What is OCD?
OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, is a form of anxiety that revolves around unwanted “obsessions” and/or “compulsions.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults”. OCD symptoms can range from mild to severe, even impairing an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis. Obsessions may include unwanted ideas, thoughts or images. Compulsions are generally repetitive acts carried out by the individual in order to try to stop these obsessions. When wondering “Do I have OCD?” keep in mind that a person may have only obsessions or only compulsions and still suffer from this anxiety disorder.
There are a variety of obsessions a person with OCD may suffer from. Some common OCD obsessions include:
- Fear of germs, illness or becoming “contaminated”
- The need for everything to be in “perfect” order or symmetry (sometimes nicknamed being a “neat freak”)
- Unwanted thoughts of something harmful happening to yourself (such as a horrific accident, stealing or not being careful enough)
- Fear of harming another by losing control or having an accident
- Recurrent thoughts of being embarrassed in a public setting
- Recurrent thoughts of a sexual nature (including but not limited to perverse or aggressive thoughts)
- Religious obsessions regarding blasphemy and morality
Compulsions are the rituals that may or may not reduce or temporarily eliminate obsessions. Some common OCD compulsions include:
- Excessive hand washing, cleaning or taking extreme measures to avoid contact with “contaminants” (This may also include excessive bathing and household cleaning)
- Repeating certain actions (including arranging and rearranging particular items, counting and recounting, repetitive body movements and repetitive list-making)
- Frequent checking (such as checking and rechecking to make sure all doors are locked, checking that you have not harmed yourself or others or repetitively checking your body for illness)
- Hoarding items to the point of excessive clutter and finding it difficult to get rid of items “just in case” they may be needed
- Repetitive praying to alleviate religious obsessions
- Re-writing and re-reading items
- Doing actions in multiples (such as clapping hands five times to “feel right” or be “safe”). Some people feel the need for actions to be carried out an even or odd number of times.)
When to Seek Help
Only a medical doctor or psychiatrist can really answer the question, “Do I have OCD?” If you feel that you or a loved one may suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, or your actions are significantly impacting your daily activities, then it would be wise to be evaluated by a professional. Many people are aware that their obsessions and compulsions are there, but some people do not even realize their actions are impairing them. There are many treatment options available including medication and behavioral therapies.