Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Being a fairly well-known condition-and one that is often televised- you may already be familiar with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or an OCD for short.

An OCD is a chronic disorder, in which a person suffers from uncontrollable and repetitive thoughts and/or behaviors. While many of us may have the compulsion to double-check things (repeatedly checking if the car is locked is one of mine), OCD begins where these compulsions become uncontrollable to the point of interfering with one’s life.

Symptoms of OCD, consist of repetitive, intrusive thoughts that cause anxiety (obsessions), and/or repetitive behavior in an attempt to appease these thoughts (compulsions). A common example is mysophobia, a fear of germs and contamination. It starts with obsessions, because of which thoughts are blown out of proportion, causing anxiety. This is why even a small thing such as touching a wall outside, could result in great anxiety for the person. This leads to the person to become compulsive, washing his/her hands repeatedly, because they are unsure if they have been decontaminated yet. The cycle goes on, and it is a vicious cycle indeed.

It would be bad enough with just mysophobia, but obsessions take over many parts of one’s life.

Another example of obsessions is the need for structural symmetry. Seeing something in an asymmetrical structure can also be a huge source of discomfort for a person suffering from OCD.
Being a chronic condition, OCD can lead to a very counterproductive lifestyle. Due to their knack for attention to detail, people with OCD can be very effective in some fields. This knack, relating to the structure of the brain, as opposed to the disorder itself; does not disappear with recovery, thus one shouldn’t hesitate to seek treatment.

OCD can be treated with medication, however psychotherapy has been found to be just as effective at controlling compulsive behavior. An effective treatment plan would contain the combination of two.

A class of drugs known as SRIs (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are used to control the symptoms of OCD. It will take a few months for the effects to become apparent, though this time period is shorter for some people. If these don’t work, then anti-psychotics may also be used, though the effectiveness of anti psychotics in treating OCD is questionable, due to mixed results from research.

Sometimes OCD comes paired with another mental illness, that is why a psychiatrist or a psychologist (preferably both) should be consulted before starting a treatment plan.

Psychotherapy has also been known to be very effective in treating OCD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) a form of therapy focusing on changing behavior by changing the person’s thoughts regarding it, is one such kind of therapy. A type of CBT known as Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) has proven effective, even in people who have not responded well to medication.

Indeed OCD may not be as serious as other mental illnesses, but it does leave one vulnerable. As a species, Adaptability has been our greatest strength- and it can become very hard to adapt for a person with OCD. Adaptability is just as important in today’s concrete jungle, as it was an eon ago, in the natural one. While not being life-threatening, OCD can seriously deteriorate the quality of one’s life. In order to be better able to respond and function in the environment, it is important to seek therapy, as it gives us a chance to take control of our lives.

Thus, if you or someone you know, may have OCD. It is recommended to consult a professional.