When Obsession Becomes Compulsion
Life with OCD.
You’re ready to turn in for the night, so you do your nightly routine. You walk through the house, make sure the lights are off, the doors are locked, and the alarm is on. All of these steps are completely normal ways to ensure your house is in order and your family is safe. But what if you were so obsessed with the fear of intruders that you checked the doors multiple times before bed even though you knew they were already locked? Or what if you flipped the door lock from locked to unlocked to locked to unlocked over and over, just to make sure the door really is locked?
A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) performs repetitive behaviors like this in an effort to control distressing thoughts, feelings, or images, but the opposite ends up happening. In the end, the obsessions take control of the OCD person. Unfortunately, it is hard for an OCD sufferer to accept this, as the rituals and behaviors temporarily relieve his or her fears and anxiety, reinforcing the action.
A mental illness that traps a person in a never-ending pattern of thoughts and behaviors to the point of interfering with his or her quality of life, OCD is a serious condition that requires serious medical care.
Common Obsessions and Compulsions
The fear of intruders and checking locks is just one example of obsessions and compulsions. Other common obsessions include the fear or dirt or germs, the fear of hurting someone else, the fear of being embarrassed or making a mistake, the fear of thinking thoughts that go against one’s religion, an extreme lack of self-confidence and the need for reassurance, and the need for things to be in order or symmetrical.
These obsessions lead to compulsive behaviors such as frequent bathing or hand washing, never being willing to shake hands or touch doorknobs, saying words or prayers over and over, doing the same task multiple times, eating foods or getting dressed in the same order every time, arranging and rearranging items in specific ways, or hoarding junk.
What Makes a Person OC?
The cause of obsessive-compulsive disorder seems to be a combination of environmental and biological factors. Enduring extreme stress such as abuse, illness, death of a friend or family member, moving, or relationship, work, or school problems may trigger or worsen symptoms of OCD.
Biologically, OCD seems to run in families. Other possible causes include miscommunication in the brain between the areas that control judgment with the areas responsible for body movements. Studies have also discovered a link between OCD and an untreated, recurrent infection from Streptococcus bacteria.
Who’s at Risk?
Symptoms of OCD typically appear during childhood, the teenage years, or young adulthood, with most people with OCD being diagnosed before the age of 20. Both men and women and people from all races and socioeconomic standings are equally susceptible to this disorder.
People with OCD often suffer from other conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders, but it doesn’t necessarily couple itself with other conditions.
Help for the Helpless
You can’t overcome this disorder on your own and it won’t someday go away by itself. But the good news is those with obsessive-compulsive disorder can live a normal life through a combination of ongoing medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Medications include antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions enable patients to confront their fears and obsessions without engaging in the compulsive behaviors. Early diagnosis provides greater chances of successful treatment, so see your doctor if you suspect OCD.
In extreme situations and as a last resort option, electroconvulsive therapy
(induced seizures) or psychosurgery involving deep brain stimulation may be used to treat OCD.
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