Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, otherwise known as OCD, is a mental disorder, causing sufferers to have certain repetitive thoughts that cause anxiety. The anxiety is then soothed by behaviours that OCD sufferers compulsively do.
Behaviours happen in a cycle, that typically goes something like:
- Have an intrusive thought
- that causes anxiety.
- The anxiety is soothed by doing a behaviour
- that brings temporary relief
An example of this cycle might be something like:
- ‘I don’t think the door locked properly when I locked it’
- ‘What if someone breaks in’
- ‘I’m going to check if the door is definitely locked by going back home, unlocking and relocking the door 3 times.’
- ‘Now I unlocked and re-locked the door exactly 3 times, I’m less anxious.’
This is an example of ‘Checking behaviour’.
There are four categories that most behaviours of OCD can be put into:
- Symmetry and Ordering
- Ruminations and Intrusive thoughts
Different people with OCD may experience different varieties of symptoms. While one OCD sufferer could be paralysed by contamination behaviours, feeling anxiety towards not being clean or being in a dirty environment, others may only experience intrusive thoughts, convincing themselves that their loved ones are going to be physically harmed by themself or by someone else.
How can I find out if I have OCD?
There are many ways that OCD can display itself. There is however a big difference between worrying about a family member vs convincing yourself that you might physically harm them unintentionally. Some people are clean freaks, others have obsessive contamination behaviours.
If you’re concerned that a behaviour you’re doing is caused by OCD, a good way to try to identify whether this is ‘normal’ behaviour is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I in control? Can I stop if I wanted to?
Think about the behaviour you’re doing. When you feel the urge to act on the behaviour, are you able to not do it? What would happen if you don’t? If you think something bad will happen, or the idea of not doing the behaviour gives you anxiety, it could be worth having a conversation with your doctor about these feelings you’re having and OCD.
- Can I share this behaviour with my support group?
If you have a support group, meaning family, friends or professionals that you are able to share your mental health with, what would they think about the behaviour you’re concerned about?
Do you want to keep this behaviour as a secret? If so, why? Obsessions and compulsions are often kept secret by OCD sufferers, as they feel a sense of embarrassment or shame around the behaviour they feel compelled to do.
If you don’t have an immediate support group, that’s fine! Consider looking for an impartial person to confide in, like a therapist.
- Can I rationalise my behaviour?
Having a shower when you wake up is normal behaviour. Washing in the shower with soap 5 times because you’re not convinced the soap worked the first 4 times may not be. Enjoying things being presented in a symmetrical orderly fashion is again, pretty normal behaviour. Spending hours ordering and reordering items on a shelf to ensure they’re perfectly symmetrical could be considered an obsessive compulsion.
If a friend were to see you acting out one of your behaviours, would they understand the ‘why’, or would they be confused by the action?
If you’re unable to rationalise your behaviour in a way that mentally healthy people can understand, you may want to speak to a doctor about OCD.
4 Phrases that ring true to OCD sufferers
As previously mentioned, OCD looks different from person to person. However, if any of the following statements ring true to you, you may find it helpful to have a conversation with your doctor about OCD.
- When I feel anxious, there are actions I feel a compulsion to do that briefly ease my anxiety
- If I don’t act on the compulsion, I think bad things will happen to me or to those around me
- I experience repetitive, unwanted thoughts that I can’t get out of my mind.
- The only way to ease my anxiety is to do X behaviour.
If any of these statements ring true to you, it could be that you’re suffering from OCD. The good news is, there are many resources available for treatment, both online and offline.
Therapy treatment using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) has proven to be very effective, with 75% of OCD sufferers reporting improvements in their symptoms after treatment. This type of therapy can be found digitally and in-person.
Medication for OCD is available, however, medication is advised to be taken alongside therapy treatment.
Here’s what do to first
If you’re concerned you have OCD and would like to get help, book an appointment to speak with your doctor or look for a therapist who can diagnose you. If you can verbalise the reasons you think you may have OCD, this will help your health care provider come to a diagnosis.
Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll be able to find support to manage symptoms with a treatment plan.
If you’re not quite ready to seek professional help, that’s okay. Be patient with yourself, and above all, be open. If you have a support group, talk to them. Share your struggles and fears with those around you and never be ashamed to ask for help. If you don’t have a support system at home, check out this resource to find people to speak with completely confidentially.
This post has been sponsored by JOA Enterprise
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