Mental Health Monday (OCD Awareness Week) – What Is OCD?

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“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a disorder of the brain and behavior. OCD causes severe anxiety in those affected. OCD involves both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and get in the way of important activities and personal values.” – IOCDF

Let’s take a look at each component separately.

Obsessions are thoughts or images that occur over and over.. They are Intrusive and unwanted. The person with OCD usually knows that these thoughts are not right. They don’t actually want to act out these thoughts or want them to happen and yet they continue to come and they are disturbing and cause a lot of anxiety. These thoughts also take up a lot of time and can interfere with their day to day life.

Here is a list of common, but not limited to, obsessions. (List found at IOCDF)

Contamination

  • Body fluids (examples urine feces)
  • Germs/disease (examples herpes HIV)
  • Environmental contaminants (examples: asbestos radiation)
  • Household chemicals (examples cleaners solvents)
  • Dirt

Losing Control

  • Fear of acting on an impulse to harm oneself
  • Fear of acting on an impulse to harm others
  • Fear of violent or horrific images in one’s mind
  • Fear of blurting out obscenities or insults
  • Fear of stealing things

Harm

  • Fear of being responsible for something terrible happening (examples: fire burglary)
  • Fear of harming others because of not being careful enough (example: dropping something on the ground that might cause someone to slip and hurt him/herself)

Obsessions Related to Perfectionism

  • Concern about evenness or exactness
  • Concern with a need to know or remember
  • Fear of losing or forgetting important information when throwing something out
  • Inability to decide whether to keep or to discard things
  • Fear of losing things

Unwanted Sexual Thoughts

  • Forbidden or perverse sexual thoughts or images
  • Forbidden or perverse sexual impulses about others
  • Obsessions about homosexuality
  • Sexual obsessions that involve children or incest
  • Obsessions about aggressive sexual behavior towards others

Religious Obsessions (Scrupulosity)

  • Concern with offending God, or concern about blasphemy
  • Excessive concern with right/wrong or morality

Other Obsessions

  • Concern with getting a physical illness or disease (not by contamination, e.g. cancer)
  • Superstitious ideas about lucky/unlucky numbers certain colors

Compulsions are repetitive acts or thoughts that the person uses to make the obsession go away. They will usually repeat the compulsion until it “feels right”. This will alleviate their stress for the moment but it won’t solve anything and it becomes an all consuming routine that takes up big chunks of time.

Here is a list of common, but not limited to, compulsions. (List found at IOCDF)

Washing and Cleaning

  • Washing hands excessively or in a certain way
  • Excessive showering, bathing, tooth-brushing, grooming ,or toilet routines
  • Cleaning household items or other objects excessively
  • Doing other things to prevent or remove contact with contaminants

Checking

  • Checking that you did not/will not harm others
  • Checking that you did not/will not harm yourself
  • Checking that nothing terrible happened
  • Checking that you did not make a mistake
  • Checking some parts of your physical condition or body

Repeating

  • Rereading or rewriting
  • Repeating routine activities (examples: going in or out doors, getting up or down from chairs)
  • Repeating body movements (example: tapping, touching, blinking)
  • Repeating activities in “multiples” (examples: doing a task three times because three is a “good,” “right,” “safe” number)

Mental Compulsions

  • Mental review of events to prevent harm (to oneself others, to prevent terrible consequences)
  • Praying to prevent harm (to oneself others, to prevent terrible consequences)
  • Counting while performing a task to end on a “good,” “right,” or “safe” number
  • “Cancelling” or “Undoing” (example: replacing a “bad” word with a “good” word to cancel it out)

Other Compulsions

  • Putting things in order or arranging things until it “feels right”
  • Telling asking or confessing to get reassurance
  • Avoiding situations that might trigger your obsessions

Tune in tomorrow for my personal OCD story as I continue to blog for OCDweek!

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