How often have you heard people saying, “Stop being so OCD about it,” or people just casually saying that they are OCD about their meal times, keeping things in order or just about any aspect of their life? These days, the term OCD is used by most people without an accurate understanding of what the term stands for. This is disheartening to witness because people fail to understand the significance of this condition and the amount of distress this condition causes in a person’s life. In addition to that, this can create a false perception of OCD, making it harder for people to recognize their symptoms and seek help.
What is OCD?
OCD is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurring, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that drive a person to engage in repetitive behaviors. These intrusive and unwanted thoughts are called obsessions, and the repetitive behaviors are called compulsions.
Obsessions can result in distressing emotions like anxiety, fear, disgust, etc., which are very difficult to ignore. Some of the typical obsessions are fear of contamination, disturbing sexual thoughts, fear of losing something, concern with order and symmetry.
Compulsions are performed in response to an obsession and help reduce the distress associated with obsessions. These responses are usually excessive compared to the obsession, and sometimes they can even be unrelated to the obsession. There is a common misconception that if people with OCD understand that their actions are illogical, they will stop the behavior. Most times, the person performing the compulsions knows that their actions have no logical basis, but they are powerless to stop them. Some of the typical compulsions are excessive hand washing or showering, repeatedly checking locks or appliances, constant seeking of approval, and repeated counting of things. However, not all compulsions are readily recognizable. Mental compulsions like counting, praying, chanting, etc., can occur within a person’s mind.
The obsessions and compulsions of a patient with OCD can change over time. The underlying emotions usually remain the same, but the theme can change due to age, culture, or life experience. Another common misconception is that patients diagnosed with OCD can be dangerous. Even though such patients have distressing thoughts and feel shame and guilt, they are not more likely than a “normal” person to commit any crime or hurt another person. Usually, people with mental health conditions are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.
Who does it affect?
There is a misconception that very rich or privileged people are more prone to OCD than others since they have too much time and too few problems to worry about. In fact, OCD can exist across cultures, genders, classes, ages, and ethnicities.
This mental health condition usually begins in childhood or adolescence and can persist throughout life. It shows a lifetime prevalence rate of 1.5% in women and 1% in men. In adulthood, females appear to be more affected, but the opposite is observed in childhood. In most cases, the clinical picture of OCD is complicated with the occurrence of other disorders like depression.
Why does this condition occur?
Some people believe that bad parenting causes OCD. Bad parenting does influence the development of certain disorders, but in the case of OCD, many other factors contribute to its formation.
There is a lot of speculation about the cause of OCD, but the exact reason is not clear. Research has shown that OCD has a strong genetic basis for development. The closer the affected person is to an individual in terms of the family relation, the more substantial the risk will be. Another reason for its development could be trauma in a person’s life. Some research also shows that people with OCD show some differences in brain structure and activity of neurotransmitters. Right now, most people believe that OCD could be caused by a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors.
Can it be treated?
Perhaps, the biggest misconception about OCD is that it cannot be treated and that a person with this condition will not show any improvement. In reality, OCD may not always get better on its own, but it is very treatable. Conclusion: There are many successful psychotherapies that can alleviate the symptoms of OCD. Some of these treatments are cognitive behaviour therapy, exposure and relaxation therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy. It is always better to talk to your psychologist about your symptoms and concerns and then collaboratively make a decision regarding the treatment modality that can be used. If the condition is too severe, then a psychiatrist can prescribe medications until the symptoms are more manageable.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a highly distressing condition for a person. Tring to make jokes about symptoms that may seem funny or minimizing the importance of these symptoms will only add to the stress and distress of that person. OCD is more than just the need to always be neat and clean; there is so much more going on in the mind of a person diagnosed with OCD that fails to be understood by most people.
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