Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations (obsessions) and engage in behaviors or mental acts in response to these thoughts or obsessions.Often the person carries out the behaviors to reduce the impact or get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only brings temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. A person’s level of OCD can be anywhere from mild to severe, but if left untreated, it can limit his or her ability to function at work or school or even to lead a comfortable existence at home or around others.
Just because you have obsessive thoughts or perform compulsive behaviors does NOT mean that you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, these thoughts and behaviors cause tremendous distress, take up a lot of time (at least one hour per day), and interfere with your daily life and relationships.
Most people with obsessive-compulsive disorder have both obsessions and compulsions, but some people experience just one or the other.
Common obsessive thoughts in OCD include
- Fear of being contaminated by germs or dirt or contaminating others
- Fear of losing control and harming yourself or others
- Intrusive sexually explicit or violent thoughts and images
- Excessive focus on religious or moral ideas
- Fear of losing or not having things you might need
- Order and symmetry: the idea that everything must line up “just right”
- Superstitions; excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky
Common compulsive behaviors in OCD include:
- Excessive double-checking of things, such as locks, appliances, and switches
- Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they’re safe
- Counting, tapping, repeating certain words, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety
- Spending a lot of time washing or cleaning
- Ordering or arranging things “just so”
- Praying excessively or engaging in rituals triggered by religious fear
- Accumulating “junk” such as old newspapers or empty food containers.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is diagnosed when the Obsessions and Compulsions:
- Consume excessive amounts of time (approximately an hour or more).
- Cause significant distress and anguish.
- Interfere with daily functioning at home, school, or work; or interfere with social activities/ family life/relationships.
Types of OCD
Checking – the need to check is the compulsion, the obsessive fear might be to prevent damage, fire, leaks or harm. Common checking includes:
- Memory (checking ones memory to ‘make sure’ an intrusive thought is just a thought and didn’t really happen).
- Gas or electric stove knobs (fear of causing explosion and therefore the house to burn down).
- Water taps (fear of flooding property and damaging irreplaceable treasured items).
- Door locks (fear of allowing a burglar to break in and steal or cause harm).
- House alarm (fear of allowing a burglar to break in and steal or cause harm).
- Windows (fear of allowing a burglar to break in and steal or cause harm).
- Appliances (fear of causing the house to burn down).
- House lights (fear of causing the house to burn down).
- Car doors (fear of car being stolen).
- Re-reading postal letters and greetings cards before sealing / mailing (fear of writing something inappropriate or offensive).
- Candles (fear of causing the house to burn down).
- Route after driving (fear of causing an accident).
- Wallet or purse (fear of losing important bank cards or documents).
- Illnesses and symptoms online (fear of developing an illness, constant checking of symptoms).
- People – Calling and Texting (fear of harm happening to a loved one).
- Reassurance (fear of saying or doing something to offend or upset a loved one).
- Re-reading words or lines in a book over and over again (fear of not quite taking in the information or missing something important from the text).
- Schizophrenia Symptoms – (fear that OCD is a precursor to Schizophrenia which will cause them to lose control).
The checking is often carried out multiple times, sometimes hundreds of times, and for hours on end, resulting in the person being late for work, dates and other appointments. This can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to hold down jobs and relationships. The checking can also cause damage to objects that are constantly being checked.
Contamination – the need to clean and wash is the compulsion, the obsessive fear is that something is contaminated and/or may cause illness, and ultimately death, to a loved one or oneself.
- Using public toilets (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Coming into contact with chemicals (fear of contamination).
- Shaking hands (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Touching door knobs/handles (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Using public telephones (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Waiting in a GP’s surgery (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Visiting hospitals (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Eating in a cafe/restaurant (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Washing clothes in a launderette (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Touching bannisters on staircases (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Touching poles (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Being in a crowd (fear of contracting germs from other people).
- Avoiding red objects and stains (fear of contracting HIV/AIDS from blood like stains).
- Clothes (having to shake clothes to remove dead skin cells, fear of contamination).
- Excessive Tooth Brushing (fear of leaving minute remains of mouth disease).
- Cleaning of Kitchen and Bathroom (fear of germs being spread to family).