Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions) you feel you must perform. These obsessions and compulsions interfere with daily activities and cause distress. You may try to ignore or stop the obsessions, but that only increases distress and anxiety. People who have OCD usually recognize that their thoughts and behaviours are irrational, but are still unable to resist them.
It’s important to know that there are many options for treatment. Having a strong support system of family and friends, managing stress, and getting enough exercise can be effective in minimizing symptoms. Professional help (psychotherapy with a mental health professional), medication, and family therapy.
What is normal?
It’s normal to sometimes second-guess yourself and go back and check that the stove is off, or to worry that you might be contaminated by germs. There are also a lot of people who would describe themselves as “perfectionists”. But if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours become so consuming they interfere with your daily life.
What are common signs and symptoms?
Obsessive thoughts in OCD often 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, and excessive attention to something considered lucky or unlucky
Compulsive behaviours in OCD often include:
- Excessive double-checking of things like locks 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” like old newspapers or empty food containers
Should I seek help?
If your obsessions and compulsions affect your quality of life, see your doctor or mental health professional for help. Also, since OCD can get worse if you feel powerless and alone, it’s important to build a strong support system. The more connected you are to other people, the less vulnerable you’ll feel.
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