OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is not as simple as feeling the need to keep your home clean or being overly organized. It can take over a person’s life completely, often leaving them feeling unfulfilled and extremely anxious. Those suffering inhabit feelings of manifestations that go further than just normal cleanliness, worry, or neatness. It becomes an obsession, an everyday occurrence that fully rules a person’s life with the deep feeling of being unable to change or get better.
It should be pointed out that OCD is considered to be an anxiety disorder. The reason why is because those suffering often feel extreme bouts of anxious thoughts, though they manifest differently from the other anxiety disorders. Those with OCD exhibit behavior that attempts to appease these anxious thoughts by taking actions to directly pacify them, like taking a shower to feel clean or organizing a workstation to feel less cluttered. The problem lies when a person feels completely consumed by these behaviors, being unable to live the way that they want to because too much time has gone into combating these anxious behaviors and thoughts.
It is important, though, to fully understand what it means to have and suffer from OCD. This disorder has warranted lots of people to act as if they suffer when in actuality they are simply perfectionists. The difference lies in the anxiety that is attached to this perfectionism. Knowing and understanding this disparity is what can easily distinguish one from the other.
What is OCD?
According to the International OCD Foundation, OCD is defined as “a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions.” There is a distinct difference between obsessions and compulsions, and these look different depending on the person. An example of an obsession could be having a deep fear of getting sick. Now, this is a typical fear for most people, but a person experiencing or diagnosed with OCD might become overly obsessed and all-consumed by this terrible idea to the point where they begin to avoid all scenarios where they could possibly come across germs. An example of a compulsion is continuously washing one’s hands over and over in order to be completely clean. Those suffering seemingly get lost in a loop, terrified of what might happen if they don’t wash their hands enough.
There are actually four major types of OCD, though it should be pointed out that OCD looks different for everyone. This means that just because an obsession or compulsion is not featured on common lists does not mean that it does not constitute as a sign of OCD.
- Contamination: This includes excessive hand-washing, cleaning, and frequent clothing changes.
- Perfection: This includes counting rituals, hoarding, and a need for items to be organized in a specific way.
- Doubt and Harm: Also known as Checking and Rechecking, this includes repeatedly checking things in the home to ensure safety and making sure that everything is symmetrical.
- Forbidden Thoughts: This includes unwanted intrusive thoughts, persistent worry over mundane things, and avoidance of situations that may be triggering.
Once again, having OCD is not the same as wanting things a certain way or having good hygiene. A line is crossed when a person feels absolutely panicked when things go astray, sometimes to the point where major anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts completely take over. These obsessions or compulsions are not just “bad habits” that a person can kick at any given time. In fact, OCD impacts as many as 12 in every 1,000 people or 1.2% of the population. It should also be pointed out that OCD does not discriminate, people of all ages from a myriad of backgrounds can suffer from this disorder. It is even common in children as young as six years old, with 25 percent of cases beginning at age 14.
Those struggling with OCD know that when it is at its worst, it feels almost impossible to get anything else done. How can I do my work when my desk doesn’t look perfectly symmetrical? How can I meet people and make friends when I’m too scared to leave my house? The ramifications of living with OCD can cause a person to become a stranger to themselves and those around them. It is important to catch these symptoms and toxic thoughts as they come, though that can be a hard task to complete. These “intrusive thoughts” are not easily stopped, as they occur even when the person did not ask for them. It can sometimes feel like the incessant thoughts that pop up in one’s head will never stop, even when they cause such palpable responses.
Tips to Combating OCD
Luckily, there are lots of different methods out there to help those who are struggling with OCD. It should always be pointed out that different coping mechanisms and other forms of help differ from person to person. This means that the best way to begin a journey to a more stable piece of mind is find the right fit for you.
- Track Your Thoughts: See where these anxious and constant thoughts are coming from and see what triggers them. This will ultimately help you in preparing yourself to think these intrusive thoughts as well as aid in finding exactly why certain things trigger you. There is an amazing tool called OCD Diary that helps you track your thoughts and visually see how they impact your obsessive actions. Furthermore, simply journaling every day can also help in tracking your thoughts.
- Separate Yourself From Your Intrusive Thoughts: It is important to understand that intrusive thoughts are not your fault and are often out of your control. You should not beat yourself up because of the unconscious thoughts that circulate your head, especially the ones that do not reflect who you are as a person at all. The best thing to do is realize that these thoughts are completely separate from your consciousness and treat them as such. They do not define you.
- Be Mindful: Sometimes, all you need is to spend a little time with your innermost thoughts. This can be scary, but guided meditations and other forms of mindfulness can do wonders to calm your mind and help you snap back to reality. Being mindful also comes into play when taking some time out of your day to do something that brings you joy. This is known as self-care and can look different for everybody. Find what you love to do and give yourself the time to truly enjoy it.
- Getting Help:
Luckily, there are lots of different methods that those struggling with OCD can benefit from immensely. The most beneficial is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It has been proven that over 50 percent of people who complete one of these courses will recover and around 80 percent will respond positively. Another form of therapy that has proven to be extremely beneficial is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), which is a type of CBT. The goal is to expose a person to their triggering thoughts that typically cause obsessions or compulsions, then to talk them through choosing a different route and changing their response to these thoughts.
An everyday alleviation from OCD looks different for everybody, though sometimes a good starting place is to begin taking specific SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) or anti-depressants that can help take the edge off of common anxieties or triggers. These SSRIs are only available through prescription, so talking with a doctor and coming up with a specific treatment plan tailored to you can help you begin your journey to full recovery.
There are also several online resources for those who cannot venture outside of their home, including NOCD, International OCD Foundation, which includes a list of several online OCD support groups to join, and the OCD Challenge. These websites join together to create a safe and affordable treatment plan to aid those whose fears have taken over their lives.
The first step to recovery is always acknowledging that help is needed in order to create a better quality of life. This is no easy feat, though with the realization that therapy and other forms of rehabilitation have considerably helped others who suffer perhaps change is easily within reach.