What OCD really is and why it should not be taken for granted
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, also known as OCD, is an anxiety disorder that usually appears before or during teenage years.
Like its name suggests, OCD contains two parts: obsession and compulsion.
On the one hand, an obsession is an intrusive idea or thought occurring repeatedly in someone’s mind. It can be an image, often interrupting normal thinking and generating high levels of anxiety. On the other hand, a compulsion is an action of forcing or being forced to do something, often repeatedly. These repetitions are a way to reduce the anxiety caused by a person’s obsessions. Eventually, compulsions might not harm the person immediately but they can be more damaging in the long term.
For example, an obsession is a fear of being contaminated by germs and dirt, while a compulsion is washing hands several times to avoid the obsession from happening. Thereby, the compulsion puts the obsession in action to reduce its risk of eruption.
It is true that everyone can get anxious and have some minor obsessive thoughts, like making sure if the door is locked, but the difference between normal people and those with OCD is that these thoughts hamper their daily life, making it miserable and impossible to tolerate. Their mind is invaded by an amount of obsessive thoughts they do not know how to get rid off.
People with OCD are often seen as bizarre and weird. Nobody would be able to understand why someone has to turn all the lights of the house on and off in the same order every single time, or why someone might refuse to go out of a specific door or to even need to open and close a door three times in a row. These kinds of compulsions are induced by obsessions that will not make sense to a ‘sane’ person. Maybe their obsession is that they would die if they passed through that door or that a family member would be harmed if they did not do the associated activity.
OCD has several causes and cannot be linked to only one. It can occasionally derive from dysfunctional beliefs or personal experience such as a trauma or a negative experience during childhood. Sometimes, parents might transfer the disorder to their child. In fact, an education characterized by being very picky, strict, putting everything in order and over-cleaning will of course help increase the risk of developing OCD.
Usually, people tend to cope with their OCD by feeling ashamed of talking to someone about their intrusive thoughts. They fear being rejected or not being understood. But soon enough, their obsessions and compulsions become unbearable.
Ways to offer help would be to listen to them and try to understand without criticism or judgment, no matter how weird and unusual their ideas might sound. When the situation cannot be taken care of on a personal level, it is important to seek professional help.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is efficient, as it helps the person develop new strategies to face their negative ideas. Sometimes CBT is also associated with medication to help reduce the anxiety generated by obsessive thoughts.
Using the acronym OCD should not be taken for granted. It should not be used whenever someone likes to be tidy or put something in order. OCD is composed of anxiety, obsessive thoughts and compulsions. It interrupts someone’s daily routine and sometimes handicaps their ability to maintain a stable life.
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