list making.