What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by experiences of obsessions and/or compulsions that work together. By definition, an “obsession” is an intrusive thought or impulse that produces feelings of fear, uneasiness, apprehension or worry. On the other hand, “compulsion” is the repetitive response or behavior aimed at reducing the associated obsessive thought or impulse.

A simple example of this OCD behavior is a person with an avid fear of being contaminated by germs or infected by diseases. This person may develop the compulsion to frequently wash his hands every time he touches things to calm his underlying fears of contamination. Other examples of OCD compulsions include excessive cleaning, extreme hoarding, nervous rituals, and aversion to odd numbers.

Controlling these compulsions and obsessive fears is just one of the many steps needed to alleviate OCD. Knowing and battling the real cause of the illness are perhaps the most important things to consider. What’s difficult about this disorder is that most of the patients are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational but seem not able to avoid yielding to the call of fears and impulses.

OCD as a Debilitating Disorder

OCD might seem less serious for someone who has not experienced its frustrating manifestations. However, for those suffering from this disorder, OCD can be extremely debilitating and disturbing. In some reports, patients tend to perform their compulsive acts for hours on end until their obsession-related anxiety has fully ebbed. In such situations, it can be difficult for them to fulfill their familial, social and professional roles. On other cases, these extreme behaviors cause severe physical symptoms. People who obsessively wash their hands, for example, with hot water and antibacterial soap can develop dermatitis or skin burns. Also, it is common for these patients to become socially withdrawn or isolated. Somehow, it is their way of defending themselves from circumstances wherein obsessive thoughts may be triggered.

Other examples of OCD manifestations are, but not limited to:

  • obsessive-compulsive-disorder ocdSomething bad might happen to someone -> Compulsively checking on people
  • Fear of germs or contamination -> Ceaselessly washing hands
  • Being terrified of losing things -> Hoarding random objects
  • Feelings of unworthiness -> Intermittent muttering / praying
  • Worry about doing something wrong -> Repeating trivial actions several times
  • Everything must be in the right place -> Constantly arrange / organize/ clean

People Predisposed to OCD

The lifetime prevalence rates for OCD for the general population are estimated around 2.5%. Generally, no specific gender shows a higher affinity of cases. However, symptoms present themselves more commonly for those around the age of 18 years old. Research also suggested that heredity serves as a great contributor for the development of this disorder. Those who have relatives suffering from OCD or who have at least experienced some occasional obsessive-compulsive behaviors are more likely to inherit the disorder. In addition, one third of all OCD patients are diagnosed to suffer from other conditions like major depression, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia, panic disorder and substance abuse.

References:

  • Obsession/Compulsion Couplings. International OCD Foundation.http://www.ocfoundation.org/O_C.aspx
  • Ball, S. G., Baer, L. & Otto, M. W. (1996). Symptom subtypes of obsessive-compulsive disorder in behavioral treatment studies: A quantitative review. Behavior Research and Therapy, 34(1), pp. 47-51
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