Many of us often say “I have OCD because………..”
This can range from not wanting to step on cracks in the pavement, colour coding clothes in wardrobe or having the car radio on an even number. These on their own do not cause most people a problem, they don’t interfere with their day to day actions, they can get on with their lives.
OCD is a problem when the person’s life changes, it’s debilitating for the sufferer and often not understood by their family and friends who may at first see it as “quirky”.
There are 5 distinct OCD types:
1. Contamination obsession with washing/cleaning. e.g Not using public toilets, continually cleaning the house.
2. Harm obsession with checking compulsion. e.g Checking the oven is off again and again and again.
3. Obsessions without visible compulsions surrounding sexual, religious or aggressive themes. e.g Having unpleasant thoughts of child sex or causing harm to others.
4. Symmetry obsession with ordering, arranging and counting compulsion.
The World Health Organisation has ranked OCD in the top 10 most disabling mental illnesses in terms of loss of earnings and diminished quality of life.
A client told me it was almost like living with an abusive partner, where their OCD commented on whatever they did and always in a negative and almost threatening way.
OCD is a lot more than excessive hand washing and turning light switches on and off. It can cause depression, anxiety, anger, panic attacks and phobias. The intrusive thoughts and obsessional ruminations grow.
The sufferer experiences anxiety and discomfort when their actions and thoughts just don’t feel right. They then perform their rituals or have obsessive thoughts which causes this sensation to reduce, but only for a short while. This is when the OCD expands, the sufferer avoids objects, places and people they feel trigger their OCD, they don’t know if their fears are irrational or not. They doubt themselves and because of this their actions or thoughts are slow so they believe they will remember if they have done it or they repeat many times again because of their doubt, this only reduces their anxiety for a short while and that is exhausting.
Sufferers can have several safety behaviours which include;
Reassurance seeking: Asking others if everything is ok, if what they are doing is ok, and wanting to know that nothing bad has happened. Friends and family fall into reassuring them but unfortunately this is a “false friend” and is feeding the OCD, the sufferer needs to be able to find solutions that reduce the anxiety and discomfort with their own skills, abilities and resources.
Checking and re checking
If you or someone you know is suffering from this then a good first step is to get a diagnosis, your GP can refer you. Remember you are not defined by it, but are taking control to help yourself.
Another step that can be helpful is to have talking therapy, don’t feel you have to rush into this, meet the therapist and find out if you get on and that you feel comfortable in working with them, this is so important. The therapist will not tell you what you need to do, but through questioning the client will come up with their own ideas and solutions to their problems. OCD does not disappear over night but you will see differences quickly which can all be built on. Reducing anxiety and stress is the first part of beating OCD
If you have any questions, please get in touch.
OCD UK, a registered charity also has lots of information.