Everyone’s heard of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but not many people actually understand it. The term ‘OCD’ gets tossed around all the time, often in a joking manner.
But OCD is a very real, very serious disorder that affects 1 in 40 adults in the United States.
The first step in living with OCD is understanding it. If you suspect that you or a loved one are struggling with OCD, be sure to keep reading.
Join us below as we explore OCD along with some of the more common OCD symptoms.
What Is OCD?
We hear it all the time. Someone needs something done a certain way, so they’re jokingly told they have OCD. What may seem like a harmless rib minimizes a serious disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disorder in which a person has constant, unwavering thoughts and feelings and must engage in a set of behaviors or acknowledge these thoughts to satiate said compulsions.
Unfortunately, that satiation is temporary, and these thought patterns or behavioral drives often pop up sooner rather than later.
Common thought patterns and behavioral needs include:
- A desire to hurt one’s self or another.
- A need to avoid germs and dirt at all costs.
- Recurring negative thought patterns.
- Picking at one’s skin or fingers.
- Repetitive inappropriate thought patterns.
- Avoidance of situations to minimize potential embarrassment.
If you’re already living with a mental health condition, some of these symptoms may sound familiar to you. In fact, you’ve likely noticed some major commonalities between anxiety, depression, and OCD.
While it’s true that OCD shares many signs and symptoms with other mental health conditions, it isn’t an offshoot of anxiety, as many believe.
Now that we’ve spent a bit of time learning more about the details of what OCD is and isn’t, let’s talk more in-depth about some of the most common symptoms of OCD.
The underlying factor tying each symptom of OCD together is a constant sense of dread, not unlike that experienced in those living with an anxiety disorder.
A person living with OCD often feels like if he or she doesn’t meet their needs or adhere to their thought patterns — no matter how negative — something catastrophic will occur.
On a smaller scale, that sense of worry translates to social situations, too. As mentioned before, many people living with OCD have a distinct fear of embarrassment.
As a result, they may abstain from social situations or speaking in a group setting.
Ritualistic behavior is common among those with OCD but is most prominent in those with deep religious beliefs.
On their own, ritualistic behaviors aren’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, they can bring a sense of order to our lives.
Things like going to church or praying, scheduled self-care, or regular visits with friends are healthy activities that can add value to our lives.
Trouble arises when these behaviors become compulsions and start to overwhelm a person.
Take prayer, for instance. A person may believe that if he or she doesn’t pray in an exact way each time, their god will become angry with them. Accordingly, a person may feel the need to engage in the same prayer, word for word.
Obsession with ‘Sets’ of Activities
Not only will a person with OCD feel that they need to complete a certain task in a pre-determined way, but it must be done so a specific number of times.
Those with OCD may have an obsession with certain numbers and patterns.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll continue with the prayer example. Not only does a person with OCD feel the need to pray in a certain way, but they must also do so in multiples.
So while most people would pray once and feel satisfied, a person living with OCD may need to pray six or seven times to get that same sense of calm.
Recurring thought patterns are an unfortunate part of OCD. More often than not, these thoughts are directed inward at the self and tend to be extremely unfair or harsh.
And since they’re recurring, it’s all too easy to become numb to these thoughts. While a person may think, “I look ugly today” once and shrug it off, when repeated, these thoughts can wear the thinker down.
As the saying goes, perception is a reality. Once these thought patterns become established, the thinker then accepts them as fact. Soon, these constant negative thoughts can have a negative impact on a person’s self-esteem.
Given the predisposition for a fear of mistakes as well as constant negative self-talk, a person with OCD will often go above and beyond to make sure things in their life appear perfect.
Should they make a mistake, no matter how slight, they’ll often ruminate on the error for days, weeks, or even years on end?
This sense of perfectionism overlaps with recurring negative self-talk, as well as compulsive cognitions.
There is hope for those living with OCD. While the disorder can be disruptive and frustrating, it’s also quite manageable with some work and lifestyle changes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is the most commonly used form of OCD treatment and aims to help patients become more aware of their thought patterns. This awareness gives the patient power, allowing them to recognize when they’re getting carried away and redirect their thought patterns in a healthier, safer manner.
Certain antidepressants may be effective, as well. Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil are commonly cited medications with a record of success in OCD treatment.
There Is Hope
Living with OCD symptoms can be maddening. It can feel like you’re alone, trapped in your own head.
But if OCD is affecting the lives of yourself or a loved one, know that there is hope. Know that you’ve learned about the disorder, it’s time to do something about it. Life with OCD may be tough at times, but partnering with a professional therapist can help you manage.
Schedule an appointment today and take your life back from OCD.