What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
There are two key components to obsessive compulsive disorder: obsessions and compulsions.
The obsessions are your endless, persistent, constantly looping thoughts. The stereotypical OCD patient is the one who is obsessed with germs. They have thoughts about how dirty things are, or how sick they may get from touching something. This is definitely one type of obsession in OCD, and you may have it. However, you may not relate to this at all. People’s OCD obsessions are many and varied. They include:
- Fears about personal safety including break-ins, mugging, fire, etc.
- Fears around loss
- General feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Repetitive religious thoughts that are upsetting
- Thoughts about harming self or others
- Unwanted thoughts about sexual behavior
The second part of the condition is the compulsions. The compulsions are the behaviors that you do in order to cope with the anxiety that the obsessions cause. In the case of the person obsessed with germs, the stereotypical compulsion is frequent handwashing. Compulsions may include:
- Checking things repeatedly, such as whether or not a door is locked
- Counting items aloud or in your mind
- Hoarding items
- Organizing and re-organizing items to be symmetrical, alphabetical, color-coordinated, or “just so”
- Repeating certain phrases, sentences, or passages
Living with OCD is distressing. You don’t want your mind to keep obsessing. You wish that you could just shut it off and stop engaging in the compulsions. The more you try, the more distressing it can feel. The people around you don’t understand. We understand.