What is it like to live with OCD?

What comes to your mind when you think of “OCD”?
Cleanliness. Isn’t it?

There is so many myths in common population about OCD. If a person repeatedly cleans and if he/she is OK with that, he/she cannot be diagnosed with OCD. In day today life, we all do activities like cleaning, arranging things in patterns, chanting religious prayers, etc. Major factor that separates OCD sufferers from normal people is their inner experience. Imagine you want to watch a movie. Your parents or friends are forcing you to play cricket. If you don’t play, your parents will give you a severe punishment. You hate cricket. But you have no other option. You have to play. In this scenario, your parents/friends are controlling you. You are lacking control over your life. You are afraid of punishment. That is how an OCD sufferer feels all the time.
A person suffering from OCD experiences various OBSESSIONS and COMPULSIONS. There is one commonality between the conditions Anxiety and OCD. In both the cases, sufferers perceive dangers everywhere. In addition to that, people suffering from OCD develop a sense of responsibility. They feel that they need to control the disaster by doing something.
They seek assurance from others. Because of their indecisiveness, they work slowly in their daily life. That is what impacts sufferers work life. Whenever they feel that things are going out of their control, they get anger. They experience guilt for not taking timely actions. They blame themselves.

What are obsessions?

Obsessions are the UNWANTED reoccurring thoughts. They are the unpleasant thoughts which keep coming to mind again and again.
Do not think about a white elephant…
What happened?
White elephant image flashed in your thoughts.
Isn’t it?
In the same way, sufferer tries to control the thoughts, but fails. Making forceful attempts to control thoughts gives more distress to the person.

Some of the characteristics of obsessive thoughts:

  1. They make sufferer feel scared or guilty.
  2. After thinking for a long time, sufferer feel confused, overwhelmed and exhausted.
  3. Whenever there is uncertainty, sufferer gets anger.
  4. Sufferer become very slow and lack ability to concentrate.
  5. Sufferer lack trust and we often blame self.
  6. Sufferer believes that thinking about an action is equivalent to action.

Obsessive thoughts fall into following categories:

  1. DIRT: Washing and cleaning are the most well-known symptom of OCD.
    Example Thoughts: “I need to clean my house. Otherwise my health will get affected. I might even die because of some severe illness. I need to be more careful”
  2. PATTERNS AND ORDER: Some people get distressed by seeing disorganized things.
    Example Thoughts: “My room is disorganized! There is lot of clutter. I need to keep everything neat. Otherwise my life is going to become very difficult. I cannot do any other work when my room is like a mess!”
  3. SEX: People get obsessive thoughts about sex, sexual orientation and pornography. Among those who get obsessive thoughts about sex, some become sex or porn addicts where as others become guilty.
    Example Thoughts: “I imagined myself having sex with a married man. I am a sinner. What if I am a gay and cannot satisfy my sexual partner?”
  4. RELATIONSHIP: Some people excessively worry about their nature and quality of their relationship. They set high standards and that ruins the quality of relationship.
    Example Thoughts: “Am I really compatible with my partner? He didn’t call me yesterday. That means he is not giving importance to me. I think he didn’t like the gift that I have given him. I need to be more careful while buying a gift next time.”
  5. HARM: Some people get thoughts about intentionally or unintentionally harming others or themselves. Some women experience fear of harming their child during pregnancy or after delivery.
    Example Thoughts: “Am I going to harm my mother? Why am I getting such thoughts? I need to stay away from knife. Better I will hide the knife somewhere.”
  6. RELIGION: Some people obsess about being perfect by following moral, ethical and religious rules.
    Example Thoughts: “I have not chanted the prayer today. That means I offended God. He is going to punish me by sending me to hell.”
  7. SELF: Some people set high standards for themselves. They constantly criticize themselves for not meeting the standards. They get obsessive thoughts about their performance, appearance and nature. Perfectionism is one such well known symptom of obsessive thinking.
    Example Thoughts: “I cannot take the exam because I am afraid that I might not be able to score 100 out of 100. A good student should be able to answer all the questions. I think there is some defect in my nose. That is why I don’t look good.”

What are compulsions?

Compulsions are the REPETITIVE ACTS that are carried out in order to feel relieved. Again, these acts are unpleasant and impulsive in nature. Is there any relation between obsessions and compulsions? Obsessions provoke a person to act. Doing actions gives temporary relief to person from distress.

  • People who get obsessive thoughts about CLEANLINESS clean their room again and again to protect themselves from dirt.
  • People who get obsessive thoughts about SEX chant religious prayer to get rid of sin.
  • People who are obsessed about order arranges all their things in a pattern repeatedly to feel better.
  • People who get obsessive thoughts related to HARM hides their weapons and harm causing things like knife.

Some people also performs rituals like switching on and off light for several times. Repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked, pulling hair, biting nails and picking are some of the commonly observed miscellaneous compulsive acts. Even a tendency to pop pimples is a compulsion.

Causes of OCD

Biological Causes:

Anatomical changes that contribute to OCD is basal ganglia damage.

  • Destruction due to encephalitis
  • Sydenham’s chorea – autoimmune dysfunction
  • Streptococcal infections

Physiological changes that contribute to OCD is serotonin dysfunction

Psychological Causes

  • Inflated responsibility in childhood
  • Rigid code of conduct
  • Perfectionism
  • Overprotective / strict parents
  • Adverse incidents that cause harm to family members

Is it important to get rid of OCD?

People with OCD live the life of a prisoner. They experience emotions like guilt and fear all the time. They keep blaming themselves and as a result, their self-esteems drops down. They lack freedom to make choices. They do actions under pressure. They get distressing thoughts. Apart from that, some people suffering from OCD also actively think about self-harm. That is why it is very important to get treatment for OCD at the right time.

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