We often joke about our friend or even ourselves being OCD when we are a little more careful about cleanliness or neatness. However, a person with OCD isn’t just fastidious about things but is often suffering severely with uncontrollable fears and anxiety.
What is OCD
- OCD is a form of anxiety where a person experiences repeated intrusive, unwanted thoughts called obsession which are very frightening to that person.
- The thoughts involve relatively normal concerns, worries, fears and reactions that is blown out of proportion.
- Often these thoughts would keep grinding in a person’s mind, creating a lot of distraction and noise, making it difficult to focus, concentrate and escalating the feeling of dread and apprehension.
- To stop these distressing thoughts, the person would engage in compulsive actions or ‘rituals’ to stop these thoughts in order to reduce the negative feelings.
- The rituals are often a fixed set of actions that the person must do to reduce the fears and anxieties.
Symptoms of OCD
- OCD is called the ‘doubting disease’ as the sufferer struggles with uncertainty and indecisions due to the fear of making fatal errors. People with OCD often spend a lot of time gathering data in order to make the correct decision and is often hesitant to commit to a decision for fear that it may not be perfect or that the wrong decision will bring result in a catastrophe.
- It is very exhausting to suffer from OCD, as many hours in the day is spent fighting unwanted thoughts, doing rituals to battle these fears so as to reduce the apprehensions and anxieties.
- Depression is common for people suffering from OCD with about 30% suffering from severe depression.
- Anxiety is also often an accompanying symptom of OCD. Individual sufferers may also struggle with different forms of anxiety such as panic disorder, social anxiety, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder and specific fear of certain things.
Compulsive behavior could come in many forms:
- Washing and cleaning
- Order and perfection
- Engaging in thought rituals – Thoughts rituals are triggered by undesirable thoughts as may be about harm, disaster, aggression, sexual, immoral or blasphemous thoughts. A thought ritual may be something like repeatedly asking God for forgiveness in one’s mind, thinking a magical phrase, or imagining a different scenario so as to undo or neutralise that those unwanted and wrong thoughts in one’s mind.
Obstacles to recovery
Many people live with OCD for years and do not seek help and treatment. However, the longer the delay to treatment, the more difficult it would be to untangle the rituals from daily living. Often, the reason for delaying seeking help is due to:
- Shame and embarrassment. OCD sufferers do not talk about their condition or seek help as they are concern that other people may ridicule them or make light of their fears.
- The use of alcohol and drugs to manage their OCD. However, such dependency only leads to substance abuse and will deepen the problem.
- OCD sufferers are often unwilling to get on the road to recovery as they fear the process of changing and having to give up on their rituals even though it is a false sense of safety. Hence, many would prefer to live life with all the distracting fears and constant barrage of distressing thoughts.
- It takes a lot of effort to recover from OCD as it means having to face the fearful thoughts without the usual safe-haven of practiced rituals. Hence, having consistent, encouraging and caring support is needed to help a person recover from OCD.
If you are hesitant about getting help, ask yourself what life will be like if you didn’t have any of those nagging thoughts that weigh you down. Imagine what life can be if you are free from OCD. Like any other mental and emotional struggle, it will take time to overcome OCD. But first you will need to take that first step to seek help and commit to working on your recovery. Often, progress will be taking 3 steps forward and then sliding back 2 steps. That is ok and normal. Celebrate any small step forward no matter how small or insignificant it seems.