You have all heard the cliché, “They are so OCD.”
OCD is short for obsessive compulsive disorder. Society labels people with OCD for anything from picking up a napkin carelessly thrown on the floor or someone panicking due to a mismatched outfit. However, symptoms are much more real for those of us who really have suffered and continue to be battled by OCD.
I first developed the disorder in elementary school and was affected by it through my teenage years and into adulthood. The severity has lessened after personal therapeutic practices and some motivational efforts, but it is still there under the surface.
According to the International OCD Foundation, “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and walks of life, and occurs when a person gets caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.”
Being OCD is not being a neat freak. OCD is not being able to sit down until you move that teacup into the sink. You convince yourself that if it is not moved, someone will die or a tornado will sweep through at any moment. This is OCD.
When diagnosed, I had never heard of the illness. I was consumed night and day with thoughts that I could no longer exist without having “rules,” which I later knew were compulsions. These rules were created by myself to calm the anxiety I faced constantly, to the point of not being able to focus long enough on anything else, even watch a cartoon, without coming up with a new “rule.”
I needed to wash my hands 10 times in a row every time. I could no longer wear pants or shorts. I had to keep 5 to 6 rusty necklaces on my neck 24/7. I could only shower on Thursday’s.
The action of creating the rules is a basis of OCD, this is done in an effort to ward off the misguided thinking process and constant overwhelming concerns that have no basis in reality other than in our own minds. These would be the obsessions. For example, an OCD sufferer may be constantly thinking that a car is going to cross the center line and come right at them.
So, in an effort to ease that thought, we create a rule. The rule will say something like, “A car can’t cross the center line if you only drive with your right hand.”
Other symptoms can include intrusive inappropriate thoughts like kissing the complete stranger speaking with you or being beaten by the man walking down the street, who may not even be there but may be in the future.
The reason for developing OCD is not clear for everyone. According to the International OCD Organization, “Research suggests that OCD involves problems in communication between the front part of the brain and deeper structures of the brain. These brain structures use a neurotransmitter (basically, a chemical messenger) called serotonin. Pictures of the brain at work also show that, in some people, the brain circuits involved in OCD become more normal with either medications that affect serotonin levels (serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SRIs) or cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).”
Living with OCD can be accomplished and those, like me, with the disorder can lead productive and healthy lifestyles without wearing the OCD banner on our backs. Treatments vary depending on a person’s particular needs. Therapy and medication or a combination of both can be used to effectively combat the disorder. I personally used therapy and have at times taken anti-depressant medication to assist. It did take a number of months to gain control of the disorder.
The next time a person may seem particular about something, rethink their actions and ask yourself if this is really OCD. It can be a painful for a person affected by OCD to hear the term used in an irresponsible manner when they are actually not able to comfortably get through their day because of it.
If you wish to learn more about the disorder or feel you may be a affected by obsessive compulsive disorder, the International OCD Organization can be a great resource