The term “I am/you are so OCD” has become a part of everyday language and vocabulary and it seems to be something that I for one hear regularly.
We are currently in OCD awareness week, (October 8-14th, 2017) and I thought it appropriate to share some information on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a topic I am passionate about and something with which I work with on daily basis at my practice. I am of the opinion that OCD awareness week is an extremely powerful as well as needed initiative and am delighted to see that it continues.
The term “I am/you are so OCD” has become a part of everyday language and vocabulary and it seems to be something that I for one hear regularly. The term often depicting someone who likes things to be “neat”, “clean”, and/or “in order”. However, despite this term being thrown around, much of the population do not know what OCD really is and how severely debilitating it can be for an individual who has a diagnosis of OCD.
Yes, many individual’s diagnosed with OCD may have intrusive thoughts around cleanliness and contamination and therefore may clean/wash themselves and or their possessions. These individuals may also have intrusive thoughts about orderliness and may therefore keep certain possessions in a particular order (e.g. keeping pens lined up in a perfectly straight line). But this is truly only rubbing the surface of OCD and for many individuals their OCD symptoms expand beyond just wanting to be “neat”, “clean”, and/or have their possessions “in order”. Often individuals portraying symptoms of OCD experience severe levels of anxiety, begin to spend hours a day on their intrusive thoughts and rituals, and their overall functioning whether that is their relationships, studies, and or work begins to decline.
I recently read an article in Psych Central on someone suffering from OCD (http://blogs.psychcentral.com/overcoming-ocd/2016/10/ocd-awareness-week-october-9-15-2016/?utm_source=Psych+Central+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=bbe5dc5a60-RSS_DAILY_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c648d0eafd-bbe5dc5a60-29329759). This article depicts the disabling nature of the disorder as well as the complexities of OCD and how it can be an extremely complicated disorder. The article shows that OCD can take on multiple forms in one individual. This is not always the case with OCD but it does happen extremely often that an individual suffers from many different variations of OCD. The article shows how this individual had obsessions and compulsions around orderliness (which may not be orderliness in a traditional sense but rather what is seen as orderly in the OCD sufferers head), contamination and cleanliness (not only just being clean but also extreme fears of picking up life threatening illnesses and/or diseases), harm OCD (which may be fears of harming others around you, but these thoughts go against your beliefs about yourself as someone who would never commit such an act, causing significant distress), as well as obsessions and compulsions around religion and scrupulosity (fear of going against God and if this is not rectified then possibly being punished by God).
The above can sound quite delusional to someone who has not experienced OCD. However it is important to note that an individual suffering from OCD may have intrusive thoughts/images/urges that are particularly strange and they may still carry out the compulsions in order to bring down the anxiety and neutralize the obsessions but the individual does have insight into the absurdity/illogicality of their obsessions and compulsions. Despite this insight into the absurdity/illogicality of their obsessions the OCD sufferer still carries out compulsions due to high levels of debilitating anxiety that supplement the obsessions as well as an accompanying feeling of doubt that even if there is a minute chance that the feared event will occur they cannot take that chance and be responsible for that feared event occurring.
OCD awareness week is important as it helps to spread knowledge about OCD, as it is often seen that it is not only the general population that do not know a significant amount about OCD but also individual’s displaying symptoms of OCD who tend to be unaware of what they may be going through. It is common that an individual suffering from OCD often takes on average eight years to begin to seek treatment for their symptoms, with much of them reporting that during this time they often felt alone, like a “freak”, and/or an outcast from society. The big difference therefore is that someone who suffers from severe OCD would probably not be saying, “I am so OCD”, as they would rather try to keep their obsessions and compulsions a secret from those around them.
It is important to note that OCD may have a waxing and waning course but it is exceptionally rare that an individual’s OCD symptoms will go away on its own. Nevertheless, this does not mean that an individual with OCD needs to live with these severe symptoms. There is treatment available for individuals suffering from OCD. It would be advisable to speak to your GP, psychiatrist, and/or your psychologist to find out more about your treatment options, however research indicates that the most effective form of treatment for OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and in particular Exposure and Response Prevention (EX/RP). Medication may also be advised and prescribed by a psychiatrist. Medication is not my field of expertise but again research suggests that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) may be the treatment of choice for individuals suffering from OCD. Please be advised that CBT and EX/RP can be attempted without medication but most commonly it is carried out in conjunction with medication.