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OCD - Living With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what it's like living with OCD and some signs that you may have OCD - click here.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD affects about 2 percent of the American population every single day.

Sufferers are flooded with intrusive, recurrent thoughts that appear spontaneously and are highly upsetting or disturbing. Obsessions are usually paired with a compulsion or required behavior that soothes their anxious mind.

So, what is it like to live with OCD?

Camouflage of Normal:

Many OCD rituals are subtle and can often be hidden from others. Other people often see them as somewhat normal or a part of the person’s need to be perfect. However, compulsions cross the line when they become repetitive and are used intentionally to soothe anxiety. For instance, washing your hands before and after a meal may be normal, but an OCD sufferer may wash their hands 10 times in a row because they didn’t properly check one of the locks on the front door.

Acting For Relief:

Most of us complete tasks to accomplish a goal. We wash the dishes every night so we have clean dishes for tomorrow, and we make sure that the oven is turned off to avoid any nasty surprises while we are sleeping. OCD sufferers don’t necessarily engage in behaviors to accomplish something. They are often acting to relieve their anxiety or fear of what will happen next. These fears are often unrelated to the task or they are an extreme case of what might happen. For instance, they may say a particular prayer every time they turn off a lamp so that the devil doesn’t appear in the dark room.

Higher Burdens:

As obsessions and compulsions become more entrenched over time, they become harsher and more demanding masters. They may have to engage in compulsions more regularly or increase the scale of their compulsive acts to meet the new requirements for relief. For instance, they may have once calmed themselves by slowly counting to ten, but now they must count to 187 before they feel relief.

Reinforcing Cycle:

Many OCD sufferers have more than one type of obsessive thought or compulsive behavior. They may have to wash their hands five times in a row to avoid a terminal illness, but they also have to recite a poem every two hours to make sure a meteor doesn’t fall on their mother’s house. As they add more and more tasks to soothe their troubled minds, they are often physically exhausted and more vulnerable to new anxious thoughts. The cycle starts over again once those anxious thoughts create new obsessions and new compulsions to relieve the anxiety.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

At some point in the OCD cycle, they may begin to believe that their compulsive behaviors really do work. They believe that their actions are the only thing standing between them and disaster. Since they become far too agitated and anxious if they are denied the ability to perform their compulsive behaviors, they never find out what would happen if they didn’t follow through on their compulsions. As long as they keep up with their tasks, they can be sure that everything and everyone will be OK. Why should they tempt fate by not completing one of their tasks?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have OCD, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.


"Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts" by Christine Purdon, Ph.D. and David Clark, Ph.D.

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn, 2012

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