It's a term that is thrown around loosely in television and movies, in everyday conversations, and articles. But, what is OCD exactly, and what are the signs of OCD? Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental health disorder where an individual has disturbing or unwanted thoughts that cause them considerable anxiety or discomfort. To relieve those feelings, the individual copes by engaging in repetitive behaviors or mental acts, which is a form of compulsion.
It's a cycle of obsessing over the discomforting thoughts and engaging in compulsive behaviors.
OCD can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of OCD?
Most individuals have focused thoughts or preferences that they mistakenly self-diagnose as OCD. Cleaning your home every Saturday or always arranging the dining table the same is not necessarily a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder. When an individual has OCD, they may understand their behaviors are irrational or unnecessary, but they can't stop themselves from following through with them. A person with OCD gets stuck on a thought, and they can't let go.
A typical example is washing your hands. We all wash our hands, and the germaphobe may wash their hands more than most. But, a person with OCD may wash their hands so frequently (or for so long), that they scrub them raw and still can't stop. And that is because the only way to relieve the anxiety is by following through with the repetitive compulsions.
Most people with OCD fall into one of five categories:
Washers: Are afraid of contamination and wash their hands compulsively.
Doubters and sinners: Are afraid of things not being absolutely perfect and the disastrous consequences of imperfection.
Checkers: Repeatedly worry about harm by checking things (oven is off, doors are locked, etc.).
Hoarders: Worry that something terrible will happen if they throw something away, so they store everything.
Counters and arrangers: Are obsessed with order and symmetry. These individuals will often have superstitions or beliefs about specific colors and numbers.
Signs and symptoms of OCD will vary for each individual, depending on what their OCD focuses on. However, some common compulsive behaviors include:
Exessive double checking you've turned off the store, the curling iron, or locked the door.
Thoughts about shouting profanities or acting inappropriately in public
Avoidance of situations that can trigger obsessions for you, such as shaking hands
Intense stress when objects aren't facing a certain way or aren't orderly
Fear of being contaminated by touching objects others have touched
Repeatedly checking in on loved ones to make sure they're safe
Spending large quantities of time washing or cleaning
Accumulating "junk" because you can't throw it away
Counting, repeating certain words, tapping, or doing other senseless things to reduce anxiety.
Williamsville Psychiatry Can Help
It's estimated that 2.2 million Americans suffer from OCD. It can be challenging to understand if your actions are compulsive, and therefore related to OCD, or if they're simply a personality trait. However, if left untreated, obsessive compulsive disorder can negatively impact an individual's life, relationships, and performance at work. Diagnosis from a health professional can be relieving and can allow an individual to seek help for their condition.
Williamsville Psychiatry is a clinic dedicated to providing comprehensive services to children and adults that want to improve their emotional wellness. The team of compassionate and licensed professionals works with patients to tackle mental health conditions and find coping strategies that work for each individual. Contact us today to make an initial appointment.