People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) often lead a limited life that revolves around obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns. There is help available to overcome this condition.
Obsessions can be defined as unhealthy preoccupations with something or someone. They cause persistent, unwanted thoughts that often include themes of potential harm or danger.
Obsessions can cause excessive fear, worry and doubt.
Compulsions are defined as irrational motives for performing trivial or repetitive actions. These actions are often performed in an effort to relieve the worries and doubts caused by obsessions.
OCD sufferers often feel that their compulsive behavior will protect them from the events they fear. Serious distress can result if an OCD sufferer fails to give in to the compulsions.
What are the Signs of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
OCD manifests in many forms and the following are examples of typical behavior patterns:
- Compulsive washing – Showering, hand washing and disinfecting home environments
- Compulsive thoughts – Inappropriate sexual and violent thoughts
- Compulsive ordering – Objects have to be arranged and rearranged until the symmetry is perfect
- Compulsive checking – Locks, electrical appliances etc
- Compulsive hoarding – Collecting useless items of no value such as margarine tubs and receipts
- Compulsive health checks – Fears of ill health that lead to repeated body checks and doctor visits
What Type of Person Suffers from OCD
OCD is not restricted to any particular age group or social or economic group. It often begins in childhood and is found across the world in every culture and on every continent.
Research shows that OCD is probably caused by a combination of genetic make-up and environmental factors.
How is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Diagnosed?
A psychologist may diagnose OCD in a person who experiences recurring obsessions and compulsions that consume vast periods of time and cause significant disruption to daily life and relationships.
These symptoms of OCD may fluctuate according to circumstances but present a definite pattern of obsession and compulsion. The sufferer is often aware of the futility of these behaviors but feels trapped and unable to change them.
What Treatments are Available for OCD
According to authors Bruce M Hyman and Troy Dufrene, OCD is often managed using a combination of medication and therapy:
- Medications include serotonin re-uptake inhibitors that enhance levels of serotonin in the brain. These can reduce the severity of symptoms but seldom cure OCD.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy is a symptom-based treatment that helps the sufferer to break the obsessive-compulsive cycle by learning alternative methods of dealing with worrying thoughts and urges. Combined with medication, this therapy generally produces good results in OCD patients.
OCD can be treated with a good measure of success but the sufferer needs to work with professionals to this end. In most cases, a person can go on to lead a relatively normal life and keep the obsessions and compulsions at bay. The most important factor is often a desire to be free of the restrictions of OCD.
Recommended reading: Coping with OCD, Bruce M Hyman and Troy Dufrene, New Harbinger Publications Inc, 2008.