Right from the start of the day, I’d be driven by routines, having to brush my teeth a specific number of times, comb my hair a specific number of times, and so on. I would have paranoid fears about losing my job or someone in my life if I failed to follow these routines, even though I knew they weren’t rational. These rituals have begun to eat into my time, severely restricting my ability to participate in activities that are really important to me.” – OCD patient
These experiences, thoughts, and feelings are typical of anyone afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, and as you learn more about the condition, you begin to realize how severely it can impair quality of life. While popular media has helped raise awareness about the existence of OCD, it has done little to highlight the reality of living with OCD, instead fueling myths about the condition.
What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is the 10th most handicapping condition because of lost income and decreased quality of life. OCD is a severe anxiety disorder in which the affected person has intrusive ideas or thoughts that surface repeatedly, causing discomfort, while the person also feels a compulsion to perform certain behaviors with ritual-like repetition. Keep in mind that this behavior is compulsive and the individual doesn’t really have a choice, as suppressing the behavior causes extreme discomfort. The condition describes both obsessive thoughts and behaviors.
What Is It Like To Live With OCD?
“It is strange and frustrating, but despite the fact that I am so rational, rituals seem to control every aspect of my life. From having to have perfect symmetry in everything to needing to hum a particular tune each time I cross the road (to avoid being hit by a bus), and needing to sleep in a specific position, so that the house will not be burgled, I seem to have no real control over who I am and what I do.” – OCD patient
These experiences are typical of many people afflicted with OCD, with ritualized behavior being driven by compulsion and guilt. While some patients feel a compulsion to repeatedly sanitize their hands for fear of contagion, others may obsess over the possibility of a loved one dying or their house being burgled and will therefore adopt rituals like repeatedly relocking doors.
What loved ones and care givers need to realize is that the obsessive ritualistic behavior is not performed for pleasure, but for temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts. Failing to follow these rituals can cause intense discomfort and feelings of guilt, to the extent that some individuals may even suffer panic attacks.
While healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house, there is an important difference. This being that people with OCD perform such rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is pointless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
How You Can Overcome OCD?
Like depression, anxiety, and almost any other form of mental illness, OCD is not a condition that you have to endure and live with. Mental health experts primarily use cognitive behavioral therapy to reshape behavior and improve patients’ quality of life. Patients afflicted with OCD respond well to treatment that includes the use of certain medications and/or exposure-based psychotherapy, in which people face situations that cause fear or anxiety.
This article has been written by Dr. Vishal A. Sawant, a reputed psychiatrist with over 18 yrs experience and co-founder of Juno Clinic. If are you facing any symptoms metioned a you can know more from him here.
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