You have probably heard a friend or coworker mention that they are “OCD” about something after arranging their desk or meticulously organizing their books alphabetically. But there is a big difference between the symptoms of someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and having a keen eye for small details. In fact, OCD symptoms rarely relate what people like to say they are “OCD” about.
OCD is much more complicated and diverse than most people assume. It can stem from biological factors, childhood experiences and cycles of harmful through patterns. There is a wide variety of severities and styles it can come in many different forms influenced by one’s environment and experiences. The common factor is the obsession leading to compulsive, uncontrollable behaviour and thoughts. When that obsession and reaction is compromised, feelings of anger, anxiety and distress can be overwhelming and debilitating.
Common forms of OCD include but are not limited to:
The obsession with personal cleanliness is considered to be one of the most widely know forms of OCD. Someone who suffers from this form of OCD will be obsessed with avoiding contamination though contact with other people. However, every individual might perceive the results of a contamination differently. One might think shaking a hand could lead to an incurable illness, while another might believe they will take on the personality of the person they touch. Excessive and compulsive washing rituals will be their priority, ensuring to themselves that all contaminations are free from their body.
OCD issues related to sexuality stem from fear that one is of a sexual orientation that they do not truly identify as. These are irrational fears. They manifest as intense feelings of anxiety that one is really a homosexual, pedophile, or heterosexual when there is in fact no supporting evidence or behaviour that would point to it. Someone who suffers form this form of OCD will over analyze their situation and simple actions. For example: “Because I enjoy the company of men as a man, I am homosexual,” or “Because I enjoy the company of my kids, I am a pedophile.” Someone who has internalized these behaviours will have positive feelings about these thoughts, while someone who suffers form OCD will dread the possibility despite no history or desire to follow through. Someone with OCD related to sexual orientation and identity will be plagued by these thoughts to the point where they become disruptive and distressing in their everyday lives. In extreme cases this can result in suicidal thoughts.
This behaviour is described in base terms as obsessively repeating an action until there is confidence nothing is has been missed or until the action feels “right.” Common cases include reading a passage over and over due to the worry a sentence or key word was missed, or repeating something inconsequential such as entering a room until it feels as it should. This is often fuelled by a fear of consequence for doing the task improperly. Someone suffering from this form of OCD might rationalize their behaviour by thinking they repeat things “just in case.”
OCD can form in religious individuals stemming from obsessive fears and anxieties related to sin and guilt such as forgetting a loved one in a prayer, fears of committing sacrilege or accidentally worshipping the devil. The compulsion is performing rituals and religious practices to excess in attempt to compensate for their perceived sins. Many seek assistance from religious community leaders for their Growing up in a strict religious culture heavily contributes to the chance of one developing OCD symptoms, but is not always limited to religious people. Atheists and non-religious types can suffer from this form of OCD as well. It was found that Protestant individuals with strong beliefs have the highest rates of severe OCD symptoms. A problem with this type of OCD is it can go untreated for a long time due to behaviours being confused with devotion or opting for religious counselling instead of medical treatment. That said, it is found medical treatment in conjunction with religious settings and leaders can improve recovery.
Symmetry and Order
This is the most thought of condition when considering OCD and the most represented in media. Those suffering from this form of OCD feel incredibly uncomfortable when presented with misaligned objects or imperfection. In terms of symmetry OCD, the thoughts will disrupt an individual until symmetry is found in actions or visuals. Scratching one side of the nose must be met with a scratch on the other, regardless if there is an itch. There can be more abstract cases of this as well related to having to place objects in specific arrangements or orders to ward off disease or illness.
This symptom of OCD comes from someone who believes they will impulsively do something terrible or harmful simply because they can. Typically, these thoughts are not acted upon, nor do those who suffer have a history of violence either. One will recognize the harmful thoughts and expend a great deal of attention and energy into suppressing that compulsion, believing the thought is equal to committing the action. Everyone might have a thought of how easy it would be to push a friend into the road or off a balcony, but these thoughts are quickly dismissed as random. Someone with OCD will be consumed by this thought, doing mental gymnastics to suppress and convince themselves they are not capable of doing something so violent.
Hoarding is another famous form of OCD driven by intense feelings of anxiety when trying to throw something out. “What if I needs this later?” “What if this is valuable in 10 years?” “It would be a shame to let something like this this go.” The compulsion to hoard things results in homes becoming so full of trash and items that it becomes stressful for family members and difficult to live amongst, causing loss of living space an unsanitary conditions. The issues grow as the mess increases, resulting in no desire to allow technicians in to fix vital appliances due to shame of the condition. A collector feels pride to a large collection, displayed intentionally for others enjoyment, while a hoarder typically feels embarrassment.
As you can now see, OCD is much more complex than simply enjoying an organized desk or thriving with colour-coded filing at work. The variety of types of OCD is large and people experience it with a wide range of severity. If you are suffering from intense feelings of anxiety from obsessive behaviours, contact us at CCCG and let us know about your concerns so we can direct you to the best assistance available.