What is OCD or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder in which an individual may experience thoughts, feelings, images, that are unwanted or intrusive and where the individual feels powerless to get rid of them. These thoughts are known as obsessions that often lead the individual to engage in repetitive behaviors known as compulsions, in order to reduce their anxiety associated with their obsessions. The obsessions are perceived by the individual as time consuming, trivial, serving no constructive purpose and as a waste of energy and time. OCD is called the “doubting disorder” and is a major source of distress. This cycle of obsessions and compulsions interferes significantly with the individual’s everyday functioning and may lead to secondary depression.
The content of OCD obsessions may vary from one person to another and may change over time, it can include: sexual obsessions, religious obsessions, contamination obsessions, aggressive obsessions, hoarding/saving obsessions, obsession with need for symmetry or exactness or other miscellaneous obsessions.
Types of OCD:
OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted thoughts, or intrusive images that cause distress or anxiety.
Examples of Obsession types:
Somatic obsessions: For example, concerns about an illness or disease
Obsessions of contamination such as Fear of being contaminated by touching objects others have touched
Checking obsessions such as doubts that you have not locked the door or turned off electrical appliances
Obsessions related to symmetry such as when objects aren’t systematically ordered or arranged a certain way
Sexual obsessions such as Unpleasant sexual images, perverse of forbidden sexual thoughts
Please add also religious obsessions such as excess concern with right or wrong and a concern with blasphemy
Also add examples of violent obsessions such as harming others or themselves
OCD compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. Compulsions can be covert or overt, meaning they can be either mental compulsions or behavioral compulsions. These repetitive behaviors or mental acts are meant to reduce anxiety related to your obsessions. However, engaging in the compulsions brings no pleasure and may offer only temporary relief from anxiety. Whereas seeking reassurance behavior and avoidance behavior are similarly poor strategies as they can reduce the anxiety temporarily however, they will only reinforce the compulsions over the long run.
Examples of Compulsion types:
Cleaning/Washing compulsions: For example, excessive or ritualized handwashing, showering, bathing, or grooming
Checking compulsions: For example, checking locks, appliances, etc.
Repeating rituals: For example, the need to repeat routine activities, rereading or rewriting
Hoarding/collecting compulsions: For example: collecting unnecessary objects
What causes OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
– Biological predisposition: OCD is partially genetic. Research indicated that half of the cause for OCD is genetic, with the remaining risk being determined by the environment.
– Neurotransmitter’s imbalance: OCD is associated with neurotransmitter imbalances which may explain motor, cognitive, and behavioral hyperactivity.
– Learning: Obsessive fears and compulsive behaviors can be learned from observing other people behavior or are gradually developed over time.
Diagnosing obsessive-compulsive disorder is done though a Psychological evaluation.
This includes discussing your thoughts, feelings, symptoms, and behavior patterns to determine if you have obsessions or compulsive behaviors that interfere with your quality of life. With your permission, this may include talking to your family or friends.
Treatment for OCD
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is the treatment of choice for OCD. As per the research conducted by Dr. Louis Baxter, CBT it has been shown to be is as effective as medications in changing the neurotransmitters in the brain and how the brain functions. Exposure and response prevention (ERP), a component of CBT therapy, involves gradually exposing you to a feared or anxiety provoking situation, and having you learn ways to resist the urge to engage in compulsive rituals.
Depending on the severity of the OCD, medications are used in conjunction with psychotherapy to obtain optimal results for treatment progress and relapse prevention.
So, when is it time to consult a professional? First, consider subscribing to Talk Time to connect with a licensed and experienced therapist if you feel that OCD is interfering with work or that the OCD has become too difficult to control. If you think you have other mental health concerns related to your OCD (such as anxiety – see our article on anxiety for more information), or you think your condition is interfering with your physical health, then a consultation would be recommended. Most importantly, if you encounter suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency treatment immediately. At Talk Time, clinicians can assess and formulate the ideal treatment for your individual needs.
1. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Symptoms and causes, Mayo Clinic, 2020
2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Oxford Medicine Online, 2017